Pennsylvanians eat 12 times more pretzels than the rest of the country. This fun fact comes to you from an interview with Andrea Slonecker, author of Pretzel Making at Home, on the podcast The Splendid Table.
So, although travel and technology make it easier to learn about fascinating cultural differences around the world, there are still plenty of differences big and small to explore with your kids right from home.
I live in Pennsylvania and I can attest that pretzels are a major part of the snack food aisle. I’ve rolled my own pretzels with my daughter at a pretzel factory Lancaster County, PA. I sometimes find myself in other states perplexed at the snack food aisle wondering where the rest of the pretzels are hidden.
Although we’re more and more connected to people all over the country and the world because of travel and technology, there are most certainly cultural differences where you are that are just as odd. And by odd, I don’t mean weird or bad, I mean different and fascinating.
What about whoopie pies? Do you have those where you live? Both Pennsylvania and Maine claim these hamburger-shaped cake and frosting delights as their own, but I see no need to fight it out for exclusive rights. They’re delicious and you can make them yourself!
Clear toy candy is a simple hard candy made into shapes kids love. Its history in Pennsylvania dates back to German immigrants and there’s still one shop that sells mail order called Regennas Candy Shop.
We also have Fastnacht Day. The day before Lent begins, it’s celebrated by eating doughnuts called fastnachts. Grocery stores make bags and bags of them and they are snapped up for a last indulgence on the night (nacht) before the fast.
Groundhog day in February is an odd event that makes the news across the country for at least a few seconds, but in Pennsylvania, where Punxsutawney Phil makes his prediction, the story gets at least a few minutes of airtime. In my neighborhood, there’s even a house with Groundhog Day decorations!
Many regional differences stem from immigrant heritage. In my area, it’s mostly German and Italian. In Iowa, where I grew up, there’s a lot of Scandinavian. It took years after I moved away to realize that I no one I knew had heard of kringla (which incidentally is sometimes described as a sweet pretzel).
It can be hard to recognize those differences if you’ve lived in the same place for awhile. You may have to ask someone who’s new to your area what they’ve noticed as new and different to them. That opens up the discussion to what cultures that person has experienced.
That’s why you don’t have to make an expensive trip overseas for your children to see that people are different and that those differences are fascinating.
To explore this idea further, here’s a guide from the Peace Corps.
What are the cultural differences where you live?