Local Life and Lore in San Antonio

Learn more about this colorful Texas town.


  • The city is located inside Bexar County, pronounced “Bayer,” like the aspirin, but it's often shortened to “bear.”
  • Although most San Antonians speak English (even if they act like they don’t), Spanish is integrated into menus and street names. Tex-Mex has arroz (rice), frijoles (beans) and tortillas, which come in flour or corn. Popular street names include San Pedro, Flores and DeZavala -- all pronounced in Spanish.
  • In addition to Spanish, it’s important not to forget that it’s still Texas, y’all. Y’all is a contraction for you all. The apostrophe goes between the y and a; not between the a and l. Correct usage: What are y’all doing tonight?


Yes, there is traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours, but the city was prepared for its rapid growth, always staying one step ahead in road construction. Granted, I-10 has been under construction for years, but ramps continue to open at a decent pace.

Via Metropolitan Transit is the city’s bus system, which does a good job of taking you anywhere you need to go. During Fiesta and large events, Via often provides free trips from designated parking lots to the event.


Tex-Mex vs. Mexican food. San Antonians love their Tex-Mex. After you've tasted lots of Mexican food across the Southwest, you'll know Tex-Mex is distinct. Tortillas are key. They must be homemade and warmed on a griddle -- NOT in microwaves. Spanish rice and refried beans are always served up with the main dish, which uses lots of tomatoes and cilantro. And the salsa is red and spicy.

Call it by name. A local never refers to San Antonio as San Antone. Johnny Cash sings about San Antone in his early hit Fulsom Prison Blues, but guess what? He’s not a local. Some people may call it San Anto, but even that is rare. It’s San Antonio.

German heritage. The Polish and Germans were early settlers in the region, so there's a strong German influence. Oktoberfest is a popular event, which brings out authentic potato pancakes, bratwurst, polka music and cloggers. Some streets include New Braunfels (New Brawn-fuls), Wurzbach (Werz-bach) and Huebner (Heeb-ner).

Ordering a coke. Anyone requesting a beverage may have the following conversation:
“You want a coke?”
“What kind?”
“Big Red.”
A couple of things are going on here. A coke is the same as cola, pop or soda. It means beverage. Now, Big Red is a caffeinated delicacy only available in south Texas. Some outsiders have compared it to bubble gum in a bottle, but it’s not. It’s an acquired taste. If you actually want a Coca-Cola, or Coke, you would either say “regular (for classic) or diet.”

The ghost tracks. There is a legendary story about a school bus full of children, which stalled on some railroad tracks at the intersection of Shane and Villamain Streets. The bus driver could not start the bus before a train struck and killed everyone onboard. It is said that the children still haunt the area and make sure drivers don’t suffer the same fate.

Every Halloween, it is a tradition to see a line of cars waiting to be pushed across the tracks. Drivers put flour or baby powder on the trunk of their cars and place it in neutral at the foot of the tracks. Eventually, the car rolls (what appears to be uphill) across the railroad tracks. Once drivers place their cars in park, they check their trunks where they can find fingerprints of small children who pushed them across. Or so the story goes.    

Keep Reading

Next Up

Local Life and Lore in Kansas City

Blend in with native Kansas Citians by picking up the local history and colloquialisms.

Local Life and Lore in San Diego

Get to know the ins and outs of San Diego with these local insider tips.

Local Life and Lore in the San Francisco Bay Area

Before you visit San Francisco's Bay Area, brush up on these facts to fit in with the locals.

Local Lingo and Lore in New York City

Fit in with NYC natives by learning these key terms and facts.

Local Life and Lore in Fort Lauderdale

These insider tips and lingo will help you fit in with the local crowd.

Local Life and Lore in Santa Fe

Know key terms and learn how to speak like a local in Santa Fe.

Local Life and Lore in Savannah

School yourself on the local lingo and traditions in Savannah, Georgia, and blend right into the local crowd.

Local Life and Lore in Colorado Springs

From Chinook to Fourteeners to Virga, learn about local lingo and quirks of this Colorado town.

Local Life and Lore in Tucson

Brush up on your knowledge of Tucson history and lingo.

Local Life and Lore in Louisville

When in Louisville, Kentucky, do (and talk) as the locals do.