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31 things Chicagoans do better than anyone else

Chicago tour with CHE Chicago heliport.
Photograph: Martha Williams Chicago tour with CHE Chicago heliport.

Ah, Chicago. The clean and friendly big city, full of art and architecture and food and sports. We're in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, or dare we say the best in the U.S.? Our water is clearer, our grass is greener, and our sky is bluer. (Well, sometimes. During summer months. Off and on.) But really, we know what's up. From accepting newcomers to having a good sense of humor, these are the things Chicagoans do best. 

1. We appreciate good architecture. We build cool stuff and we’re good at showing our cool stuff off. Architectural boat tour much? 

2. Giving directions. We give very specific directions, and we're happy to be asked. We always know which way is east. The lake is there, duh. 

3. Summer. When that big, bright, beautiful sun shines down on us for a few gloriously sweaty months, we don't complain. We take to the beaches and street festivals like nobody's business.

4. Less temperate weather, however, is another story. We are the best at bitching about sub-zero temps and extreme winds. Polar vortex be damned. 

5. Dining alfresco. No one enjoys a patio quite like a Chicagoan. Our outdoor restaurants and rooftop bars are quite lovely too, complete with birdsong and a light breeze. It's like a Disney movie, only more raucous.  

6. Being stubborn. No, thank you very much, we won’t call it Willis Tower. And no, we won’t put ketchup on our hot dogs (not in public, at least). 

7. Parades. Pride, St. Patrick's Day, Blackhawks celebrations—hell, we love standing on sidewalks and gawking at colorful floats. 

8. Boozing. Beer, beer and more beer, please. We love a good craft brew, and lucky for us, we're damn good at making them. New breweries seem to pop up every day to make all our drinking dreams come true.

9. Supporting the team. Hockey, baseball, football, it doesn't matter. You won't find any fair-weather fans in Chicago. We'll even fill stadiums to see our perpetually losing sports teams (assuming it's nice outside).

10. Accepting people as our own. You don’t have to have lived in the city forever to be a Chicagoan. Live here now? Know your way around (sort of)? You're in. Let's hang. 

11. Providing Polish translations. Polish Americans are the largest European American group in the metro area, and that's cool. Who doesn't love some pierogies and pączki and a Żywiec? 

12. Chicagoans know the proper way to dress a hot dog: yellow mustard, white onion, neon green relish, sport peppers, tomatoes, celery salt and a pickle spear on a poppy seed bun. The dish originated during the Great Depression when people really needed to get some bang for their buck, and it's remained a Chicago staple ever since.

13. We have the most amazing, beautiful parks, from Millennium Park in the heart of it all to Garfield Park with its conservatory. Our ’hoods are full of great open spaces too, perfect for reading books, having picnics or playing with the kids, and our downtown has lush, green expanses as well as parks that overflow with larger-than-life art. 

14. Making fun of our own accent. A strong Chicago accent is pretty annoying. Our "th's" become "da's," our "a's" become "ah's" and we jumble countless other simple phonetics. Still, we're able to laugh about it—see the "Superfans" SNL sketch.

15. The Malört grimace. We embrace this bitter bevvy, also the Swedish word for wormwood, as it was made right here in Chicago for many, many years and can still be found at many local taverns.  

16. Comedy. Second City, iO, Annoyance—we produce some serious comedic talent. Everyone in Chicago is two degrees removed from someone on Saturday Night Live, or at the very least knows someone in an improv group.

17. Getting out of the city. We're good at getting away from it all—it’s so easy. Travel far by train or plane, or drive to one of the countless nearby awesome places for a day trip or longer.

18. We’re really good at distancing ourselves from the rest of the state. Anyone been to Springfield?

19. Intimate theater. New York and London may have cornered the market on big-budget tourist fare, but Chicago has mastered the art of small-scale, no-frills theatrical magic in basements and storefronts. Save your opera glasses for the opera and feel the heat of scorching acting right up close.

20. Handling ourselves in winter. Let's just say we know how to appropriately layer. And we know when winter's coming. 

21. Aggressive driving. When Chicagoans aren't stuck in traffic, they're busy cutting off those who are. We can drive with the intensity of New Yorkers and have more wiggle room than Angelenos. Slap that onto Chicago's well-maintained grid, and you've got a recipe for cunning and speed.

22. From Pitchfork to Lollapalooza to North Coast, we have the best music festivals. Not to mention Lollapalooza is the biggest and best music fest in an urban setting.

23. We bike better than anyone else. We have better infrastructure for bicycling, and we have better rentals. Divvy has nearly 5,000 bikes at almost 500 stations. That's an awful lot of wheels.

24. Repping our city. We have the best flag, and it's everywhere. If you don’t agree, you’re wrong.

25. We’re good at learning from others. Arcade bars? Cool, let’s do it. Repurposing an old, elevated railway? Meet the 606.

26. Actually, we’re pretty damn good at repurposing lots of things, especially cool, old buildings, à la Chicago Athletic Association and Thalia Hall.

27. Unsanctioned fireworks. An official fireworks display got cut out of the city's budget years ago, forcing the patriotic masses to make the trek to Navy Pier to see bombs bursting in air downtown. Luckily, residents have picked up the slack, importing mountains of illicit explosives across state lines and turning neighborhoods like Humboldt Park and Pilsen into dazzling destinations for DIY pyrotechnics.

28. Obsessing over famous mustaches. Chicago almost elected Chuy Garcia into the mayor's office because of his amazing mustache. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville's glorious ’stache is cherished almost as much as the team itself. Mike Ditka might be a hardcore Republican, but Chicagoans let that slide due to his amazing facial hair. Famous mustaches are pretty much deities in Chicago.

29. We put our garbage where it belongs—in trash cans and out of sight. We keep it classy here in Chicago, and keep our smells in our alleys. 

30. Christmas. Our lights are beautiful, Christkindlmarket (The Glühwein! The Germknödel!) can't be beat, and our general sense of merriment is unmatched.

31. Scaring celebrities away. Goodbye, Oprah, Kanye and, well, most comedians. But hey, at least Bill Murray still visits. 

RECOMMENDED: More on living in Chicago



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My Uncle Gavin recently got an awesome yellow Buick Regal GS by work using a laptop

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