Moments You Realize You're a Chicagoan

jackson park
Osaka Garden in Jackson Park | Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers
Osaka Garden in Jackson Park | Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers

As corrupt aldermen "Hinky Dink" Kenna famously stated, “Chicago ain’t no sissy town.” While our city isn’t as brutal as it was when he ruled the Levee District, not everyone is built to withstand more than a few years in Chicago before quietly slinking away to the suburbs. Those that manage to survive tend to find themselves pondering the age-old question: How long do you have to live in Chicago before you’re officially considered a Chicagoan? While there’s no universally accepted answer to that question you can rest assured you’re beginning to fit in with the natives quite nicely once you’ve experienced more than a few of the following.

chicago crowd

You’re now physically (or psychologically?) incapable of strolling

After spending so many years learning how to efficiently push your way through sidewalks full of tourists, you’ve begun to realize that you’re now incapable of entering "leisurely stroll" mode. Romantic walk on the beach? Sure! Let’s just get around these slow walkers in front of us. Why are these idiots walking four across? Stick your elbows out and go around them... ugh, and this slow group in front of them, and... you know what? Let’s just sit down on this nice bench instead.

“Wrigleyville? Nah, I’ll just head home.”

There comes a time in every Chicagoan’s life when you suddenly realize that the amount of time you spend in Wrigleyville bars is directly proportional to the amount of time you’ve lived in this city. Maybe you were puked on by a girl who just moved here from Ohio, or perhaps you found yourself in the midst of a one-sided fistfight between an inebriated frat boy in an Iowa State T-shirt and a No Parking sign. Rest assured, we all have had some type of incident that makes us realize, “NOPE. Definitely too old to deal with this mess.”

Candlelite Chicago
Candlelite Chicago

You order pizza in another city and end up throwing it out

Pizza: It’s something so simple, yet so many places in the US still manage to make it inedible. I mean, seriously -- if my local dive bar can produce semi-decent pizza, how come pizza places outside of Chicago and the East Coast can’t manage to do the same? This is, without a doubt, one of life’s greatest mysteries. 

“Deep-dish pizza? Huh... can’t remember the last time I ate it.”

The last time you ate deep-dish pizza was two years ago when your childhood best friend came to visit -- thin crust tavern-style pizza is now your go-to. A few months ago, you decided to order pizza from a national chain and spent the entire time pondering how weird it felt to eat pizza in pie slices after eating square cut pizza for so long. The next morning, you woke up filled with self-loathing and a horrendous stomachache.

Things like driveways and mild winters suddenly seem like foreign concepts

What would it be like to not have to fight for parking, to glide to work in the privacy of your own vehicle, or to not have to wear five layers during the winter? You can no longer remember, as for the last decade, you’ve spent approximately one hour each day squished against a stranger’s armpit in a urine-scented CTA car that alternates between slush coated or sweat filled depending on the season.

chicago parking
Flickr/Daniel X. O'Neil

You discover that you’ve paid more than one month’s rent worth of parking tickets

There’s nothing like going online to pay a ticket for something idiotic (like waiting until 9:06am to move your car) and seeing just how much money you’ve paid to the evil Department of Revenue since you moved to Chicago. Bonus points if you have at least one Red Light Camera ticket that doubled to $200 because you never actually received a first notice.

Your driving style makes out-of-town friends question your sanity

“MOVE IT, YOU MORON!!! ... What? Why are you looking at me like that?? Listen, *I’m* not about to get a Red Light Ticket because this guy doesn’t... GO, YOU IDIOT!!!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, A FORMAL INVITATION?!?! ... know how to properly drive.”

You suddenly realize just how cynical you’ve become

“Rahm Emanuel rescued six drowning kittens from the Chicago River this afternoon? FIGURES he wasn’t at the office. While the city’s taxpayers are stuck working their butts off to pay his salary, HE’S just traipsing around the city playing with kittens all day! Disgusting.”

The Art Institute of Chicago

You suddenly realize you haven’t patronized the city’s cultural attractions in years

When speaking to out-of-town friends, you boast relentlessly about everything the city has to offer: impressive fine dining, world-class museums. You haven’t actually taken advantage of these things in years, but you’re pretty certain you’ll get tickets to Alinea sometime soon. Like, maybe next year. And you’re 100% POSITIVE you’ll get around to seeing that Marc Chagall exhibit at the Art Institute really, really soon, given that you’re completely unaware the exhibit actually ended months ago.

You accidentally ignore a friend because you’re busy doing “dead eyes”

Whether your preferred method is the 50 yard stare, “dead eyes,” or the “something on my phone is incredibly fascinating!” act, you’ve become an absolute pro at blocking out the people around you. This can become troublesome when the blurry figure in the corner of your eye you’re trying to ignore happens to actually be someone you know. “I PROMISE I wasn’t trying to avoid you, Becky! I seriously thought you were one of those annoying ‘Save the Catfish’ clipboard people trying to block my path! ... Becky? Hello?? Becky?!”

Your apartment hunting priorities have completely changed

When you first moved here, your apartment “must haves” were probably “cool” neighborhood, proximity to bars and friends, and -- if you had extra money to blow -- perhaps amenities like a pool and gym. However, once you’ve gotten that whole Wrigleyville-dwelling phase out of your system, you’ll find yourself with an entirely different set of priorities, like, you know, avoiding trendy neighborhoods in favor of those with a more “neighborhood” feel.

Serrelli's Finer Foods
Serrelli's Finer Foods

You’ve become dependent on giardiniera as a condiment

How do people in the rest of the United States eat sandwiches without giardiniera?! You can’t fathom doing so, as you now use giardiniera just as often as mayo -- if not more so, since it also happens to be your favorite topping on nearly anything. You may have even brought giardiniera with you on vacation. And yes, there are actually people who take giardiniera with them on vacation. Hi, Dad!  

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Lisa Chatroop hasn’t acquired her father’s habit of taking giardiniera on vacation just yet. Say hi on Twitter @LisaChatroop or read more on