12 Traditions Only Texans Can Understand

Texans love getting roadside shots of bluebonnets in the spring.
Texans love getting roadside shots of bluebonnets in the spring. | © Derek Bridges / Flickr
Alex Temblador

Texas life is a unique one filled with diverse cultures and quirky traditions. Whether it’s how they prepare their food or the language they use, here are 12 wonderful Texas traditions that only make sense to Texans.

Sweet tea, please

Texas tea is always sweetened! Rest assured that you can find sweet and unsweetened tea at every gas station, fast food spot, or restaurant. Why? Because Texans like things a little sweet and it doesn’t taste the same when you add your own sugar packet.

Waiting in line for barbecue, even if it runs out

Visitors to Texas are always surprised to see long lines that wrap around restaurant buildings and ask, “Why would anyone wait that long for food?” Because it’s barbecue. In Texas, eating barbecue often requires going through a food line (like a cafeteria setting). It’s absolutely worth the wait for Texas barbecue, even if there is a possibility that it might run out before you get to the front of the line. Some even come prepared with fold out chairs for especially long waits.

Texans will sometimes wait three hours for barbecue, such as at Franklin Barbecue in Austin.

Asking for a Coke when you really want a Sprite

It’s not a pop or a soda, or a soda pop. It’s a Coke. In Texas, all soft drinks are called “Coke.” So, if someone asks if you want a Coke, the person isn’t asking you if you want an actual Coca-Cola. They’ll generally follow the question with “What kind?” Yes, it’s a bit quirky — but that’s what makes Texas cool.

Our pies have chili and Fritos

Not all pies in Texas are meant for dessert. Frito Chili Pies are a beloved dish that involves Frito chips, topped with chili, and sometimes garnishes like cheese, onions, and jalapenos. It’s a popular way to eat chili in Texas, and one that often perplexes Northerners. Just go with it — it’s delicious.

Find Frito Chili Pies at concession stands or restaurants like Stampede 66 in Dallas.

Saying hello to strangers on the street

Texas hospitality isn’t just something reserved for visitors; it’s a way of life in Texas. You’ll often see people nod their head or wave their hand to other drivers. It’s generally expected that you say hello to people whose paths you cross on the street. Your grocery store attendant or lobby receptionist genuinely wants to know how your day is and it’s not uncommon to start a conversation with someone you don’t know. That’s just how Texas is, so enjoy the kindness and human interaction. It’s good for the soul.

Tamales during Christmas

Texas is made up of vibrant cultures, but none more so than the Mexican culture. There’s various ways in which the Mexican culture has cemented itself in Texas culture, such as with food. Tamales, made of masa and meat or veggies wrapped in a corn husk, are a Texas food favorite. While Texans enjoy tamales year-round, it’s an unspoken requirement that you have them during Christmas. Don’t be surprised if folks are searching frantically for places to order tamales, asking their friends if they have a good tamale maker, or driving around different neighborhoods looking for a tamalera, selling them in packages of 12, wrapped in aluminum foil, on a street corner. If visiting Texas during Christmas and you want to try tamales, take the corn husks off first or risk everyone knowing you’re from out-of-state.

Tamales are a favorite dish during Christmas in Texas.

Mums the word

Football plays a serious role in Texas society, especially high school football. With that, homecoming has become a large affair in Texas high schools, with old school traditions like mums still in play. As the saying goes, “everything is bigger in Texas” and so are the mums. Mothers and daughters often spend hours decking out mums to be so large that they can barely be pinned on their clothes.

Gas station foodies

Road tripping through Texas is always made better by one thing: gas stations. Don’t be surprised if your Texas friend takes awhile during a gas station bathroom break; he or she is probably buying food. In Texas, gas stations are notorious for having some of the best food. You can find delicious, homemade barbecue, tacos, hamburgers, and fried food in the state at small gas stations. It’s a whole foodie fare that doesn’t get plenty of attention, which makes it all the better.

Impromptu bluebonnet photoshoot

When spring arrives, the Texas bluebonnet emerges in full blue bloom. This state flower grows in large clumps, often along highways, so it’s not uncommon to see folks pull over quickly on the side of the road to traipse through a field or off-road grassy area to have an impromptu bluebonnet photoshoot. Others prepare for these bluebonnet photoshoots by dressing in all white and driving up and down the back roads for the best fields of flowers. If you’d like to join in, try not to sit or pick the flowers, as you’ll want them to be able to bloom the next year.

Texans love getting roadside shots of bluebonnets in the spring.

Whataburger at 2 a.m.

It’s 2 a.m., you’ve left a Texas club, and you’re headed back to your accommodation for the night, but you’re a little hungry. If you’re with Texas folks, there’s no question about where you’re going: Whataburger. The orange and white fast food chain is a Texas institution open 24 hours and the number one spot that Texans head to in the early hours of the morning. Be prepared to wait in a line!

Chicken Shit Bingo

Bingo gets a bit crazy in Texas, especially near Austin, because they have what is called Chicken Shit Bingo. This kind of bingo involves chickens, chicken feed, and well, chicken shit (it’s in the name). Everyone purchases a ticket and if the chicken goes to the bathroom on your ticket, you win! It’s odd, it’s quirky, it’s Texas y’all. Learn more about Chicken Shit Bingo here.

Make an appointment with Dr. Pepper

Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco, Texas, and then bottled in Dublin, Texas, until 2012. It’s safe to assume that Texans love their Dr. Pepper. They buy it in the caseloads and in large bottles and love to eat it with peanuts. If you, too, love Dr. Pepper, it’s worth a trip to Waco to explore the Dr. Pepper Museum, which tells the story of this beloved Texas drink.

Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco, Texas, and bottled in Dublin for decades.
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