East Coast Mormons vs. West Coast Mormons

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One of the most common get-to-know-you questions on campus is, “Where are you from?” While states like California, Idaho and Utah are some of the more common responses, states such as Rhode Island and Florida aren’t as much.

Yet students hailing from Eastern states are enjoying life in the West while noticing a few cultural differences.

Annie Turner holds a picture of her home state of Virginia (photo by Whitnie Soelburg)
Annie Turner holds a picture of her home state of Virginia. (Photo by Whitnie Soelberg)

“I think the biggest (difference) is the pace of life,” said Annie Turner, a sophomore majoring in physical education from Herndon, Va. “At home, living so close to D.C., everything is so fast paced, and there is always something to be done or somewhere to be. When I compare my life to the life of cousins who grew up in Springville, they just had a much slower pace of life than I did.”

Virginia has the 10th highest number of students enrolled at BYU as of Fall 2012.

While Turner said she loves the fast pace of the East, she loves the people of the West.

“I think that because of the slower pace of life, people are generally nicer out West than they are in the East,” she said. “Not to say that there aren’t nice people out east, because there are for sure.”

Turner said she wants to end up living on the East Coast after school.

“I love the mountains and the people out West, but I love the green and the feeling of home I get out East,” she said. “I miss the green, the history, the people, being close to D.C. and even the humidity.”

Kristen Jones, a sophomore majoring in food science from Cumberland, R.I., a state with only 11 students enrolled at BYU, also said there are things she misses about her home region.

“I miss the beach and just the familiar surroundings like the trees and the old historic buildings,” Jones said. “I really like Providence and Boston, even just the culture. That could just be because I was raised in it and I’m used to it.”

Jones said that of the cultural differences she has noticed between the Eastern and Western United States, one of the major differences is that people are more willing to talk to strangers in the West.

“Everyone (in the West) wants to talk to you all the time, and at home people are like, ‘Go, go, go,'” she said. “If you know someone, they will talk to you, but otherwise you don’t really interact as often. Here (in Utah), everyone is friendly or outgoing. When you are in the grocery store, people will talk to you. That kind of freaked me out at first. People say ‘hi’ to everyone even if they don’t know them.”

Jones said she and her sister were the only LDS people in her school for most of her high school years, which may have made her high school experience different from going to high school in Utah and many places in the West.

Kristen Jones holds a picture of the state flag of Rhode Island, her home state. (photo by Whitnie Soelburg)
Kristen Jones holds a picture of Rhode Island’s state flag, her home state. As of Fall 2012, there were 11 students from Rhode Island enrolled at BYU.  (Photo by Whitnie Soelberg)

“I actually liked going to a high school without as many members,” Jones said. “It was kind of exciting to explain the Church to other people around me. No one really knew what it was, so we got labeled as the Mormon kids, and they would ask us questions. It was a really cool missionary experience that taught us to stand for what we believe in.”

Dave Frost is a business major from East Hartford, Conn., a state with 109 students enrolled at BYU as of Fall 2012. He said he also had many opportunities for missionary experiences during high school.

“There were a lot of questions that came my way,” Frost said. “There were tons of missionary opportunities. Some of my friends played church basketball with me. They never tried to force me to change my standards. They actually really encouraged me to keep them. Sometimes they would use me as an excuse if they didn’t want to see an R-rated movie.”
Frost said that because of the diversity of the area he lived in, he didn’t feel too different being a Mormon.
“Everybody is different, so the fact that you’re a Mormon doesn’t make you stand out that much,” Frost said. “There are people who are Jewish, Catholic and belong to different Protestant churches.”

Samantha Clyde is a communications disorders major from New Providence, N.J. She also recognized many differences between the Eastern and Western United States, including accents, hair color, fashion, restaurants, the way people drive, the number of snow days and the focus on school.

“The Italian food is a lot better back East,” Clyde said. “There were probably about three different Italian restaurants in my small town. People are way more into fashion in the West. Makeup, clothes and hair are definitely priorities out here, whereas East Coasters tend to wear a sweatshirt, jeans and a messy bun to school.”

Though she wants to end up living in the East, she says there are aspects of both the East and her life in Utah that she likes.

“I would love to live in the East,” Clyde said. “I love it so much — the culture, the feeling of being in the mission field, the four seasons. The fall foliage is beautiful. The mountains are also beautiful, and I love the openness of the West. I miss the city part of the East. It’s fun going to New York City, but people out here are very friendly and open.”

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