Don’t forget your poke: 7 unique things tourists don’t know about Virginia

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(© niroworld – stock.adobe.com)

Each year around 50 million people visit Virginia, pumping $24 billion dollars into the local economy — including $2 billion from international visitors — and supporting nearly 250,000 jobs in the tourism industry.

And also each year, thousands of friendly, hospitable Virginians help tourists grasp some concepts, phrases, and fundamental truths that are unique to the Commonwealth. If you’re planning to visit — and you’re warmly welcome — then here are seven things that make the list:

  1. A poke isn’t a semi-violent gesture: it’s a bag. Why on earth is this the case? It dates back to the Middle Ages, when the word “poke” meant a sack (deriving from the French “poque”).
  2. With apologies to hard working meteorologists across the state: relying on the weather forecast is usually an exercise in frustration and futility. Just prepare for everything and you’ll be fine.
  3. Virginians share an unbridled pride and passion for their homeland. But with this being said: do not — repeat, do not — mistake a Virginia Tech Hokie for a University of Virginia Wahoo (or vice versa). Once can pledge allegiance to one of these institutions of higher learning and their respective sports teams: never both.
  4. If someone invites you to “hop in a slug line,” then don’t be offended. You aren’t being asked to become a tough-skinned terrestrial mollusk. In Virginia, “slug” also means to share a vehicle ride with strangers to save money — and who knows, maybe make some new friends (just remember the warning from #3).
  5. If you hear a Virginian describe something or someone as “ugly,” then they might not be (and probably aren’t) referring to physical appearance. Rather, they’re declaring that something or someone isn’t nice. For example: “Now you’re just talking ugly!”
  6. If you ask for directions to any river — and there are plenty to choose from — then don’t be surprised if a Virginian immediately asks where you’re from, how long you’re staying, and other questions that blatantly expose that you’re from elsewhere. Why? Because it’s not pronounced river. It’s pronounced “rivah.”
  7. Virginia is a temporal paradox: it’s a modern and advanced state with a strong economy and bright future, while at the same time it’s deeply rooted in a proud, rich, resplendent and very influential past. To put this another way, Virginia isn’t just a futuristic Tesla with ridiculous “insane mode,” and it’s not just a classic car restoration gem like a 1971 Lincoln Mark III (complete with a magnificent naturally aspirated spark-ignition 4-stroke V8 engine). It’s both at the same time: the future and the past, or you might say, the best of both worlds.

The bottom line? The slogan “Virginia is for lovers” is true for the wonderful folks who live there, and for the wonderful tourists who visit. So, what are you waiting for? Pack up your poke and head on over. There’s plenty of sweet tea, and the finest apple pie you’ll ever taste.


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