Historic Baltimore has something for everyone. Maryland’s “Charm City” has a unique culture that draws people from around the world. It is not easy to find a city that has four distinct seasons, a strong arts presence and a multitude of STEM careers, but Baltimore fits the bill.
Also known as the big city with the small-town feel, Baltimore is home to lots of quirks that will make more sense if you learn about them ahead of time. Keep reading to learn some of the ins-and-outs of life in Baltimore, including how to narrow down your neighborhood search and why everyone keeps calling you “hon.”
One City: Over 200 Neighborhoods
Baltimore is all about its neighborhoods, and each is known for having its own unique personality. The majority of Baltimore neighborhoods offer residents a tight-knit sense of community. It is not uncommon for Baltimoreans to choose a home based on the neighborhood instead of the home’s amenities. Because there is so much diversity in the city’s neighborhoods, visit a lot of them when house-hunting. Then, choose the one that feels like the best fit for you and your lifestyle.
Commuting Can Be a Problem
Baltimore ranks lower for serious traffic problems than many big metropolitan areas. However, if you choose to live in the suburbs, it may take you an hour or more to get to and from work each day. If you are house-hunting on the weekends, you may not get a realistic idea of how long it will take you to commute to work or school. Be sure to do a weekday rush-hour test drive before you sign that lease or put in an offer on a property.
Quirkiness is King
Baltimore has long welcomed people from around the globe, and this combination of cultures makes it a truly one-of-a-kind place to call home. Hipsters and artists love Baltimore for its range of art schools, museums, galleries and arts festivals. Fans of the macabre can visit the graves of mystery author Edgar Allen Poe and Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Elijah Jefferson Bond, the Marylander who made the Ouija board a household name in America, is also buried in Baltimore beneath a Ouija board-shaped tombstone.
STEM and Medical Careers Abound
Baltimore consistently ranks within the top 10 metropolitan areas offering the most STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) jobs. Nearly a quarter of all Baltimore jobs fall into the categories of science, technology, engineering and math. The city also boasts an unusually large number of lower-skilled and middle-skilled STEM positions. These positions provide an opportunity to enter STEM fields without having a bachelor’s degree.
Most of these Baltimore STEM jobs are in the health care sector. Home to Johns Hopkins Hospital and University, the area draws the some of the world’s best medical professionals and students. In addition, patients come to Johns Hopkins for specialized care and often end up staying long-term, either for ongoing treatment or simply because they are captivated by Charm City.
The Weather is Welcoming
Baltimore has four distinct seasons and none are particularly harsh compared to other areas of the country. However, the forecast can be unpredictable, especially in the spring and fall. It’s not unusual to have snow flurries one day followed by a sunny 70 degrees the next. Overall, Baltimore is a good place to live if you enjoy a nice balance of warm and cool weather over the course of the year.
Heavy winter snowstorms are a possibility, but not a frequent occurrence. Baltimoreans have a reputation for not knowing how to drive in snow, so expect a lot of school closings and urgent preparation when winter weather threatens. Tropical storms and hurricanes can also affect Maryland during hurricane season, and nearly everyone wilts from the heat and humidity when summertime turns the city into a sauna.
What is a hon?
The word “hon”—short for honey—is a common term of endearment in Baltimore. You will quickly notice that just about everyone calls somebody hon. Although no one knows exactly how far back this moniker goes, there is a fun image that goes along with the name.
Café Hon hosted a beauty pageant in 1994 to find “Baltimore’s Best Hon” during the Hampden Summer Fair. Contestants with beehive hair, cat-eye glasses, leopard prints and feather boas cemented the image of the Baltimore Hon. Now, everything kitschy and retro-fabulous is celebrated every spring in Hampden at “HONfest.”
Baltimore’s Language Oddities
In addition to “hon,” first-time visitors to Baltimore quickly notice that the city has many other signature words and phrases. The Baltimore accent also changes common words into something that can take a while to figure out. Here is a sampling of how the Baltimore accent alters ordinary words:
- Bawlmer: the two-syllable native pronunciation of Baltimore
- Merlin: a common way to say Maryland
- Downy oshun: going to the beach (down to the ocean)
- Warter: water
- Warsh: wash
- Dug: dog
- O: the only letter needed to refer to the Baltimore Orioles
- Snowball: a sweet shaved ice treat, not the kind you throw
Beer is Life
The Brewers Hill neighborhood is a testament to the city’s longstanding love affair with beer. Like in many predominantly blue-collar cities, Baltimore’s former breweries have been converted into loft apartments and live/work/play spaces. Baltimore’s most famous local brewery, National Bohemian, is more commonly known as Natty Boh.
Although Natty Boh is no longer manufactured in Baltimore, the beverage and Mr. Boh logo remain a city icon and household name. Now local breweries and microbreweries celebrate the craft during Baltimore Beer Week each October.
Baltimoreans love their hard shell Chesapeake blue crabs and you can find them on every menu during the summer and early fall. There is no etiquette involved in eating crab Maryland-style—except a requirement to be messy. Simply grab a wooden mallet, crack the shell, then pick the meat out with your fingers. And don’t forget the Old Bay seasoning. You will see this regional spice blend flavoring everything in Baltimore, from Utz potato chips to your next Bloody Mary.
Renewal is Ongoing
Baltimore’s reputation for poverty and violence has existed for decades, and it is justifiable. The city consistently ranks high for homicides nationwide and many neighborhoods are struggling economically. However, local governments, law enforcement agencies and community organizers are working hard to fix the problems that have long plagued Baltimore. From crime prevention programs to ongoing historic building restoration, Baltimoreans are committed to improving the quality of life in all areas of the city.