Consider it the latest twist in the battle of New York versus Florida.
You’ve got the weather: a cold, snowy winter vs. hurricanes and the heat. The creatures: subway rats vs. swamp alligators. The pies: pizza vs. key lime. And now, the president’s primary residence: Trump Tower vs. Mar-a-Lago.
The news that President Donald Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, had quietly changed his primary residence from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Florida, caught many by surprise. But the move also evokes the longstanding, at times rivalrous relationship between the Empire and Sunshine States.
New York has been losing thousands of residents each year, with many of them going to Florida. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, which estimated the number of people who moved states within the prior year, found that Florida gained the most new residents of any state, with the biggest group of expats coming from New York. Walk around some parts of South Florida, and you’ll often hear New York accents, even from people who haven’t lived up north in decades.
The relationship between the states grew slightly fraught in recent years, after Florida overtook New York as the third-most populous state. (Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, blamed the trend on the weather. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican and former governor, pointed to New York’s high taxes.)
Now that Trump has decided to join the trend — his primary residence will be at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach when he is not at the White House — we asked native Floridians for a bit of advice. What are the must-knows, the dos and don’ts for living full time in the state? What makes a real Floridian?
— Beware the climate. Full-time Florida residents must take the good with the bad when it comes to nature. There are the state’s scenic beaches and national forests, but there are also hurricanes, flooding and sinkholes, problems that could worsen with climate change. “Watch where you step,” said Craig Pittman, an environmental reporter at The Tampa Bay Times and the author of “Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.” At the same time, he said, “because of the hurricanes, always keep an eye on the skies.”
— Buy a machete. “Everybody has machetes here,” Pittman said. “They are for the very lush growth in your yard, but they double as a really handy weapon,” he added, referring to how the blade sometimes makes an appearance in Florida-centric crime stories.
— Track the seasons not by the color of leaves, but by the color of license plates. “When it gets cool up north, we see lots more license plates,” Pittman said. “When it warms up up north, everybody goes back home.”
— Pick up a “proper sport.” Trump is known to love golf, but Diane Roberts, an eighth-generation Floridian, suggested a different hobby: mullet tossing. “We have a sport where people get liquored up and toss dead mullet and see who can throw it the farthest,” Roberts said. “It’s a very odd thing, but it’s a very Florida thing.” Mullets, for those who need a primer, are a type of fish. “Best eaten very fresh and deep fried,” said Roberts, who wrote the book “Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife.”
— Abandon your tan. “You can kind of tell an outlander by the way they need to be orange,” Roberts said. While she said some young people still insist on tanning, many native Floridians turn to hats and other techniques to stay protected. “The sun is not your friend — and even the fake sun is not your friend,” she said.
— Choose a college football team. From Florida. Each fall, college football turns Florida into a color-coded land of rivalries, from orange and blue (University of Florida) to garnet and gold (Florida State) and orange and green (University of Miami). “People start wearing strange colors,” Roberts said. “He’ll need to read that culture. He’ll need to know what’s going on, or he’ll make a faux pas at a cocktail party.”
— Remember that Florida is a “real place with real people.” Florida is famous for being a place that people love to visit. But Roberts cautioned that residents who live in the state full time should invest in and take care of the place they fell in love with on vacation. Her suggestions? Drive inland, explore nature, see the state’s famous animals. “It’s not your playground,” she said. “It’s not Disney World.”