Life In Wisconsin, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life In Wisconsin
This material courtesy of Lee Ann Rubsam

Wisconsin is a place of rich farmlands, forests, and many lakes and rivers. Much of the state is rural, but there are heavily populated areas, such as Milwaukee, Racine, and Madison in the south and the Fox River Valley in the eastern central region.

A large proportion of the people are of German, Polish, Dutch, and Scandinavian descent. These people groups settled in the state because the climatic conditions were similar to those of their homelands. They brought their culture, cuisine, and spiritual traditions with them.

Due to the stoicism that is part of their ethnic heritage, Wisconsinites are often reserved in showing their emotions, but forthright in giving their opinions. They have a strong work ethic with a no-nonsense approach to life.

One of Wisconsin’s favorite foods is bratwurst. More familiarly known as a “brat” (which rhymes with “hot”), this spicy sausage, served on a bun with sauerkraut or other condiments, is common fare at the numerous Polish and German festivals held throughout the state each summer. Brat stands are standard fixtures outside many grocery and discount stores during the warmer months, and brats are usually the main feature at backyard barbecues.

Known as “The Dairy State,” Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in milk production. Perhaps this is why cheese is also a well-loved food among its residents. Many varieties are produced and exported worldwide. Tourists seem to be particularly fond of cheese curds – mildly flavored bite-size pieces of unaged cheddar. Connoisseurs insist cheese curds are best eaten within hours of being made. Fresh curds “squeak” when chewed.

Although Wisconsin is nicknamed “The Badger State,” it is not because of the badgers that inhabit the wild places. Lead miners who lived in caves that they carved in the hillsides reminded people of the burrow-digging animal that is their namesake.

In Wisconsin, drinking fountains are called “bubblers.” Water fountains are large, water-spraying fixtures in parks and on insurance company lawns, not something to drink from. Tourists who ask for a water fountain in stores or office buildings are likely to receive a blank stare. Likewise, Wisconsin residents who travel to other states are often surprised when their request for a bubbler is not understood.

Wisconsin’s summer weather varies between warm and very hot (65 to 95 degrees), while its winters range from mild to severely cold (30 to -30 degrees). Spring and fall are short transition times between summer and winter. Because winter weather takes up at least four months of every year, Wisconsinites have learned to make the best of it, with ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and sledding being favorite pastimes.

The Green Bay Packers, a professional football team, are of intense interest to sports-conscious Wisconsinites. Much of the social life during the fall and winter months revolves around getting together to watch the Packers play. Green and gold Packer clothing is an important part of the culture and the clothing industry. Some people decorate their homes and cars in Packer themes.

Wisconsinites sometimes fondly refer to themselves as “cheeseheads.” This term comes from a popular sponge rubber hat that looks like a wedge of Swiss cheese, but is the color of cheddar. It is accepted apparel when attending Packer games, rallies, or home parties, but is not worn at other times.

People from Wisconsin are proud of their heritage and customs. They enjoy sharing their unique way of life with those who visit their state.


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