12 unique habits people pick up after living in Chicago

12 unique habits people pick up after living in Chicago

  • Written by Jeffy Mai Photograph: Zach Long
  • 11/1/23

No matter how long you've lived in Chicago, you're bound to pick up some habits that may seem normal, but are in fact unique to our city. We turned to FacebookX and Threads to find out which peculiar behaviors are synonymous with the 312 and received a host of responses. Unsurprisingly, dibs and a certain hot dog condiment were heavily mentioned; keep scrolling to see the most popular Chicago habits—as chosen by Time Out readers.

1. Being a food snob

Chicago is home to many amazing restaurants, some of which are among the best in the world. From Michelin-starred, fine-dining temples to remarkable cheap eats, locals are spoiled for choice. So the bar is pretty high when it comes to food and it’s not surprising that after living here for a while, it takes a lot to impress the average palate.


2. Knowing how to parallel park

Although public transportation can sometimes be unreliable (we’re looking at you, CTA ghost buses), it’s not too difficult to get by without a vehicle in Chicago. But for those who do drive, knowing how to parallel park is an essential skill—especially if it’s a tight spot—unless you don’t mind a dinged up bumper.

3. Dibs

Love it or hate it, dibs is an annual winter tradition in Chicago. Once the snow falls, some residents dig their cars out and leave lawn furniture, cones or other random objects on the streets to save their parking spots. It’s a polarizing practice, and one that makes parking during the coldest months even more difficult.

4. Understanding the grid system

Unlike some other cities, Chicago is fairly easy to navigate if you understand the grid system. Streets run from north to south and east to west, with the intersection of State and Madison Streets serving as the center point. And as long as you know which way the lake is, you’ll always have a general sense of direction.

5. Walking everywhere

There are many advantages to living in a big city, like having most things within walking distance. Whether it’s restaurants, grocery stores or beautiful parks, you can usually walk to where you need to go in Chicago’s 77 community areas and various neighborhoods.

6. No ketchup on hot dogs

You can get your Vienna Beef franks dragged through the garden or topped with fries. But putting ketchup on it is a major red flag. Just don’t do it.

7. Comparing every pizza scene to Chicago's

Outsiders equate deep dish with Chicago pizza, but locals know tavern-style reigns supreme. Of course, that only scratches the surface of what the city’s best pizzerias have to offer. You can also enjoy foldable New York slices, flame-kissed Neapolitan pies, Detroit squares and much more. Chicago is a pizza kind of town, and everywhere else pales in comparison.

8. Adept at driving on snowy roads

Sure, the freezing cold temperature and slushy sidewalks are some of the worst parts of winter. But the real nuisance (and danger) occurs when the roads are unplowed and drivers must deal with snowy and icy conditions. If driving is unavoidable, take it slow and steady, and invest in snow tires.

9. Putting giardiniera on everything

The Italian beef sandwich is an iconic Chicago food, and part of what makes it special is giardiniera. This spicy Italian relish—made with pickled veggies and peppers in oil—can be found at sandwich joints, hot dog stands, pizzerias and more throughout the city because it’s a condiment that complements practically any dish.

10. Calling it 'pop'

Depending on which region you grew up in, you might call it something else. But here in Chicago, a carbonated soft drink is known as “pop.” Not “soda” or “Coke.” Got it?

11. Honking when exiting an alleyway

Chicago has the largest network of alleyways in the U.S., with over 1,900 miles of them. Residents are well-versed on how to exit an alley—honk to warn pedestrians who may be about to cross the vehicle’s path.

12. Screaming at the television on Sundays

Sundays in the fall are for football, and that means watching the Chicago Bears. Unfortunately, the franchise has not had much recent success, leading to frustrating game day experiences for diehard fans who tune in each week.

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