As much as we hate to admit it, we all have misconceptions and pre-conceived notions about places we’ve never visited. Sadly, an entire city or region is often labeled with one sentence (warranted or not) –“New Yorkers are rude”, “Southerners are dumb”,“New Orleans is a decadent city”. You get the picture. Believe me, living in New Orleans, I’ve heard it all. Here are ten misconceptions that persist about the city.
1. We Call New Orleans ”The Big Easy”
I don’t know anyone —I repeat—anyone who calls the city The Big Easy.
2. We all speak French
I wish this one were true because I love the French language, but alas, “ce n’est pas vrai”. Thanks to Hollywood, I can see why outsiders would think that we’re a city full of prolific French speakers, but in reality, I know just a few locals who speak French— and they like me, pay for weekly French classes. Good news though, is that in recent years, several French language immersion grammar schools have opened and they are very popular.
3. We all say Chère
New Orleans was settled by the French not Cajuns; you’ll spot the Cajun influence in certain foods and music here, but to experience the full “Cajun” experience, you have to travel about 1-2 hours to get to Acadiana. Which is totally worth the trip.
4. New Orleans is still underwater from Hurricane Katrina
Really?! Believe it or not, this misconception remains. I’m happy to report that no scuba diving equipment is needed to visit. It’s nearly a dozen years since Katrina left her mark and the city is back and better than ever!
5. We drink constantly and party on Bourbon St. every night.
I’m sure many New Orleanians wish they could drink every night but, there’s this thing called work and it kind of interferes with late night debauchery. I do make my way to Bourbon Street, not gonna lie, to celebrate a bachelorette party or to take friends who are visiting—but it’s not a regular thing. Bourbon Street is a must-visit, but remember, the French Quarter is full of really great nightlife beyond Bourbon.
6. We all practice voodoo
With apologies to Voodoo Priestess, Marie Laveau, you won’t find too many New Orleanians poking pins in voodoo dolls on a regular basis. Believe me, I’ve been tempted to toy with voodoo, but I don’t play with fire. I leave the voodoo magic to the experts.
7. There’s a second line parade on every street nearly every day
Gosh, I hope not…. I’d hate to think of the traffic! A second line parade, complete with a brass band celebrates a special occasion, like a wedding. Second liners usually shake a handkerchief in the air and strut down the street with the beat. Don’t confuse second line with the traditional ‘jazz funeral”, which also has a brass band, but instead, is a way to honor and mark the passing of a loved one.
The point is, these are not impromptu events and require special permits to shut down the street. They are certainly not found on every street or held every day. Having said that if you do come upon a second line—jump right in!
8. We live in swamps and alligators are everywhere
Nope…not true. A big misconception is that the city is swampland. The nearest swamp is about 4o minutes away. New Orleans is on land and we don’t have free-range gators lurking in our streets. You navigate the city by car not by pirogue.
9. We eat weird critters
Watching cable television you may get the idea that we dine regularly on raccoon, nutria, and gator. Happy to report that the last time I ate raccoon was….never! You can find more exotic meats in Cajun country.
10. The only attraction is the French Quarter
The French Quarter is awesome. It has a look and feel like no other American city and a great European vibe. But there’s so much more to New Orleans. Be sure to step out of the Vieux Carré and explore. Here’s some ideas:
- Take the St. Charles Avenue streetcar and check out the beautiful homes of the Garden District, Uptown, and University area
- Browse the boutiques and specialty shops on Magazine Street
- Visit art galleries and museums in the Warehouse district
- Be on the lookout for world-class restaurants as you travel around town
The best way to dispel misconceptions is by first-hand observation, so why not plan a visit. Finally, my list is in no way complete. I’d love to know your favorite misconception about New Orleans. Please leave a comment.