I’m a native Houstonian, and I moved from the Greater Houston Area to the Metro Detroit area last August. I knew that things would be different – the winters would be colder, for one. However, there were some things that I didn’t anticipate. Take a glimpse into a non-Detroiter’s mind and find out some of the things we think upon moving to the city.

1. Why Can’t I Turn Left?

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

Fortunately, the Michigan left hasn’t caught on in the rest of the nation. However, that means that people who have never been to Michigan stare mystified at the signs that tell them to U-turn instead of just turning left. The Michigan left can also cause chronic frustration for the drivers fortunate enough to have grown up with a left turn, especially a protected left turn.

2. There’s More Cool To This Place Than Just Cars And Motown


Detroiters know that their city has more to offer than automobiles and Motown, but few people outside Michigan are aware of this. Moving to Detroit helps people realize that the city is actually a unique hodge podge of arts, dining, and entertainment. Places like MBAD’s African Bead Museum, the Detroit Puppet Theater, and Belle Isle all offer something different.

3. I Can See Canada From My House. Well, Kinda..


A day-trip to Canada was impossible when I lived in Houston, but moving to Detroit makes a day-trip to America’s Northern neighbor seem doable and enjoyable. Honeymooning in Windsor? Why not? You can even picnic across the Detroit River and see the city from an entirely new perspective. Just don’t forget your passport and bridge or tunnel fare.

4. Wow, There Are A Lot Of Abandoned Buildings Here

Abandoned Building In Detroit

Sadly, the recession left its mark on Detroit, and that mark is still visible. There are a lot of abandoned buildings scattered throughout the city. Fortunately, some of them have been put to good use. An abandoned warehouse was transformed into an artist residency program called Ponyride. However, many of the buildings could still use some TLC.

5. Where Are The Service Roads?


Houston has a pretty awesome interstate system, complete with multi-lane service roads that run parallel to the interstate for more than a half mile. Detroiters can argue that they have service roads, but their arguments wouldn’t make a very strong case. In Detroit, it’s not uncommon for drivers to exit onto side streets that quickly disappear or residential streets that appear out of nowhere. There are few streets that consistently run parallel to the interstate.

6. What’s With The Octopus?

Apparently, it’s tradition for Detroiters to throw octopi onto the ice at Red Wings games. Whether or not it actually brings good luck, Detroiters know and love this nuance. Unfortunately, most outsiders have no idea that this is even a thing. Some are just confused about it. Some pity the octopus. And some think it’s just plain gross.

7. The People Here Really Fight For Their City

Heidelberg Project

The recession knocked Detroit off its feet, but Detroiters made sure the city didn’t stay down long. They got back up and have fought for their city. Detroiters are still fighting in many ways. The city has embraced new business growth and has become a hotbed for startups, and a slew of nonprofits, like the Heidelberg Project, are strengthening the city through relentless neighborhood improvements.

8. There’s A Ton Of History Here

Alger Theater

Founded in 1701, Detroit has had over 300 years to make a name for itself. The city hasn’t held back, either. From Henry Ford’s sprawling automobile plants to James Vernors’s Ginger Ale, Detroit has left its mark on the nation. A quick drive around the city reveals unique buildings like the Guardian Building, Michigan Central Station, and Alger Theater, one of the two remaining neighborhood theaters in Detroit.

9. Detroiters Really Support Local Products

Eastern Market

Detroiters, and Michiganders in general, love to support their local farmers, manufacturers, businesses, and restaurants. It’s not uncommon for people around the nation to support locally-grown products, but Detroiters put everyone else to shame. Businesses tout their made-in-Detroit goods, and restaurants proudly serve grown-around-Detroit produce. It’s pretty awesome knowing that the money you’re spending is supporting local business.

10. Wait. Where is South Detroit?

South Detroit?

Steve Perry, the man who composed Journey’s 1981 hit “Don’t Stop Believin’” has convinced the entire nation, with the exception of Detroit, that there is a “South Detroit.” People who move to Detroit from other states expect to visit the city and see the area that inspired those iconic lyrics. They will probably be sorely disappointed, very wet, and in Canada.

It’s Home, Sweet Home

It does take a while for people to get used to their new city and settle in, so go ahead and show your new Detroiter the ins and outs of the city. It’s a good excuse to revisit your favorite places and show off just how awesome Detroit is.

Pushing Detroit's Conversation Forward on the Daily Detroit Podcast