A True Newcomer’s Guide to Baton Rouge
Every community has its own unique charm. Southern Louisiana and Baton Rouge are certainly no exception. From Cajun French and Mardi Gras to traffic and schools, here are a few things every newcomer should know.
Every community has its own unique charm. Southern Louisiana is certainly no exception. Many are well aware of the passion for the LSU Tigers and the savory local foods. But there are a few things that this native Texan learned upon moving to the Capital City; lessons that are beneficial to anyone moving to “Red Stick.”
Watch Your French
Baton Rouge is a diverse community with people of every nationality, race, and creed. Founded by French explorers, Baton Rouge translates to “Red Stick.” For newcomers, it’s extremely important to learn the language many locals speak. In other parts of the country, knowing the basic phonetic sounds will help in pronouncing most things. In Louisiana, that’s not the case. And there is nothing that will announce one’s “newcomer” status more than mispronouncing names commonly found in Louisiana.
As an example, one may be tempted to pronounce Gauthier as “Gay-ther” when it is actually pronounced “Go-Shay.” And if someone has the last name of Richard, please don’t insult him/her by pronouncing it as “Rich-ard.” No, no, no. Down here, it’s pronounced “Ree-shard.” There is a great cheat sheet online for learning some common names found in Baton Rouge and across southern Louisiana.
Mardi Gras is a Recognized Holiday
Yes, that is correct. Many government offices close for “Fat Tuesday.” Many schools are closed as well — some for the entire week of Mardi Gras. Throughout the Mardi Gras season, there are a number of parades and events to attend. Some are family friendly while others are geared more for the “over-21” crowd.
Pink Flamingos Flock to Town
Each Mardi Gras season, a flock of flamingos arrives at LSU Lakes. These are not the typical flamingos found at the local zoo. These seven-foot-tall, hot pink flamingos made of plywood appear a few weeks prior to the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade. The flamingos have been known to cause traffic jams along Interstate 10 as travelers slow down to catch a glimpse of the popular birds in the lakes and the crazed fans who boat (or swim) out to them to pick them up. Within a day of their appearance at the lakes, the flamingos find their way across town to their new owner’s homes.
Crawfish is a Staple
Locals love their crawfish. Actually, they really LOVE their crawfish. Starting as early as January, signs begin to pop up along the side of the road announcing the price per pound for live or boiled crawfish. At restaurants, people order it by the pound and sit with a bucket in middle of the table and spend an hour peeling the crawfish, which is often accompanied by boiled potatoes and corn. It’s also not uncommon to drive down the neighborhood street and see residents setting up tables in the yard or driveway, preparing for a crawfish boil. For those who have never attended a crawfish boil, it is recommended that one bring iced, adult beverages or a dessert to share.
Plan Every Trip
It’s no secret that traffic around here can be a challenge. Government leaders are well aware of the issue and are working to find a solution. As a newcomer, it’s important to always plan ahead. The GPS app is a necessity. Look at the local traffic map to determine the best route and length of travel time. Traffic updates can be found on Twitter @BR_Traffic, and many local news stations post traffic updates through their social media sites.
Schools are Abundant
Upon first moving to town, many newcomers ask about the schools — especially parents. There are an abundance of choices parents have when it comes to their child’s education. Public and private schools abound, and locals are divided as to the best route to take. For parents, the best advice is to talk to as many people as possible, tour the schools, and research to find the best option for your family.
The Baton Rouge housing market is a bit unique as the community recovers from the flood that occurred in August 2016. The housing market continues to thrive despite the flood. For buyers looking for an investment property or house to flip, there are “flooded and gutted” houses for sale. A number of properties damaged during the flood have also been remodeled and are like new featuring new kitchens, baths, flooring, and more. There are also a lot of properties for sale that did not flood.
As in every market, location is a driving factor in the price of houses. Some people choose to live in a particular school district, while others prefer to live closer to work. It’s important to talk with a lender to get a better idea on the costs associated with owning a home in Baton Rouge. Factors such as property taxes, flood insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and commute can all play a role in purchasing a home. It’s also important to enlist the help of a local real estate professional who can provide more information on house prices, resale, and more.
Treat It as an Adventure
As a newcomer, it can be daunting to learn the lay of the land. A great tip is to treat it as an adventure. Act as a visitor and venture out to try new things. Strike up conversations with the others waiting to be seated at the restaurant. Use an interest as a starting point. For example, those who like to play soccer, sign up for an adult-league soccer team to meet new people. There are a number of online resources that provide a great list of events such as VisitBatonRouge.com and Baton Rouge Moms. Find out what’s going on each weekend and make plans to attend a new event. Most importantly, “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” or “Let the good times roll.”