How to Pretend You’re from Cleveland

Interested in mingling inconspicuously with the natives from the Mistake by the Lake?  Bridget Callahan’s got some can’t-miss tips for you.


First of all, yes, I know, why would anyone want to pretend they were from Cleveland?

(Well, we could ask all the people from Westlake and Parma…..)

No, but seriously.  Here are just a handful of reasons:

The Browns are on a winning streak! (…that may very well be over by the time this article comes out.)

We have great chefs! (Half the city can’t afford to eat at their restaurants, but they are legitimately great.)

The sexy, rugged sense of legitimacy that comes when people from other cities think you grew up in a place worse than Detroit!

Let’s say you’re an attractive young professional who recently accepted their first out-of-college job at a law firm, marketing firm, or bail bondsman’s office located in Downtown Cleveland. You grow quickly tired of the withering glances and automatic defensiveness that comes from anyone you meet at a bar once they find out you grew up in Phoenix, or Minneapolis, the long-winded unnecessary explanations which you never ask for about “why they are still here” and “why they are going to stay”. You long for the inclusivity of the “Pittsburgh’s a Whore” chanting at sports bars, and nurturing feeling of climbing into bed next to your chubby Polish American girlfriend whose hands smell like twinkies and sauerkraut, and sexily reminiscing about Higbee’s Christmas displays.

Don’t fear, Mr. Out-of-Towner. We don’t care if you’re actually from Cleveland or not. We still want you to spend your money here, and give us your taxes, and marry our women. But just like it’s better to learn the native tongue when out of the country, it wouldn’t hurt if you tried a little to fit in.  So here’s how to pretend you’re Cleveland.

  • Be at least thirty pounds overweight. Give or take a little. First of all, because you will need the padding in order to survive our harsh artcic winters. (It is December and currently 60 degrees in Cleveland as I write this.) Second, nobody likes a show-off. It is a scientific fact that if you are a Cleveland native, then you are either of Irish descent, or Polish, or Greek or Italian or one of those ethnicities that leads to you being an overly faith-based emotional eater who’s really into potatoes. Also the standards of attractiveness are pretty mediocre in the Midwest, so relax a little, have some fun, drink a lot of beer.
  • Learn to like meat. We are a city of steel parts sitting on the top of a giant farm. There is a lot of meat slicing and chopping and curing and making things with strange parts of the animal in our cultural history. One of our most popular restaurants features hot dogs you can get with fruit loops on them. If you eat a meal without meat in it, people are going to be suspicious. If you’re really committed, you will make an effort to only drink meat based beer as well.
  • Have no strong opinion about local or state politics unless it involves public parking or food trucks or bicyclists. Then your opinions should be so dear to you, you would murder your elderly neighbor for a chance to write an opinion essay about it. A twitter acount will be integral to this.
  • Build up a tolerance to Lake Erie water. And by water, I mean, bacteria, and sewage waste. I swam in Lake Erie every other day for two years and caught nothing – no staph infections, no fungal rashes, and as far as I know I’m still fertile. Nothing will give you away as an outsider quicker than a candy ass “I don’t feel like getting in the water” when it’s 90 degrees out and the sand you’re sitting on is crawling with beach fleas and blunt tips. If you’re a girl, the “time of the month” defense will not work either.
  • You don’t have to root for the Browns, but the only other acceptable team to root for is the Steelers. Not because we won’t hate you, cause we will hate you, but even being from Pittsburgh is more acceptable than being from anywhere else.
  • Do you have a background story full of drugs, crazy pot selling uncles, and a public school education that left you curiously bereft of classic literature but well versed in rap lyrics from the early 90s?  If not, make one up.  To back this up, you should never ever be caught taking pictures of graffiti in public.
  • Clevelanders are cool with gay people, black people, potheads, ex heroin addicts, gamblers, homeless people, militant feminists, and stand up comedians, but we hate douchebags who say anything bad about us. So if you’ve got something bad to say, keep your mouth shut or we will pelt you with hot dogs.

There you have it:  a can’t-miss program for faking it until you make it here on the Mistake by the Lake.  Got a problem with that?  Move to Columbus.

Bridget Callahan’s new book Cleveland is Your Best Friend:  67 Things I Miss About Home is now available on 


About Bridget Callahan

Bridget Callahan wants to meet this generation's Hemingway, and have him cheat on her profusely. She writes one of those blog things at and currently attends UNCW.


  1. There are a lot of women in Cleveland who are better looking than you, Bridget.

  2. Hipsterer-and-Rust-Belter-than-thou. I’m from Buffalo. Cleveland at least gets SOME good press these days, but Buffalo? Never. We prefer it that way, though. Making sport of visitors to the Western New York area is a delightful pastime. They seem to expect that the area is constantly buried under thirty feet of snow … even in July … never mind that large bodies of water, you know … REGULATE temperatures.

    • Weirdly enough, I was JUST telling my friend how much I like Buffalo. Mostly cause of the huge grain silos with holes in their sides. But also cause of the crazy Skyway.

  3. Dude, rooting for the Steelers is NOT acceptable. Like, in any way! I thought you were going to say any team *but* the Steelers!

    • Every time I see the word Steelers, that Wiz Kalifa song pops into my head. I have no such song association with the Browns. Someone call the remains of Das Rascist.

  4. Your “no, but seriously” statement might steer people into believing this rant ; )
    I know you’re just joshing and know a lot of cool people here that don’t fit the described profiles.
    What is your take on the Tar Heels?

    • My favorite part about the moniker “tar heels” is that no one here that I’ve asked can tell me where that phrase comes from.

  5. You broke the cardinal rule with your title. Cleveland is far from a mistake. As a native Clevelander who lives in Minneapolis, I can tell you that the winters there are not that harsh and it’s no excuse to not stay fit. Might the fatness have something to do with all the meat Clevelanders consume? Forget swimming in it, Lake Erie water tastes great and isn’t annoyingly hard like ground water offered in so many other cities. As for tolerance, I think they generally are accepting of other people but as for the dating scene for a non-white young professional male, it was horrible there and much better where I live now.

    • Hahaha, I did NOT put “Mistake on the Lake” anywhere in the draft article I submitted, OLIVER (my editor). Because obviously, as a Clevelander, I believe that title belongs to Toledo.

  6. What was that, Aaron? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of you taking yourself seriously.

  7. You should also add that to be a Clevelander, you need to have a Eurocentric, patriarchal and heteronormative view of the world (as you demonstrated in your article)–“Clevelanders are cool with gay people, black people”…etc. What you’re saying is, “if you are a European heterosexual male, you are a ‘true’ Clevelander; the rest are just decorative elements.”

    • Well that is sorta the joke Aaron, sorry if that was too subtle. How’s this: Clevelanders are prejudiced enough to still think in dismissive generalized categories of anyone different from them, but are just as apt to ignore those prejudices in defense of their fellow Clevelanders. Kinda like a grandma who’s had too much to drink at Christmas but despite what she says about “those gays” really loves your queer sister.

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