45 signs you’ve become a real Floridian

From joining the Denis Phillips fan club to throwing out all the winter coats, here’s how readers knew they had finally made it.
We asked, you answered: What was the moment you finally felt like a Floridian?
We asked, you answered: What was the moment you finally felt like a Floridian? [ Illustrations by LISA MERKLIN ]
Published Dec. 9, 2022|Updated Dec. 9, 2022

Maybe it was waking up to an alligator in the driveway or throwing that first hurricane party. Learning to tolerate the swampy humidity. Accepting the perpetual sandal-strap tan on your feet.

Every person who moves to this state experiences it: a moment where they realize they finally feel like a real Floridian.

The Tampa Bay Times asked readers to tell us how they knew they belonged here. (A few staffers weighed in, too.) Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

Withstanding the weather

1. “When you get seasonal affective disorder after three cloudy days in a row.” — @chrislongview via Twitter

2. “When you know where to find that shaded parking spot in the summer, despite having to walk 5 minutes to get into Publix.” — @FranStrazzulla via Twitter

3. “My family moved to South Florida from Brooklyn when I was 6. I have vivid memories of being dragged around car dealerships in the blazing sun as one of my first exposures to the Florida heat. The parking lots felt like deserts. I remember realizing this heat was just part of life now.” — Tracey McManus, Times Clearwater and Scientology reporter

4. “Not being able to swim until the water is 85 F.” — @marmite_usf via Twitter

5. “Not complaining (much) about the heat in August.” — @tranewman via Twitter

6. “It was when I stopped going to the beach on a regular basis because I couldn’t be bothered. Too much hassle for parking and sand everywhere.” — Lisa Merklin, Times deputy design director

7. “This time of year when the weather is in the 70s, you can tell the Floridians from the tourists fairly easy. The tourists are in shorts and tank tops skipping down the street while the Floridians are in pants and sweatshirts shivering like lost puppies.” — Derek Miller via Facebook

8. “When you start appreciating the seasons as they are in Florida, as opposed to saying we don’t have any.” — @madabelle84 via Twitter

9. “When you finally turn the heat on because it’s 70 degrees outside and it’s been so long the dust that has accumulated inside your air handler starts to smolder and you have to call the fire department.” — @KittyTheOthrWay via Twitter

10. “When you realize the afternoon thunderstorms provide a great spot-free rinse for washing your car if you time it just right. A bathing suit and a bucket of warm soapy water can make for a rewarding 15 minutes.” — Jose Cabanillas via email

11. “When Denis Phillips shows up in your news feed more than your family.” — Diana Southern Norman via Facebook

Loving the local cuisine

12. “I think it was the moment I finally gave in to the opinion that Pub Subs are, in fact, great (after doubting for a while how good a grocery store sandwich could possibly be.)” — Emily Mahoney, Times political editor

13. “When I gave up making iced tea and just bought it at Publix.” — Dee Wehr via email

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14. “When I gave up on ever eating a decent slice of pizza again. When I began calling it pizza instead of pie, and when I replaced hoagie with sub.” — Paul Guzzo, Times culture reporter

15. “When you fall in love with your first bite of key lime pie!” — @mmwestheimer via Twitter

Embracing Florida fashion

16. “I grew up in Washington, D.C., during the 1980s. Every Christmas we’d take the Amtrak to Miami to see my Nanny. When the train stopped in Jacksonville, my mom would tell me and my sister: ‘Okay, you can take off your tights now.’ That’s when I knew I wanted to be a Floridian. ... When I got this job and moved here in 2000, I gave all my tights to my best friend in Virginia. That’s how I knew I was a Floridian!” — Lane DeGregory, Times enterprise reporter

17. “When you arrive at a funeral and realize your flip-flops don’t match your swim trunks.” — @dascheuer via Twitter

18. “When I broke down and decided I was cool being seen in public wearing socks with slides while walking the dog. And ONLY while walking the dog.” — Tony Marrero, Times Hillsborough law enforcement reporter

19. “When you get off the plane and your hair frizzes and you feel like you’re swimming in the humid air and it feels … right.” — @tranewman via Twitter

20. “As soon as you stop wearing shoes outside.” — @GillStaw via Twitter

21. “When I wore a favorite pair of pants to work one cold day and a couple of friends at work said they’d never seen me in pants, and I told them they might not ever again because I hadn’t realized how itchy pants were. I could never again live in a place where I have to wear pants for months at a time.” — Amy Gehrt, Times breaking news editor

22. “I lost my non-Floridian card one winter night when I wore leggings under my jeans because it was so cold. It was in like the high 40s.” — Langston Taylor, Times data editor

23. “We moved here in 1997 and my husband stopped wearing socks.” — Margaret Smith via Facebook

24. “When I realized I don’t have cold weather clothes anymore, and only open-toed shoes.” — Lisa Grafe via Facebook

25. “When you have more bathing suits than sweatshirts.” — Deborah Frank Clough via Facebook

Becoming familiar with the flora and fauna

26. “Lived here since 1985 but I won’t feel like a Floridian until I get through a whole day without seeing a new-to-me insect.” — @MaggieDammit via Twitter

27. “We fell in love with Snooty and Winter (RIP).” — Michelle Guitard via email

28. “Phase 1: Having a Tupperware designated specifically to catching and releasing lizards that got in the house. Phase 2: Giving up and coexisting with lizard roommates.” — Lauren Peace, Times systems and race reporter

29. “I became a Floridian when my dog bit the tail off an iguana.” — Romy Ellenbogen, Times Tallahassee reporter

30. “Your camera roll is just sunset pictures and super zoomed-in videos of dolphins/manatees.” — Carly Thompson, Times engagement editor

31. “When palm trees stop feeling exotic.” — @BKingDC via Twitter

32. “Throwing a hurricane party for a Cat 1 or 2 storm. Also, getting used to alligators walking around your neighborhood in the springtime (for mating season!).” — @meganisonline via Twitter

33. “Definitely your first toilet frog.” — @Mike_Canan via Twitter

34. “It’s when you pick up the palmetto bug with your bare hands and put it outside! After you almost step on a cottonmouth walking to the lake.” — @KatherineMLewin via Twitter

Participating in time-honored traditions

35. “After you get scammed for the first time.” — Rebecca Liebson, Times real estate reporter

36. “When you get trapped in a 60-minute explanation of why the Rays don’t fill the stands.” — @casspa via Twitter

37. “Put away my snow shovel [and looked] for pickleball courts.” — Dominic Grillo via Facebook

38. “When you learn how to avoid the hot lava of your car steering wheel, when mosquito season is more real than fall, and when you turn on the heater because it dipped below 70!” — Cindy Drake via Facebook

39. “I’m from Miami, but transplanted Yankee friends have told me they finally realized how useful the word ‘y’all’ turns out to be. And if you use it to refer to a single person, well, that’s just incorrect.” — Sue Carlton, Times urban affairs reporter

40. “When you plan a day to Disney using your season pass on the rainy and coldest day of the year just to avoid the crowds.” — Jim Waschbusch via Facebook

41. “When you hear the phrase ‘the Bay Area’ and you know it’s not about a place in California.” — @WileESongdog via Twitter

42. “You have your windows tinted as dark as you legally can have them.” — Amy Baker via Facebook

43. “When you stop using your turn signal.” — @WheresEbony via Twitter

44. “When you know how to pronounce Micanopy.” — @killa_joulez via Twitter

45. “When you don’t care about the ‘Florida Man’ stigma or what people think about you for moving to or living here.” — Felix J. Barajas via Facebook