As a country, the United States is perceived to be pretty homogenized. Hollywood blockbusters and television make it seem like it's nothing more than bustling cities and questionable pockets of creepy backwoods countryside stretched from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts. But the U.S. spans 3.5 million square miles, and there are regions and cities that appear a touch different than what's depicted in media, sometimes making parts of the country seem almost alien.
To explore this idea that there's more to the U.S. than meets the eye, a popular online forum asked, “What part of America feels like a separate country to you?”
Hundreds and hundreds of answers poured in. Here are some of the most interesting ones. Do you agree?
As one user notes, Sedona “doesn't even feel like Earth.” There is an almost Martian-like quality to the dark red sandstone landscape. Sedona offers a tranquility you simply don't expect from the United States, especially when you dig into the menu of European treatments available at many of the region's spas.
2. Florida Keys
“Seeing iguana [sic] and other big lizards roaming the streets like cats felt different,” one user states of the continental United States' southernmost city. The crystal clear waters do read more like a Caribbean island and some of the born-and-raised locals act so foreign to the rest of the United States. Expect to see and hear plenty of Spanish, too, which further drives home how disconnected from the states the Keys feel.
3. New Orleans
According to one commenter, The Big Easy is one of the few U.S. cities with a soul. Not only does New Orleans have a heartbeat, but it also has a personality fueled by architecture, music, food, and energy. That one of its biggest annual celebrations is rooted in French history definitely lends to the city's foreign feel.
Sure, parts of it are trashy and riddled with crime. Not the South Beach neighborhood, though. It has an awesome vibe with beautiful Art Deco hotels and excellent restaurants. If you're bilingual or enjoy Cuban culture, it'll only enhance your Miami experience. The city also has a rather large presence of residents with Hispanic or Latino roots.
Don't move to The Beehive State if you're looking for diversity as it's one of the most homogenous states in the U.S. However, its shockingly beautiful landscapes and geology often feel like you've crossed the border into a different country entirely.
6. El Paso
This city and other border towns are heavily influenced by our neighbors to the south. The mixed culture of Mexican and American influence helps give El Paso its charm. Though nearly 70% of its population is fluent in Spanish, the region's uniqueness is not limited to language.
A commenter who lived in Japan was startled to visit Hawaii. “I was tripping out on all the Japanese people I saw, and all of the architecture definitely reminded me of Japan.” Another forum member who'd lived in Honolulu for eight years said it felt like an Asian city.
8. New England
The region is full of history, commenters noted, and towns with actual centers instead of urban sprawl. The cost of living may be high, but many argue it's worth it since New England has relatively low crime rates, good medical infrastructure, an educated populace, many entertainment options, and natural beauty—all qualities the rest of the U.S. tends to lack.
9. West Virginia
The bigger cities, such as Martinsburg and Morgantown, are average U.S. towns. The small towns, not so much. One forum member, a Californian, experienced extreme culture shock during a trip to West Virginia: “The scenery, social customs, deep accent, and fashion was all pretty jarring and foreign to me.” Appalachia, in general, is one of the most culturally isolated spots in the U.S.
10. Las Vegas
Sin City doesn't just feel like a different country. It feels like an entirely different planet altogether. The 4.3-mile stretch of busy streets and shimmering lights is completely disconnected from its surrounding environment—desert terrain and red rock canyons yet undeveloped by civilization.
11. Kensington (Philadelphia)
According to forum members, this Philly neighborhood has far more than its share of poverty, drugs, and crime. A former Philadelphian claimed that even the worst Los Angeles neighborhoods are safer than Kensington. While that may sound quite American, it's a realm beyond what you'd find anywhere else in the States.
According to a couple of forum members who used to live in Alaska, the rural areas (and there are many!) are their own little worlds. Also, unlike anywhere else in the U.S., every resident (even babies) gets paid at least $1,000 per year to live there, courtesy of the Alaska Permanent Fund. Some commenters dunked on Anchorage, saying it feels just like any other U.S. city. However, one commenter noted that there are wolves, moose, and two kinds of bears living within the city limits. It's also worth mentioning that the city is such a small piece of the state's 665,400 square miles.