When people visit Buffalo and Western New York, they are often confused about one common thing we do. 

Buffalo has plenty of reason to visit it. Buffalo Bills tailgates have become an international bucket list event to attend. Buffalo Sabres games are, clearly, a place for many people to come to root for the opposing team. The Art Deco designs and architecture are gorgeous. The food scene is legitimately one of the best in the world. That’s not even counting our originals, like wings and Beef on ‘Weck, people will visit us to have. Niagara Falls is right up the road. Festivals, major concerts, Darien Lake, skiing, camping, and water sports don’t even round out a comprehensive list of reasons people visit. There’s lots to do and see. 

When they arrive, there are many surprising things they may learn about our community. Like how it smells like Cheerios downtown or Mark Twain lived and worked here. Plenty of people are often surprised at how much there is to do and see because so many outsiders talk down about Buffalo. They also are surprised by the people who live here. 

The people of Western New York overall are nice, hard-working, and will give you the shirt off their back. Best of all they are genuine and never afraid to have a conversation. This leads us to this one thing we do that people are taken aback by when visiting here for the first time. 

No One Expects This When Visiting Buffalo, New York

We have full conversations at the checkout of a store with complete strangers. 

This is a very, very odd thing for people not from here, it turns out. They often are not sure what to do with this. Some assume we are scamming them, or are about to have an issue with them. They honestly have no idea that we just engage in friendly conversation with each other in line, waiting in a lobby, sometimes even at a traffic light. Though sometimes those aren’t so friendly. 

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My wife, who is originally from Rochester but spent many years downstate and living in Japan, took note of this early in our relationship. We were living in Rochester as I had a job there at the time on the radio. I’m originally from Marilla, and my family is here in Buffalo. We came back for a family Christmas for the first time and realized we had to get a few things before going to the family gathering. So, we stopped at Target on Niagara Falls Blvd. We got our things, got in line and when we arrived at the register, the cashier greeted me. I greeted her. She made a comment about her day being a difficult one. After all, it was the holidays. I then engaged in a full-on conversation with her about shopping, people, and why we were visiting. For the record, it was a very short conversation and the checkout process never stalled. At the end, we said Happy Holidays and began walking out. 

My wife (girlfriend at the time) never said a word. When we got to the car, she asked, “Did you know that woman?”

“No, why?” I asked, humorously wondering if maybe early on in our relationship she was jealous of a nice, aging gracefully woman working toward retirement at Target. 

“Why were you talking to her then?” She asked. Not angrily, but legitimately confused. 

I was puzzled because it seemed odd to me that she was confused, and then she explained it.

For context, my wife is very well-traveled. Not only abroad but also around the United States. She has been fortunate enough to meet and be with all sorts of people from different states, countries, nationalities, cultures, etc. As she explained to me, this interaction I had just had with a Target cashier is not common anywhere else. Even in Rochester, she explained.

Since I lived in Rochester with her, I was still puzzled because I did this all the time there. She then revealed to me that it was very weird, everyone we know thinks it’s different, and it is not a normal thing. 

Turns out it’s a very Buffalo/WNY thing to do. Looking into it, it’s also very Mid-West. Specifically, it’s a Great Lakes thing to do. Everywhere else? No. No, they don’t chat with strangers in a line about their day, let alone the cashier. Those kinds of interactions are rare everywhere else and most people have zero interest in engaging with others while out and about. 

Weird, huh?

Just a little Buffalo thing I thought was interesting. Anyway, how’s your day? 

Pat McMahon hosts afternoons from 3 pm to 7 pm on Buffalo’s Real Rock, 92.9 WBUF. He’s also having a nice day and would like to add, “Go Bills.”  

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