Delayed Culture Shock
my denial and/or blissful ignorance of our drinking culture stopped when I saw the stats
Talk smack to Wisconsin, and I’ll smack that talk right back. Call it a boring state; I’ll call you boring. Say its winter is unbearable; I’ll glare and say, “then you’ve never curled.” Insult our cows, and my heart will ooze pure regional rage. My responses are reflexes: headlong and not necessarily the most reasonable. But my behavior is also natural – I’m only reflecting what scholars have already documented. I wouldn’t want their theories to go to waste …
So when outsiders started casually using the phrase, “Wisconsin’s drinking culture,” it grated on me. I had a hazy grasp of our statewide love of beer, but how could I prove that it was deeper or more widespread than other states? Maybe we’re just more vocal about it. Maybe it’s more about pride for historic breweries. Maybe we harbor a lot of demographic-data-skewing college students. In any case, were state boundaries really that culturally definitive?
Nope, I wasn’t ready to confirm the existence of a distinct “drinking culture,” even when presented with first-hand accounts of Wisconsin “culture shock.” A customer at a café told me that, upon moving here from Washington, he found quart bottles of beer emblazoned with the words, FAMILY SIZE. Now a seasoned resident of the state, he laughed and shook his head resignedly as if to say, “That’s Wisconsin for you.”
Temporarily rattled, I dismissed it as an outdated story or an exaggeration. I was also not looking up any statistics.
At least until last Monday. I typed three words into the Google search box – “drinking culture in” and froze. The auto complete function suggested the following places, in this order: America, China, Wisconsin, Australia, Japan, Korea, Ireland, England, Europe, Russia.
Apparently, we are the cultural equivalent of a sovereign nation when it comes to drinking. We also require separate analysis from the nation we inhabit.
 “Midwesterners… have constructed much of their identity in reaction to ridicule from the outside. Defensiveness … has been a long standing trait.” – The American Midwest: Essays on Regional History