Becoming a Miami Native

Every Miami stereotype is true, and the funny thing is, that everybody knows it. Miami’s population is seventy percent Hispanic – the city is the result of an amalgamation of every Hispanic culture. It’s diverse, to say the least. From the slang to the people, nothing I had previously heard was an exaggeration. I was born with a bit of Hispanic culture in me. Miami culture was something I grew into.

At first, the way people spoke sounded so silly to me, but now it has become a part of my vernacular. From a true Miamian, you would regularly hear phrases like “pero like”, “dale”, “yeah no”, “no yeah”, “literally”. I didn’t even realize I had adopted these phrases until the first time I went home to visit my family for Thanksgiving break in our very suburban town of West Palm Beach, FL. My sister was quick to call me out. She’s never one to hold back on what she is really thinking. I remember her saying, “why are you talking like that?” She said I used the word “like” too many times and pronounced “literally” weird. I’ve been guilty of saying all of these phrases at least once. My biggest problem is “no yeah” and “yeah no”. Logically it looks like you’re not giving a definitive answer, but when you’re talking to someone it makes sense, at least it does in Miami. It’s like you’re agreeing with someone. I still catch myself saying it sometimes.

Everyone in Miami assumes you speak Spanish. I’m not completely fluent, but I’d say I’m above average. For my friends who have no Spanish background, they run into issues. When you walk into a store you hear “Buenas tardes” or “Cómo estás”. My friend who is as white as they come just smiles and replies “gracias”, it’s pretty funny to watch. What really throws me off is all the different Spanish accents. Since everyone is from a different country, the way they pronounce words and even the words they use differ a lot from what I know. For example, the word I would use for money is “dinero” but others may use the word “plata” for money and then I get really confused because to me “plata” sounds like “platano” which means banana; by then, the whole conversation has crashed and burned before it even started. I try my best to communicate in Spanish, but if the conversation is just going in circles I turn to one of my friends that are fluent in Spanish and beg for their help.

Everyone in Miami greets each other with a kiss on the cheek. If you go to a party and enter a room full of people you have to stop by every person and give them a kiss. It looks ridiculous, but it’s almost like everybody is waiting in line for you to give them a kiss on the cheek. I’ve become so used to it now that a hug seems more intimate. I find this greeting to be one of the biggest differences Miami has to other cities because whenever someone new comes to town they are completely thrown off. I remember when I was in my first year of living in Miami, my roommate Bekah, who was also new to the city, said to me “everybody is trying to kiss me.” She said that it made her feel awkward and she never knew which way to move her head. I’ve definitely experienced close calls when you and the other person move your heads the same way where it looks like you’re trying to give them a kiss on the lips rather than the cheek. This is easily one of the top most embarrassing moments of my life.

Like every other city, Miami has its own quirks and social norms. I feel confident in saying I’ve been living the “Miami experience”. I’ve gone to all the places that you should go to in Miami, I’ve been immersed in the city’s culture and people. I’ve experienced the best and worst parts of this city. After living here for 5 years, I think I’ve earned the Miamian title. I still haven’t decided whether that’s a good or bad thing yet. When I first moved here, I used to think everyone else was a representation of Miami; but before I knew it, I became one of them.

(Photo Courtesy of Art Parasites)

(Photo Courtesy of Art Parasites)


About Janel Rizzo

I’m a senior at Florida International University majoring in journalism. I like to stay up to date with topics varying from world news to pop culture. Writing is my passion. I love the power that words have to inform and impact an audience. I’m a movie and T.V. show fanatic. My friends say I have a laugh that could make any bad joke funny. I’ve always been told I ask too many questions, I like to say I’m genuinely curious. You can find me on all forms of social media @janelrizzo.