Our First Five Years in Birmingham :: Lessons from Midwest Transplants


5 Things I Love Most About Moving from the MidwestThis March, my family and I are crossing the five-year mark since we moved to Alabama. Five years doesn’t seem like all that long of a time period, but it’s actually the longest we have stayed in one place since we married in 2006.

We have been fortunate in that we have chosen careers that we love and have provided us with opportunities to advance at a regular pace. The downside to that is the opportunities don’t always come in the same geographic location. 

In 2016, we were both presented with opportunities at UAB that were too good to pass up. Our oldest daughter was in kindergarten and our youngest was just turning three when we decided to take the leap from Indianapolis to Birmingham. 

To say we experienced some culture shock is a bit of an understatement. We are Midwesterners through and through, bouncing between Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. The move to Birmingham, specifically to our home in Hoover, put us close to 600 miles away from our closest family support system. 

It was a scary move to make, but it has been such a great change of scenery. Some things we got behind quickly, and some have taken a bit more of an adjustment on our part.

In celebration of our five years in the Birmingham area, I wanted to share my list of five things we love about moving south, along with five things we just can’t seem to embrace about the Southern culture just yet.

5 Things We Love About the South

Seasons Change 

It took no time at all to get used to the fact that the four seasons are on a little different schedule down south. Summer starts in March and lasts well into October. And we definitely have no use for the snowblower and shovels we moved with us. 

We get to keep our winter gear packed away for the majority of the year and get a lot more use out of our flip flops and swimsuits than ever before. 

Planned Communities

Behind the improvement in the weather, my next favorite component of our move is where we physically landed to make our home. We moved from what we would consider a planned community, but it was nothing compared to the neighborhoods we explored in this area. 

Swimming pools, trails, playgrounds, wiffle ball fields, restaurants, and more right outside the front door is amazing. Living in Ross Bridge has been the absolute best decision for our family. We enjoy having the houses close to the road with good sized front porches for gatherings and watching the kids play out on the big green spaces. 

The people go above and beyond to create fun and inviting events for the community. I was hesitant at first because the houses seemed so close together and yards were hard to find, but I’m so happy we stepped out of our comfort zone and into this community.

Barbeque :: BBQ :: Bar-B-Que

I will admit that I was confused the first few times we were invited over to neighbors’ for BBQ and it was burgers on the grill. I’m used to referring to it as a cookout, but whatever you call it, we enjoy an opportunity to gather with friends around a grill.

My husband is an excellent cook and master of the grill. Even before we moved to a better climate, our grill was used year-round. Now he doesn’t have to put a coat on most of the time and there are always friends ready to enjoy his grilling skills.

Then there is actual barbeque, which we truly enjoy. We love taking our visitors around to all of the best restaurants to sample all the smoking methods and sauces. 

Pimento Cheese

Speaking of food, I come from the land of cheese and I’d never heard of this. I maybe recall seeing something like it at the deli counter but definitely not something anyone actually ever purchased . . . until we moved here and it was on every single restaurant menu in some form or fashion.

Sometimes a dip, sometimes a condiment, and sometimes the main course. I resisted for a while but honestly, I have no idea why. Not only do we enjoy the delicious spread, we even have our favorite brand. And it absolutely can classify as all three items on a menu.

Beach Access

If I could be at the beach every weekend, I absolutely would do it. We are a sun-loving family, so being so close to the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores has been such a treat. Before moving here, I never knew such a beautiful place existed in the state of Alabama. 

We have been fortunate to make several trips and also give recommendations to our Midwest friends looking for fun spring break and summer spots to visit. The girls have their favorite places along the shore when we visit as a family, and my husband and I have our favorite spots for when we can make a getaway for just the two of us. 

5 things we love about Birmingham after moving from the Midwest

5 Things I’m Not That Into {Yet}

Call Me Ma’am

I still cannot get used to being called ma’am. It makes me feel old and it’s still foreign-sounding to my ears. It’s also been tough to get our girls on board with this one.

Yes, here it is a sign of respect and expected, but it’s really hard to get used to when you have grown up simply using first names to address anyone and everyone. I still struggle with having my daughters’ friends refer to me as Ma’am or Mrs. Kraebber. I am much more comfortable with Erin and probably always will be. 

Double Names

With two younger girls, it’s been a learning experience to hear about their new friends. So many of them have two first names, and it took a while to fully understand. In my experience, only parents use the first and middle name when kids are in trouble. If I heard “Erin Kristin,” then I knew I was in the wrong.

Double names are so common that my girls are often in the minority in their classes — especially our younger one who is a Hadley Grace. We had no idea at the time these names would become so popular. She has many friends who also have Grace as a part of their name. She only goes by Hadley and doesn’t take too kindly to other people calling her by both names. 

Sweet Tea

Nope, no way. This makes no sense to me at all. It’s easier to find Sweet Tea than water in these parts. I’m not a tea fan of any kind to begin with, so the obsession blows my mind. 

I will never forget when we took our girls to the pediatrician for the first time when we moved here. One of the first questions they asked is how much sweet tea they drink. They did not believe me when I said none. Five years later and it’s still true, no sweet tea here.

Patterns and Bows

My girls and I have yet to get behind the girl fashion that is so prominent in the Southern style. The mixed patterns, the giant bows, ruffles, bubbles, and the monograms have been a drastic change from the land of Oshkosh B’Gosh we moved from. And I’m actually an  Oshkosh native (yes, it’s a real city in Wisconsin) so I know what I’m talking about. 

Little kiddos are tough on their clothes and they outgrow them so fast. Comfort has always been of utmost importance to the girls, and they are very picky about their fashion which consists mostly of leggings and soft tees for play. 

They love to get dressed up on occasion, but they often want to know why other girls get so fancy just to go to school. I also never really knew what a monogram could be used for until moving south. I thought that was something reserved only for hand towels. Boy, was I wrong. I only recently received a monogrammed cup, so I’m making strides.

Slowing the Pace

I had no idea how fast I walked and talked until we relocated. Aside from my lack of a Southern accent, the big trait that clues people in to the fact that I am a transplant is how quickly I do things. Sort of wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked where I am going in such a hurry. 

My family and I get easily frustrated by the slower pace of all things, from wandering the aisles in the grocery store to responding to communications. It all happens at a much more relaxed pace than we are used to experiencing. This is also the first thing our families notice when they visit. I have to very consciously try to talk and move slower, as well as adjust our expectations on different elements of our daily lives. 

Looking Forward to More

Overall, my first five years in Birmingham have been a very positive experience for the whole family. We have enjoyed so much more time outdoors than ever and truly have built wonderful relationships within the community. 

Living in a place our friends and family enjoy visiting too is a big bonus. Turns out we weren’t the only ones who never gave Alabama a second thought. But we are so happy we took the leap and have made it a true home.

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Erin is a transplant, relocating to Birmingham from the midwest in 2016. Born and raised in Wisconsin, she met her husband Karl while attending Purdue University. They had no idea when they received the opportunity to move south that the city had so much to offer. Together the couple has two girls: Hadley (8) and Allyson (12). Being a mom to two school-aged girls fills her with equal measures of love and anxiety. Erin spends her days, including weekends and most evenings during the school year, in her role managing the marketing and game day efforts for UAB Athletics. When she isn't working in sports, watching sports, or coaching her daughters in their sports, you can find Erin supporting business owners as a marketing and brand strategist. She believes that there is much to be learned from sharing motherhood stories and experiences because no one truly has it all figured out. Visit ErinKraebber.com to connect.