Chicagoans have a distinct sense of identity unlike residents of any other American city. From sports rivalries to signature foods, there are many quirks and cultural touchstones that let you know someone is a true Chicago native.

If you’re short on time, here’s the gist: You know you’re from Chicago when you put ketchup on hot dogs, know Lake Shore Drive by heart, cheer for Da Bears, listen to the blues, and think deep dish is the only pizza that matters. Midwest friendliness with big city swagger.

This in-depth guide will cover all the signs that show someone bleeds Chicago pride. From the moment they’re born to unique lingo and lifelong loyalties, here’s how to spot a Chicagoan.

Growing Up in the Windy City

Chicago, known for its stunning skyline, deep-dish pizza, and die-hard sports fans, is a city that holds a special place in the hearts of those who call it home. Growing up in the Windy City means experiencing a unique upbringing that is influenced by the city’s rich history, diverse culture, and vibrant neighborhoods.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the aspects of growing up in Chicago.

Being Born at a Chicago Hospital

One of the defining experiences of growing up in Chicago is being born at a Chicago hospital. The city is home to several world-renowned medical institutions, such as the Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Chicagoans take pride in the fact that they were born in a city that values healthcare and is at the forefront of medical advancements.

Going to a Chicago Public School

Attending a Chicago public school is a rite of passage for many children growing up in the city. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the third-largest school district in the United States, serving over 350,000 students.

From kindergarten to high school, students in CPS receive an education that reflects the diverse and vibrant nature of the city. The school system offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, sports programs, and educational resources to support the growth and development of its students.

Spending Summers at the Beach

Despite being known as the Windy City, Chicago is blessed with beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan. Growing up in Chicago means spending summers at the beach, enjoying the sun, sand, and water. Popular beaches such as North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach attract locals and tourists alike, providing a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Whether it’s playing beach volleyball, going for a swim, or simply soaking up the sun, Chicago’s beaches offer a refreshing retreat for those looking to beat the summer heat.

Growing up in the Windy City comes with its own set of experiences and memories that shape the identity of Chicagoans. From being born at esteemed hospitals to attending the city’s public schools and enjoying summers at the beach, the unique aspects of growing up in Chicago contribute to the strong sense of pride and camaraderie shared among its residents.

Chicago Sports Loyalty

When it comes to sports loyalty, Chicagoans take it to a whole new level. The city is home to several iconic sports teams, including the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and Cubs. Whether you were born and raised in the Windy City or adopted it as your own, chances are you bleed your team’s colors.

Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and Cubs

The Chicago Bears, known for their fierce defense, have a rich history dating back to 1920. The team’s loyal fanbase can be seen donning their navy and orange jerseys on game days, cheering on their beloved Monsters of the Midway.

The Bulls, led by basketball legend Michael Jordan in the ’90s, have a passionate following that has continued to support the team through ups and downs. The Blackhawks, with their six Stanley Cup championships, have established themselves as one of the most successful franchises in the NHL.

And of course, there are the Cubs, whose loyal fans endured a 108-year championship drought before finally celebrating a World Series win in 2016.

Knowing All the Stadiums

Ask any Chicago sports fan, and they’ll likely be able to tell you the exact locations of each stadium or arena. From Soldier Field, where the Bears play, to the United Center, home of the Bulls and Blackhawks, and Wrigley Field, the iconic home of the Cubs, these venues hold a special place in the hearts of Chicagoans.

The city’s sports culture is deeply intertwined with the history and architecture of these stadiums.

High School Sports

Chicagoans’ sports loyalty doesn’t stop at the professional level. High school sports play a significant role in the city’s sports scene. From Friday night lights on the football field to packed gyms for basketball games, the passion and support for local high school teams is unmatched.

Rivalries between schools add an extra level of excitement to these games, with communities rallying behind their teams and creating memories that last a lifetime.


Tailgating is a cherished tradition in Chicago sports culture. Before every game, fans gather in parking lots surrounding the stadiums, firing up grills, and enjoying food, drinks, and camaraderie. It’s a time-honored ritual that brings fans together, fostering a sense of community and shared excitement.

From bratwursts to deep-dish pizza, the spread of delicious food at a Chicago tailgate is as legendary as the games themselves.

Food and Dining Culture

Hot Dogs with Ketchup

When it comes to hot dogs, Chicagoans have a strict rule – no ketchup allowed! It’s practically sacrilegious to put ketchup on a hot dog in the Windy City. Instead, locals prefer a classic Chicago-style hot dog, topped with mustard, onions, relish, pickles, tomatoes, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt.

The combination of flavors creates a unique and delicious taste that is loved by residents and visitors alike.

Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza, and for good reason. This iconic dish features a thick, buttery crust, topped with a generous amount of cheese, chunky tomato sauce, and various toppings of your choice.

The deep dish pizza is a filling and hearty meal that has become a symbol of Chicago’s culinary scene. Whether you prefer traditional toppings like sausage and pepperoni or more unique options like spinach and feta, there’s a deep dish pizza for everyone to enjoy.

Italian Beef Sandwiches

Another staple of Chicago’s food culture is the Italian beef sandwich. This mouthwatering creation consists of thinly sliced roast beef, soaked in flavorful au jus, and piled high on a crusty Italian roll.

The sandwich can be topped with sweet or hot peppers and dipped in the au jus for an extra burst of flavor. The combination of tender beef, savory juices, and crunchy bread makes for a truly satisfying meal that will leave you wanting more.

Maxwell Street Polish

The Maxwell Street Polish is a classic Chicago creation that originated on the city’s Maxwell Street Market. This tasty sausage sandwich is typically served on a bun with grilled onions, mustard, and sometimes sport peppers or sauerkraut.

It’s a simple yet delicious combination of flavors that has been enjoyed by Chicagoans for generations. Whether you’re grabbing a quick bite on the go or sitting down for a meal, the Maxwell Street Polish is a must-try for anyone visiting the city.

Chicago-Style Hot Dog Stands

One of the best ways to experience Chicago’s food and dining culture is by visiting one of its many hot dog stands. These small, unassuming establishments are scattered throughout the city and are known for serving up some of the best hot dogs in town.

From the classic Chicago-style dog to unique variations like the “dragged through the garden” or the “char dog,” there’s a hot dog stand to satisfy every craving. Don’t forget to pair your hot dog with an order of crispy, golden french fries for the ultimate Chicago dining experience.

Chicago Slang and Lingo

Da Bears, Da Bulls, Da Hawks

One of the most distinctive features of Chicago’s slang is the use of “da” instead of “the.” Chicagoans affectionately refer to their beloved sports teams as “Da Bears” (Chicago Bears), “Da Bulls” (Chicago Bulls), and “Da Hawks” (Chicago Blackhawks).

This unique way of speaking has become synonymous with the city’s sports culture and is often used as a rallying cry for fans.

Calling Dibs on Parking Spots

In the winter months, Chicagoans have a peculiar tradition known as “calling dibs” on parking spots. When it snows, residents shovel out a parking spot and then place various items, such as chairs or cones, in the spot to reserve it.

This unwritten rule is respected by most, and removing someone else’s dibs is considered a major faux pas in the city.

Using the L or the El

Chicago’s public transportation system, known as the “L” or the “El,” is an iconic part of the city’s identity. The elevated train system spans the city and its suburbs, providing a convenient and affordable way to get around.

Chicagoans commonly use the terms “L” or “El” when referring to the train, and it’s not uncommon to hear phrases like “I’ll take the Red Line to downtown.”

Shopping on the Mag Mile

The Magnificent Mile, also known as the “Mag Mile,” is a stretch of Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago that is famous for its upscale shopping and dining. It’s a shopper’s paradise, with a wide range of high-end retail stores, luxury boutiques, and flagship department stores.

Whether you’re looking for designer fashion, unique gifts, or delicious cuisine, the Mag Mile has it all.

For more information about Chicago slang and lingo, you can visit Time Out Chicago, a reputable website that offers insights into the city’s culture and language.

Love for Chicago Icons

When you’re from Chicago, there are certain icons that hold a special place in your heart. These symbols of the city not only represent its rich history and culture, but also evoke a sense of pride and love for the Windy City.

From its iconic skyline to its vibrant music scene, here are some Chicago icons that every true Chicagoan knows and loves.

Knowing Lake Shore Drive

No discussion about Chicago icons would be complete without mentioning Lake Shore Drive. This scenic road hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan and offers breathtaking views of the city’s skyline. Whether you’re driving along it during rush hour or enjoying a leisurely stroll, Lake Shore Drive is a symbol of Chicago’s beauty and charm.

It’s where people go to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and connect with nature.

Visiting Cloud Gate

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Chicago is Cloud Gate, affectionately known as “The Bean.” Located in Millennium Park, this iconic sculpture has become a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Its shiny, reflective surface and unique shape make it a must-visit attraction.

Whether you’re taking selfies, admiring the skyline’s reflection, or simply marveling at its design, a visit to Cloud Gate is a quintessential Chicago experience.

Appreciating Chicago-Style Architecture

Chicago is renowned for its impressive architecture, and the city skyline wouldn’t be the same without its iconic buildings. From the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) to the John Hancock Center, these architectural marvels showcase Chicago’s commitment to innovation and design.

The city is also home to the birthplace of the skyscraper, with the Home Insurance Building being the world’s first skyscraper. Exploring Chicago’s architecture is like taking a journey through time and witnessing the evolution of urban design.

Listening to Chicago Blues

Chicago has a rich musical heritage, and one genre that has become synonymous with the city is blues. From legendary musicians like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to contemporary artists such as Buddy Guy, Chicago has been a hub for blues music for decades.

The city’s blues clubs, like Buddy Guy’s Legends and Kingston Mines, are renowned for their lively performances and soulful music. Whether you’re a die-hard blues fan or simply enjoy the rhythm and blues, experiencing Chicago’s blues scene is a must for any music lover.

These Chicago icons are just a fraction of what makes the city so special. From its stunning skyline to its vibrant culture, Chicago’s landmarks and traditions are a testament to the city’s unique identity.

So, whether you’re a Chicagoan or just visiting, be sure to immerse yourself in the love for these iconic symbols that define the Windy City.

Surviving Chicago Weather Extremes

Chicago is known for its severe weather conditions, ranging from scorching summers to bone-chilling winters. If you’re from Chicago, you know that surviving these weather extremes is a badge of honor. Here are some tips to help you navigate the unpredictable climate:

Dress in Layers

When it comes to Chicago weather, layering is key. Mornings can start off chilly, but by midday, temperatures can soar. Dressing in layers allows you to adapt to the changing weather throughout the day. Don’t forget a warm hat, gloves, and a scarf during the winter months!

Stay Hydrated

During the hot and humid summer months, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration. On the flip side, during winter, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water.

Remember that staying hydrated is just as important in cold weather as it is in hot weather.

Protect Your Skin

The strong winds and harsh temperatures in Chicago can take a toll on your skin. Make sure to moisturize regularly, especially during the winter. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen during the summer months, even on cloudy days, as harmful UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds.

Be Prepared for Snowstorms

Chicago is no stranger to snowstorms, and being prepared is essential. Stock up on essentials like food, water, batteries, and blankets. Keep an emergency kit in your car, including a shovel, ice scraper, and jumper cables.

Stay updated with weather forecasts and follow any advisories or warnings issued by local authorities.

Embrace the Weather

Living in Chicago means experiencing all four seasons to the fullest. While the weather can be challenging at times, it also offers unique opportunities for outdoor activities like ice skating, sledding, and beach days. Embrace the weather, and make the most of each season!

For more information on Chicago weather and safety tips, you can visit the National Weather Service website. Stay prepared and stay safe!

Midwest Friendliness with Big City Swag

Chicago, the Windy City, is known for its unique blend of Midwest friendliness and big city swag. Unlike some other major cities, Chicagoans are renowned for their warm and welcoming demeanor. Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a visitor, you’ll quickly notice the genuine hospitality that permeates the city.

A Friendly Greeting on Every Corner

Walking down the streets of Chicago, it’s not uncommon to be greeted with a smile or a friendly nod from a passerby. Chicagoans take pride in their city and are always ready to help a stranger with directions or recommendations for the best deep-dish pizza joint in town.

It’s this genuine warmth that sets Chicago apart from other cities and creates a sense of community among its residents.

Neighborhood Vibes and Charm

Despite being a bustling metropolis, Chicago manages to maintain a small-town feel in its diverse neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own unique character and charm, offering a welcoming atmosphere to both residents and visitors.

From the vibrant streets of Wicker Park to the historic architecture of Lincoln Park, there’s a neighborhood in Chicago for everyone to call home.

Collaboration and Innovation

While Chicago is known for its friendly residents, it also exudes a certain swagger that comes from being a major hub of innovation and creativity. The city is a hotbed for entrepreneurs, artists, and technologists who are constantly pushing the boundaries and shaping the future.

From the booming tech scene in the West Loop to the vibrant arts community in Pilsen, Chicago is a city that embraces both tradition and innovation.

Chicago’s blend of Midwest friendliness and big city swag is what makes it such a unique and vibrant place to live and visit. It’s a city where you can experience the warmth of the Midwest while immersing yourself in the energy of a world-class metropolis.

So, if you ever find yourself in Chicago, be prepared to be greeted with a smile and to experience the best of both worlds.


More than most cities, Chicago shapes the identity of those born and raised there. Sports mania, hot dogs, Lake Michigan, the L, blues music – these and many more cultural touchstones scream ‘Chicago’ to locals and outsiders alike. Through thick and thin, Chicagoans wear their hometown pride on their sleeve.

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