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.
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.
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.
5. THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON: It’s Ne-VA-da, not Ne-VAH-da.
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!