5 Things Only Nevadans Understand

For non-Nevadans, the entire state of Nevada is some kind of crazy enigma that is both intriguing and moderately horrifying. The general consensus from those I’ve talked to about my infamous home state is that it is separated into two parts: Vegas and not-Vegas. If someone has been to Vegas, they will likely tell me about how awesome they thought it was, with all the lights and strippers and partying and… well you get the point. If they haven’t been to Vegas, it is decidedly likely that their understanding of Nevadan culture is contingent upon the stereotypical “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” commercials. But to the vast majority of people I’ve met, the not-Vegas portion of Nevada is some magically mysterious desert land full of crazy gun-toting cowboys, aliens, and drug crazed hippies worshiping a giant burning statue of a man in the middle of nowhere (ok, so that last one really is a thing. But a really cool thing!). For my non-Nevadan friends, here is an introduction to what life is like in our quaint little piece of scalding desert. For my fellow Nevadans, I hope that you can relate to these, my many strange, disturbing, fascinating, and quintessentially “Nevada Life” experiences.

1. The Vegas-Reno Divide

The #1 most asked question when I say that I’m from Nevada is this:

“Oh my god, do you go to Vegas, like, all the time?”

The answer is always no, but rarely do people understand why. In all of the hype that surrounds the Vegas part of Nevada, rarely is it mentioned that the not-Vegas portion is considerably bigger. Here is a map for reference:


This may not look like much, but it is, in fact, nearly seven full hours of non-stop driving. All Nevadans, native or otherwise, understand that if you live in the north, Vegas is not some sweet vacation spot you can drive to on a whim. Contrary to popular belief, Nevadans typically don’t just pack up and drive to Vegas for the weekend. We generally spend our time doing other, more important things, like hiking, skiing, biking, and generally outdoors-ing. Nevada is a beautiful state, when you get down to it, and Nevadans all understand that there is more to it than simply the shiny, glitter soaked cleavage that Vegas has to offer.

Additionally, non-Nevadans never seem to understand that there is a very real North-South rivalry. While Nevadans from all parts of the state will bond over their shared fire horror stories and general heat snobbery (i.e. “OMG this is nothing! Remember when it got to 120 last summer?”) if they find each other in other parts of the country, when we’re in our natural habitat it quickly deteriorates into all out war. The two major Nevadan universities (another surprise to non-Nevadans: we have two universities), University of Nevada (located in Reno) and University of Nevada–Las Vegas, have an ever lasting rivalry that all residents participate in in some way. No, silly non-Nevadans, Reno and Vegas don’t just get along like two happy little bunnies frolicking in a meadow. In fact, we are wolves who will tear the Southern rebels a new one. (no offense to my UNLV buddies–I still love you, even if you are traitors)


2. Nevadans are prepared for pretty much any natural disaster ever to exist. 

Earthquakes? Check. Floods? Yep, check. Fires? Infinite check.

Nevada is a pretty dangerous place. In addition to our ability to combust in mere minutes, we are also surprisingly susceptible to a whole host of fun natural disasters.

Nevada Wildfires

Yep, just an average Nevada summer.


Nevadans know that they essentially have to be prepared for everything. While we may just look like an average, deathly hot, dust filled, life taking desert, we are much more. We have some of the largest and most intense fires in the nation. In fact, I recall having a day off school while a wildfire swept through town. We also have intense droughts (water is for wimpy losers), bouts of intense earthquakes, and rock slides that can destroy neighborhoods. Up in the mountains, we have blizzards and avalanches like nobody’s business. Floods happen almost yearly, and hurricane-force winds are the norm. Dust storms? Had one last week, and people barely blinked (except to get the dust out of their eyes). Essentially, if it isn’t a hurricane or tsunami, we’ve had one, and it likely destroyed a small, family owned farm.

People from Nevada generally aren’t impressed by even the worst Mother Nature can dish out. After all, we’ve probably seen it all over the course of a week. Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said that “if you don’t like the weather in Nevada, wait five minutes”? Well, Nevadans understand that the sentiment is equally true with natural disasters.


3. Prostitution: legal, but not. 

After I’ve shattered the non-Nevadans dreams about the frequency of my jaunts to Vegas, their next question (usually in a voice that is almost disturbingly hopeful) is whether prostitution is really a big industry in our state. Again: you non-Nevadans should seriously do your research.

Consider this the most important piece of Nevada tourist info you will receive: PROSTITUTION IS NOT LEGAL THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE STATE. Seriously. I’m not kidding you.

Here’s a quick history lesson: prostitution laws in Nevada are delegated to the counties. The only state-wide regulation is that no county with more than 400,000 residents can legalize prostitution. This means that Clark County and Washoe County (the counties containing the states’ two largest population centers) do not have legal brothels. Most Nevadan’s are not stupid enough to hire a sex worker in either of these counties, or in Douglas county, which has also passed laws banning the practice. Tourists, however, are generally not as intelligent. For Nevadans, idiotic tourists who get arrested for soliciting prostitutes in Reno or Vegas are sources of hilarity and merriment. Hey–for a state consistently ranked last in education, it’s always nice to be smarter than someone!

In total, 11 counties have laws that legalize prostitution and one county doesn’t have a law either way. If you feel the deep need to get it on with a real Nevada prostitute, please do your research. Or, better yet, just don’t hire a sex worker in the first place.


Remember, only get your sleaze on in the rural counties.


4. My not-so-real gambling addiction

Perhaps it’s par for the course given Nevada’s less than stellar stereotyping, but I frequently get asked if I or my family are big gamblers. Granted, gambling in Nevada is pretty much the norm. We have slot machines in our grocery stores and I don’t think I realized that gambling was illegal pretty much everywhere else until an embarrassingly late age. But despite all of this, gambling is generally not something native Nevadans engage in with much frequency. The obese, tipsy, chain smoking gamblers that are fixtures at Nevadan casinos are usually from out of state (damn Californians).

Similarly, to non-Nevadans, the people of Nevada are massive drinkers. Their reasoning is generally sound. With 24 hour access to literally any type of alcohol you could ever want, be it in a bottle, bag, or box, we have to be big into the drinking experience, right? Well… not exactly. Sure, Nevadans party like everyone else, but we are not, in fact, the “drunkest” state in the country. That honor actually goes to New Hampshire.

Sorry to burst your bubble, non-Nevadans, but the people of the Battle Born State don’t actually party any more than you do. Unless, of course, you’re from New Hampshire.

Welcome to nevada

Welcome to Nevada, silly tourists, give us your monies.


If I can enlighten you on a single, solitary Nevada issue, it is this. It is a source of deep seeded anger, hatred, and animosity for Nevadans that our state gets mispronounced so frequently. Worse? When people are told the correct pronunciation and pointedly choose to ignore it. Because looking like an ignorant fool is definitely the best policy, right?

Let’s practice, okay? Say it with me Ne-VA-da. Do it again. NE. VA. DA. There is no “vah” in there anywhere. One last time? NEVADA. Awesome. Hopefully you’ve learned something.

This is probably the most inherently Nevada thing out there. Nevadans will stop you mid sentence to correct the pronunciation; and, no, when it’s correcting your blatant and concerning ineptitude, it isn’t rude. Additionally, if you correctly pronounce Nevada in front of a native Nevadan, you will most definitely gain a small amount of approval and respect. Don’t expect us to show it, though; Nevadans aren’t easily impressed. Say it with me once more, with feeling!


50 thoughts on “5 Things Only Nevadans Understand

  1. The population threshold for whether prostitution can be legalized or not was changed in 2011 from 400,000 to 700,000 (see NRS 244.345), and applies only to Clark County (not both Clark and Washoe). Even when the population threshold was 400,000 (before 2011), it never applied to Washoe — the population caps use the immediately preceding census, and since Washoe’s population was below 400,000 at the 2000 census, that cap only applied to Clark. (The adjustment of the cap from 400,000 to 700,000, in fact, was to keep the status quo in the law to only apply to Clark.)

    Prostitution is, indeed, illegal in Washoe County, but it is because of county ordinance, not state law.

    • Very true! People also think that we do not know what snow is. I ask them, “Do you know where Lake Tahoe is?” Im less than 30 minutes away 🙂

    • @susmaster…
      Thanks for leaving. Don’t come back. We don’t like or want people like you here. I hope you moved to California where you pay way to many taxes in a state the is in debt.

    • And I promise you not one person from Nevada has shed a tear since you left. Thank you for making it a better place to live!

    • I agree, this is lame. This article is relatively representative of the arrogance spread throughout this state and makes me ashamed to say I’m from here.

      • There is a difference between arrogance, which is an inherent belief in your own superiority, and a spot of pride for the place you grew up. I do not believe that being from Nevada makes me infinitely better than all others. I do, however, believe that it has allowed me to experience a unique and not widely understood area of the country in a very intimate way. Though I am flattered that you found my hometown pride so deeply, disturbingly “lame” that you had to comment. Thanks for the read, friend.

  2. This is the best article of information that I have read about my home state. It is so RIGHT ON THE MONEY!! I LOVE the pronunciation bit at the end. My family & I live in Texas now, but just the other day my son was explaining to me how he was CORRECTING his fellow classmates on how to say Nevada correctly. . Love it. Miss home.

  3. This article is way biased to Northern Nevada. I went to UNR and I’m from Vegas (which is NOT California or glitter cleavage. Most of us locals NEVER go on the strip except on special occasions). Also, when I lived in Washoe I worked for the county and prostitution was preeetty illegal (this was is 2013). Maybe not because of population issues but it still is.

  4. Kudos on an awesomely written article about our home state!! I am a born and raised Nevadan and you nailed it!!! ❤

  5. Flew into Vegas to drive up to southwest Utah and then made it down to the North Rim in Arizona as well. For a first timer Las Vegas was nothing short of spectacular, but getting to see plenty of the state outside the strip was equally if not more fascinating.

  6. This was entertaining, but was chalked full of “Li’l Vegas” syndrome. As a native of Nevada, Battle Born and raised I feel it was short sighted. Having been born in Henderson, raised in Carson City and now residing in Henderson I love every square mile of this state and probably have been within 15 miles of everyone of those square miles at some point in my life. Nevada is so much bigger than Reno or Las Vegas in what it has to offer to Nevadans and non-Nevadans. The problem is most Nevadans in Reno don’t get farther than Fernley, Tahoe or Minden and Nevadans in Las Vegas don’t get farther than Red Rock, Boulder City or Indian Springs. Nevada is a treasure trove of beauty and mystery, a land so deserving of exploration. Yes, Nevada is so often divided and those division are caused by basic evils if you will, such as money, power and pride. The funny thing is one end of the state can’t prosper without the other, like conjoined twins who share a single organ. Just like conjoined twins we will be far better off if we learn to cooperate and change our negative attitudes. However, a spirited rivalry is always healthy if held in dignity.

    • Very good point but maybe you don’t go far enough. We tend to forget the Eastern part of the state. They have wants and needs that are much different than those of Lake and Washoe and also cannot survive without the sister counties. But some of the more interesting place of our state are near Ely or Winnemucca (certainly some great fishing and hunting).

      Our three part divide may not be as big as the differences in California – Southern, Bay Area and East and North – but certainly three different views on what is most important for Nevada.

  7. It is NOT Vegas! It’s LAS Vegas and those of us from Clark County are offended when someone wants to shorten the name. Otherwise, thanks for a great article.

    • You can probably blame the ‘Vegas’ on the tourist commercials and TV as much as anything. I know I nearly always say Las Vegas, except when texting, but people tend to verbally shorten most anything if allowed to do so.

  8. Not sure why people from Reno insist on dropping the Reno part of their University’s name. The abbreviate is UNR not UN or U of N.

    • It’s technically just University of Nevada. It was the first one in the state, so Vegas had to add the city to designate the location. If you look at the sports teams, UNR is called “Nevada,” as in only university in Nevada.

    • Chris Ault actually fought really hard for Nevada to be called Nevada and not have the Reno as a part of it. In fact, while competing for Nevada, if Ault heard us refer as anything other than Nevada or the Wolfpack/Pack, we got corrected.

  9. We might not drink more… but we do drink later. All those other places start tapping out when we’re just getting started.

    Great article though. 🙂

  10. I love Las Vegas. I’ve been there many times and have seen many parts of the state. I wanted to move there, but things just never allowed that opportunity. I love Nevada. There is so much more to see than “Vegas”. The desert in bloom is gorgeous. Lake Tahoe in winter-spectacular! The mountains-fascinating. Wish I could move there today.

  11. screw Vegas. I’m Northern Nevadan. Born and raised and I’m going to keep on calling it Vegas. why? Because Vegas makes the rest of the state look like crap.

  12. Good stuff! I’m a third generation NeVAdan. My family arrived in Nevada in 1931 when my dad’s dad took a job as a construction worker on the Boulder (Hoover) Dam. I was born and raised in Las Vegas. I lived 3 years in Reno and and a year in Elko. I’ve hiked, explored, hunted, and fished all over the state. Some of the coolest places are the old mining towns and ghost towns. I don’t like how much Las Vegas has changed over the years.

  13. Clark County, the county that houses the City of Las Vegas and most things that people THINK are Las Vegas, was actually part of the Arizona Teritory. Unlike the rest of the state which was a part of the Utah Territory. I yearn for those days as Clark County taxes fund UN-RENO without which, would be the oldest community college in the state. FYI , UNLV is not in Las Vegas, it’s in Clark County.

    • I suppose if you’d really like to get technical about it, the entire territory that now comprises the state of Nevada was, at varying times, property of Spain and Mexico. Do you yearn for those days, as well? Or, perhaps, if you’d like to be more correct in your archaic longing, you ought to, instead, yearn for the days prior to colonialism wherein the territory was claimed by various Native American tribes. Additionally, I refer to the University of Nevada (located in Reno) as such in order to differentiate it in the same way that many other states do the oldest of their public institutions. It was founded nearly 200 years prior to UNLV, and it is quite the source of pride for those of us who grew up in Reno. Despite your negative commentary, I do thank you for the read.

      • I enjoyed the article but am also confused and saddened at the author’s need to basically exclude Vegas from an article about Nevada. Not being a cry baby, just wondering why that’s called for. I don’t go around telling people that the only thing worthwhile in NV is Vegas. We’re all from Nevada and we all bring something vastly different to the table. It’s not Nevada and then the separate state of Las Vegas. Sorry, folks. Also, I’ve seen in the comments and on a couple other threads lately that arrogance is a “thing” among Nevadan’s. Can someone enlighten me because I’ve yet to meet someone running around with the notion that we’re superior because we’re from NV. Never.

      • As an Anglo, nothing would make me happier than to see Mexicans retrieve northern Nevada from the White-blight of the last 200 years. Also, without Las Vegas taxes, the University of Nevada would be a community college. Be proud, very proud.

  14. Wish great article…except for the bit about Las Vegas being a little piece of CA…
    I live in Vegas, moved from CA, and Vegas is way better. And not really anything like you’re describing….except for maybe the strip.

  15. I moved from Nevada to Washington State, big mistake, cant wait to go back to Nevada. Washington seem to rely on people who are on Welfare, and Drug Abuse

  16. I was born and raised in CA, moved to Lake Tahoe NV when I was 10, never realized just how beautiful it was until I moved to ILLINOIS (yes folks the S is ALWAYS silent, almost as big of a deal to me as the Nevahda pronunciation). I have property in Tobar, NV (find that on the map lol) & someday hope to build on it.
    Turquoise hunting outside of Fallon, NV is probably my fondest memories. Topaz Lake is another. There are so many unnamed places that are just amazing!
    There is the lighta and glamor of the larger cities and the biggest little city in the world, but by far I miss the whole dusty state.

  17. I wish you guys would ease up on bashing California. We (Californians) don’t all feel like the person that posted that. Las Vegas is in Nevada and you should be proud that it is, you might not be in the same position tax wise if it weren’t for Las Vegas. Being proud of your state doesn’t have to mean your proud of all of it, I love California but I realize there is a lot that could be fixed. Making fun of and bashing other states just makes you sound childish.

  18. I grew up in Reno and moved to Portland after high school. Three interesting points on gambling and prostitution.

    1. In Nevada, prostitution is illegal within city limits. For the first eighteen years of my life, I NEVER saw anything related to prostitution, EVER. We knew that it existed about 15 miles outside of town, but you had to want to go on a mission to get there. Then I moved to Portland, and within a week or so, I asked my friends what the heck those girls on the street corner were doing running up to cars and dressed like trash. I observed more prostitutes on the street in Portland in one minute, that I saw in 18 years in Reno.

    2. Casinos are built to take your money, not give it to you. It’s a pretty simple formula under which (even in the best case scenario) the odds are against you – even if it’s 51% to 49%. People who live in Nevada understand this. Also, casinos are filled with tourists that are not from Nevada. On the other hand, if you were willing to lose a few bucks, then you could sometimes have a half hour of fun gambling. I often ask people how they would feel if I handed them a $20 dollar bill. Obviously, they would love it. When we gambled, we would put down a $5 bill, gambled either until we lost it (mostly) or until we won $20 and then we would walk out.

    3. Nevada is an outdoor enthusiast paradise. Especially for skiing around the Reno area, but it has everything to offer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s