I’m from Wisconsin, and I Oughtta Know


So, you’re visiting Wisconsin, and you don’t want to look like a tourist, eh?  Never fear.  We’ll help you out a little so that your stay in our wonderful state will be satisfying and you won’t act like a total doofus.

Now this is the easy part:  If you live in Chicago, and the only place you are going to try out is Door County, just be yourself and no one will care.  During the peak season in Door County, the ratio of Chicagoans to resident folks is about 20 to 1, so no one will mess with you.  Even if you say REALLY dumb Chicago-ish things, the natives will smile and pretend not to notice, because they want your money so badly.  They can’t go to Florida in the winter if you don’t buy all the Scandinavian sweaters and “I Love Door County” trinkets that they offer at five times the true market value.  They are counting on you to come to their lovely corner of the state and throw your money at them, so keep coming, and behave as un-Wisconsinish as you want to.

For the sake of safety, do yourself a favor and wear green and gold.  Green Bay Packer attire will make you look like a native, and even if people notice by your accent that you aren’t the real thing, they will love you for your loyalty to the home team.  Whatever you do, don’t wear anything that says “Dallas Cowboys,” “Chicago Bears,” or “Minnesota Vikings” on it.  You may get your facial features rearranged before you leave the state, if you do.  However, you will be safe and appreciated if you wear “Chicago Cubs” stuff.  A lot of Wisconsinites despaired over the Brewers ever winning anything years ago and became Cubs fans.  This may not be logical, since the Cubs’ record is usually on a par with the Brewers’, but it’s the way it is.

But for the true experience … you have to know what a bubbler is.  Do NOT ask anyone to direct you to the water fountain.  You will be given a blank stare, especially if you are in a grocery store.  Why would a grocery store have a water fountain?  After collecting her thoughts, the clerk will probably direct you to the city park, or maybe the local life insurance company.  Such places have water fountains, and you can even slip your shoes off and dip your toes in, if you like.  But grocery stores and other small businesses do not have them.  They have bubblers.  That’s what we call them — bubblers.  It makes sense, you know.  The water bubbles out of the little hole, and you drink it as it bubbles ….

If you are from the South and are visiting in the winter, do not go to a clothing store and ask for a toboggan.  They will wonder what is wrong with you, and direct you to a sporting goods store.  You will do all right at Wal-Mart.  If you ask in the clothing department there, they will merely think you are lost and will point you to the sporting goods department.  In Wisconsin, a toboggan is not a ski cap.  It is an eight-foot long sled.  You park it at the top of a hill when there is snow on the ground (doesn’t work too well without the snow), pile a bunch of bodies on top, push off, and careen madly down the slope until you either hit a tree or make it to the bottom.  Sometimes the sled makes it to the bottom but the bodies don’t.  Everybody thinks this is fun, and laughs heartily, whether they manage to stay on the toboggan or fall off along the way.  We know how to enjoy life here, let me tell you!  So remember — ask for a ski cap, not a toboggan, unless you are going sledding.  Better yet, visit Wisconsin in the summer.

If you are from the South, do not ask for a Coke if you want a 7-Up, and then expect the waitress to ask what kind of Coke you want.  Coke means Coke here, not soda.  If you want a soda, ask for one.  It’s not all that hard!

Awhile back, I told everyone that the new state motto is Eat cheese or die!  Be polite, and just eat it, if it is put in front of you.  There’s nothing wrong with it, it is processed in sterile conditions, and it will not hurt you.  Honest.  If you are trying to fool everyone into thinking you are a native Wisconsinite, eat lots of it — with a smile.

But, for those of you foreigners who really like cheese, do not carry on about it day and night, either.  You need to understand that those of us who live here do not consciously think about cheese every minute of our lives.  We do not serve cheese curds at every meal.  If you have to have cheese curds, make a little stop at a local cheese factory on your way out of state, buy yourself twenty pounds or so, and enjoy the squeaks they make all the way home.  We’re tired of hearing about the cheese curds.

Now this is the biggie: You have to know how to pronounce “brat.”  We all know that once you’ve had one, you’ve got to have more.  They’re like potato chips — “No one can eat just one.”  But you have to know how to pronounce them when you order, if you don’t want to sound like a total idiot.  Brat rhymes with “hot,” not  “cat.”  If you ask for a brat, and you make it rhyme with cat, the brat stand owner may hand you one of his children.  Brat is short for bratwurst, by the way.  But people will look at you funny if you ask for a bratwurst, too.  Just learn to say the abbreviated form properly.  For the full Wisconsin experience, eat it with sauerkraut slathered all over it.  (Sauerkraut — shredded cabbage pressed down in a wooden barrel between layers of salt and left to decompose to a state of perfection over several months’ time.)

Are you ready to visit?  It’s worth the trip!


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You are hilarious!


  2. YOu are funny! Warn people not to wear “Vikings”. I always get comments when I wear that sweatshirt even though I only wear it cuz it’s ocmfy. 🙂


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