Self

Understanding America’s Regional Personality Types

How place, nurture, and nature shape who we are.

Sean Kernan
5 min readNov 10, 2023

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Two women sitting at a desk.
Pexels via George Milton

I lived across the United States prior to turning 18. It wasn’t bad for the first decade of my life, but around adolescence, the adjustment became quite difficult. In 1999, I moved from a small town in North Carolina to Coronado, California for high school, and was dumbstruck on the first day.

I saw same-sex couples holding hands and students with brightly dyed hair and expressive outfits. People’s sensibilities and sense of humor felt so foreign. The local lingo and accents were unfamiliar. Even the sports were different. We had a varsity surfing team. Our high school water polo team was more popular than our football team.

Author and researcher, Colin Woodard, suggests there are as many as 11 cultures within the United States, including the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, Tidewater, The Left Coast, the Midlands, and more. Recently, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge took this idea a step further, asking the fundamental question, “Do different places have different personalities?”

After sending thousands of surveys around the country, he discovered three regional trends in how people perceive and interact with the world. Friendliness was correlated to southern and midwestern states. Of note, the study doesn’t assert that people from outside those regions are universally mean, but it does echo the experience I had living in the south and seeing southern hospitality. Conversely, people living in western states were identified as “relaxed and creative”, which is partly driven by large populations in California, who work in entertainment, startups, and entrepreneurial fields. But the trend goes beyond that, to a cultural emphasis on creativity.

When I lived in Coronado, I was surprised by the huge art facilities and theater program that put on impressive plays each month. Many students were fantastic at painting, and had been doing it from an early age. Conversely, my school in North Carolina had one meager art room that people worked from. Few people went on to become artists.

The third and final cluster, the Northeast, was labeled as “temperamental and uninhibited”, which is partly driven…

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Sean Kernan

Former financial analyst turned writer. Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.