Things to Know as a New Michigander

By Sabrina Cynova and Miranda Ferris April 17, 2023
Aerial image of Campus Martius in Detroit during winter

Moving to a new state is not easy, and while the reasons for relocation vary, there is always a list of things you wish you’d known before moving. For newcomers Miranda Ferris and Sabrina Cynova, the transition was no different.

Miranda relocated from Austin, Texas, to Rochester Hills after graduating college in 2018 to be with her boyfriend (now fiance) and start her career. Now, five years later, she considers Michigan home. Sabrina has a similar background, moving to Detroit from Chicago, Illinois, in 2022 for a new job and to take the next step in her relationship.

Together, they have compiled a list of things they wish they had known before moving to Michigan, including terminology, how to winterize a home and car, and the essential need for Vitamin D.


Knowing where you’re going to live and work is important, but knowing Michigander lingo, downtown districts, and transportation systems are equally important for navigating your new home. You may hear friends and coworkers refer to restaurants in Corktown or talk about their trip “Up North” and wonder what that means. Read below to find out!

  • People Mover vs. QLINE: If you live or work in Detroit, then you’ll want to use public transit systems. The People Mover is automated and operates on an elevated track above downtown. Perfect for commuters and sightseers, it’s also an affordable transit option, costing only $0.75 for individual rides and $10 for unlimited monthly trips. Similarly, the QLINE is a free streetcar system that connects Downtown Detroit, New Center, North End, and Midtown and is the perfect way to travel from restaurants to sporting events, museums, and other recreational activities in Detroit.
  • SOS: Depending on which state you’re from, the place where you get your driver’s license, vehicle registration, or license plate may vary. In Michigan, that place is called the SOS (or Secretary of State). In other regions, you may refer to it as the DMV or DPS, but all operate the same.
  • Areas of Downtown: Downtown Detroit is divided into different districts. You may be invited to a happy hour in Corktown or to get dinner with friends in Greektown. Either way, you’ll want to understand the different areas in Detroit and what each is known for.
    • Midtown: Located near Wayne State University, Midtown features art galleries, museums, and live music for those that like the finer things in life.
    • Greektown: Located in the center of Detroit, Greektown features dreamy fairy lights, patio dining, and authentic Greek food, making it the perfect place for a happy hour, romantic date, or Sunday Funday.
    • Corktown: If you’re looking for foodie Instagram vibes, then Corktown is the place to be! Known for the Michigan Central Station and unique restaurants and bars, the town attracts visitors and locals for good times, historic views, and delicious food.
    • Mexicantown: This is the place for taco and tequila connoisseurs, featuring local taquerias, food trucks, music, and more.

If you’re not from the Midwest, the lingo here can be confusing (and sometimes hard to pronounce). You will commonly hear terms like “Up North” or “The U.P.,” which, of course, makes no sense without context. Read below to see some commonly used terms.


  • Upper vs. Lower Peninsula: If you didn’t know before moving here, Michigan exists as two land masses connected by the Mackinac Bridge and referred to as the lower peninsula and upper peninsula (or U.P.). When referring to the regions, people often use terminology like “Yoopers” and “Trolls” – yoopers being from the U.P. and trolls living “under the bridge” in the lower peninsula.
  • Motor City: Known as the heart of the American automotive industry, Detroit is often referred to as Motor City.
  • Up North: If you live in the lower peninsula, you will definitely hear the term “Up North” often. Many Michiganders have cabins “up north” or travel for winter activities, wineries, and the Great Lakes. “Up North” refers to anything north of Southeast Michigan and Metro Detroit. Whether you’re visiting Traverse City, Petoskey, the U.P., or Mackinac Island, collectively, they are all considered “up north.”
  • Metroparks vs. State Parks: There are 13 Metroparks in Southeast Michigan operated by Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority. The Metroparks combined cover over 25,000 acres and provide recreational activities for Michiganders, including bike trails, kayaking, nature centers, camping, ziplining, fishing, cross-country skiing, and more. These regional park systems operate separately from Michigan State Parks and require their own permits to enter. State parks are managed and protected by a state and operate differently than a regional Metropark. While they offer similar recreational activities, state parks also commonly have historic or natural preservation protections and, therefore, more rules and regulations.


Snow-covered tree tops, glistening snowflakes, and footprints left by snowshoes are hallmarks of a classic Michigan winter. Although serene and beautiful, it’s important to prepare for the season, including winterizing your car and home! Winter tires are essential and an important investment in a snowy and inclement climate. Be sure to check and maintain your tire pressure and store a winter safety kit in your car in case of emergencies. Common items in this kit include a pack of matches, a first aid kit, a flashlight and batteries, an ice scraper, a shovel, warm clothing, non-perishable food and beverage items, sand, and jumper cables.

Keep an eye out for potholes throughout the wintertime and into the spring (and we aren’t referring to Ashby’s black-tar fudge chocolate ice cream!). Potholes originate from the freezing and thawing of roads during the winter.

As for winterizing your home, this includes weatherproofing windows and doors, protecting pipes, ensuring snow removal tools are accessible, etc. Check out this Forbes article to learn more about preparing your home for the winter.

With a lack of sunshine during winter, seeking out Vitamin D is a necessity for most. Before taking a supplement, be sure to speak with your doctor. Sun lamps, also known as light therapy devices, aim to lessen the winter blues and prevent seasonal affective disorder (SAD).


Known as the Great Lakes State, there’s no denying that Michigan is the perfect place to spend time in the Great Outdoors. Be sure to take advantage of the four seasons, as there are plenty of activities and things to experience in each.

In the spring, Detroiters can be seen taking advantage of the warmer weather and the blooming tulips by taking a leisurely stroll on the Detroit RiverWalk—once again named the best riverwalk in the U.S. by USA Today—or hiking around Belle Isle.

Summer means sunshine and enjoying the more than 3,200 miles of shoreline! Michigan is home to some of the most stunning and diverse beaches in the U.S.

Crisp air, cider mills, doughnuts, and vibrant colors. Ahh … fall in Michigan! Take advantage of the longer nights by enjoying a sky full of stars.

And, in the winter, nothing beats a trip Up North to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, and the serenity and solitude that comes with a night spent in a cozy cabin.


One thing’s for certain—you will quickly learn that Detroiters are proud of their city, its culture, and its history. Ever heard of the infamous Coney dog? Popular in Michigan, this hot dog is topped with chili, diced white onions, and yellow mustard. Its flavor is not for everyone, but a must to try. Detroit-style pizza is a rectangular pan pizza with a thick crust that is traditionally topped with Wisconsin brick cheese. Chicago’s not the only place that knows how to serve up a slice.

And that’s it, folks! Even after having lived in the Great Lakes State for some time, Miranda and Sabrina are still discovering all of Michigan’s unique experiences.