Before I moved to Holland in 2012 I had never been to the west side of the state. I had visited Michigan about a dozen times before and every time I stayed in Midland. I had been to Detroit, but only to the airport. I would spend some time at my in-law’s lake house snowmobiling in the winter or wakeboarding and riding dirt bikes in the summer. I also found a lift access mountain bike park at Boyne Highlands in Harbor springs and had visited Mackinac Island and Sault Ste. Marie. That was the extent of my experience in Michigan. I really enjoyed my time every time I visited, enough so that I decided I wanted to move here. The reason I ended up in West Michigan is that when the time came to move to Michigan, the job that was going to pay my wife the most was in Holland.
I knew nothing about the culture of West Michigan or Holland when I moved here. I had heard that this side of the state is beautiful, the lake is gorgeous, and that I would be able to get a good taco. Coming from Los Angeles being able to get a good taco was pretty important (my favorite is the Al Pastor at Margaritas). Oh yeah and we get “Lake Effect”—I would eventually learn what that is.
Overall the culture in West Michigan is pretty inviting. When I was moving into my house my neighbors on one side brought over a pie they had baked and my other neighbor brought over some cookies. I found this shocking because I didn’t think people really did that type of stuff. Whenever I was outside, whoever drove by was waving and smiling like they already knew me. It was a little weird, but cool.
As I ventured out into the community more and more, I started to get a sense of the local culture. I found that the people were very friendly. If I were in a store or restaurant and happened to let someone know that I was a transplant from L.A. I always got a “welcome to Holland” or a “welcome to West Michigan”. The people were always very helpful.
My first real winter here, I would get home sometimes and find that someone had already cleared my driveway of snow. I remember thinking “What is going on? Who is doing this?”. I eventually found out it was my neighbor and I started to notice that neighbors were doing this for each other all over my neighborhood. It was part of the culture here, people just did things for each other.
West Michigan culture was also defined for me when I witnessed a few unfortunate automobile accidents. Driving home from work one day in the snow, the car in front of me crashed into a car pulling out of a parking lot. I stopped, put on my hazards and about three or four other cars stopped to help, too. Like I said, I’ve witnessed a few accidents, and this was the case every time. The culture seems to be, “if someone needs help someone will”.
People in West Michigan tend to really like their outdoor activities too, which I think is awesome. Being outdoors is just part of the culture here. There is no shortage of outdoor activities to partake in, or places to do them, no matter what the season. In Holland, if the weather is good you will always see people running or biking. In the winter they are snow shoeing or cross-country skiing.
West Michigan culture to me is friendly, community based, and outdoorsy. Working at OMT-Veyhl I witness this every day. You cannot walk through the building without receiving a friendly hello. There is an unwritten rule that if you see that someone needs help doing something, you help them. At OMT-Veyhl we have classes that encourage our staff to be healthy in all aspects of their life. West Michigan culture is reflected every day at work and in the community, which really makes it a pleasure to live and work here.
Rossi Castro, Lean Training Specialist