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Local Culture: A little taste of Boston and Cambridge

International Scholars > Experience American Culture > Local Culture

Fenway Park

Local Culture: A Little Taste of Boston and Cambridge

Boston is also known as “bean town” and “the hub.” The region is unique for its blending of world class educational, medical, and financial institutions, along with high tech and biotech start-up companies, in an area with many traditional service and “blue collar” workers, to form a strong community.  It also has a lot of character.

The Boston accent is often imitated (badly). Are you able to recognize a Boston accent? It’s quite easy to do. The most distinctive indicator of our accent is our use of the letter “R.” We pronounce it more like “ah.” The most popular expression the rest of the country likes to use when imitating the Boston accent is “Park your car in Harvard Yard,” which sounds more like “Pahk ya cah in Hahvad Yahd.” This is, of course, a ridiculous expression since there is no place to legally park a car in Harvard Yard!

Bostonians also use words that are unique to this area, that you will hear in everyday conversation, like “rotary,” “tonic,” and “bubbler,” also known as a “traffic circle” or “roundabout,” “soda,” and “water fountain,” respectively. Use any of these words and other Americans will instantly know you spent time in Boston, which would be “wicked cool.”

Boston’s North End has traditionally been known locally as “little Italy.” It is an Italian neighborhood that is still renowned for its authentic Italian food. Try the sweet pastry known as “cannoli” at Mike’s Pastry… Now that’s Italian!  Another unique neighborhood is Chinatown. Boston’s most densely populated section is not only known for different types of Chinese food, but for Asian cuisine of all kinds. If you crave bubble tea or pho noodle soup, Chinatown is the place to go. Beacon Hill’s historic brick walkways and stately townhouses lead up to the radiant state capitol building known as the Statehouse. Boston’s waterfront has some of the best seafood in the country. You should try a “cuppa chowda” (a cup of creamy clam chowder - a thick soup) at a seafood restaurant, or put on a bib and get messy while eating a Maine lobster.

Harvard Square is the place to do “people watching.” You will see many types of people there: street musicians, vendors, students, travelers, and  professors. You can stand on the street, amid the bustle of humanity at the newsstand in the middle of the square, or step inside the gates to Harvard Yard and instantly be relaxed by the park-like tranquility.

One thing you are sure to notice in Boston and Cambridge is the sports fashion. Yes, our residents love to dress in the jerseys and hats of their beloved sports teams: the Red Sox (baseball), Celtics (basketball), Bruins (hockey), New England Patriots (American style football), and New England Revolution (soccer or European style football). We say that you can tell where an American originally came from, or where they have lived, by asking who their favorite sports teams are. Going to a sports game is a sure way to get to know Boston sports fans. MITAC offers tickets to sporting events at a discount, and you will be seated with other members of the MIT community. If you do enjoy sports in the United States, the team you express support for will be of great interest to many of the Americans you meet. Just so you know, “The Garden” where our basketball and hockey teams play, is not a garden at all, but an indoor stadium. “The Green Monster” is not a creature, but a 37-foot wall at Fenway Park, known for being very difficult to hit a baseball over.

If you enjoy the excitement of college sports, consider attending the historic boat racing competition called, the “Head of the Charles Regatta,” held every fall on the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge. Another exciting local sports event is the Bean Pot Hockey Tournament, featuring both the men’s and women’s teams of Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University, and Harvard College. It displays some of the best college hockey in the country, every spring.

This region boasts some of the world’s best music and musicians of all genres. From current Cantabrigian Yo-Yo Ma, to the rock band Aerosmith, and from the smooth singing James Taylor to the boy band New Edition, this area produced amazing music, and has for a long time. Whether you enjoy classical, rock, rhythm and blues, new wave, or another type of music, you can find it in the Boston area. Depending on the time of year, you can take advantage of free concerts throughout the City of Boston as well as surrounding cities and towns, including Cambridge. The most famous free concert held every summer is the one by the orchestra known as Boston Pops on the Fourth of July at the Esplanade in Boston’s Back Bay. This concert once broke a world record for the largest audience ever to hear a classical music concert, back when it was led by the great conductor Arthur Fiedler in 1976.

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Last Updated: July 2019

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