This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.

Last Friday I announced the launch of a new series of articles here at Something Awful called the Great American Reach Around. The purpose of this series is to share information about the United States of America with our readers around the world and give our foreign readers an opportunity to tell us about their homeland. Think of it as a cultural exchange program for the borderline retarded.

This time around we will pay a visit to the Heartland of America. The Midwest is a mix of rural farmland, decaying industrial areas, and modern cities. Many think of Midwesterners as the stereotypical Americans; fat, dumb, and white. A lot of them are, but the Midwest is actually ethnically diverse and has educational standards that rival any first world nation. It is one of the fattest regions of America, there is no avoiding that one.

Three readers living in France will provide the counterpoint, giving us a ground-level view of their country and their home cities. Alexandre "Apoual Brabiste" Wolmer will take us on a tour of Beaune, Cyril "Dr. Fred" Kowaliski will show us Nantes, and Manuel "Senso" Lanctôt will tell us all about historic Toulouse. Can they dispel our misconceptions about France and the French? Probably not, but at least it will be entertaining!

When it comes to the Midwest I admit a certain degree of bias. I have lived in this region of the United States my entire life and I can not provide a truly objective view. Luckily, I can go one better, because I have learned to both love and hate this area of the country.

"Midwest" as a label is fairly ambiguous and is often applied to any state that is not on one of the coasts of the United States. This region is sometimes derisively referred to as "the fly-over states" by assholes from the West and East coasts who believe there is nothing worthwhile or interesting to be found in the Midwest. I guess it's hard to dazzle you after you've seen a melted cat tangled up in medical waste in a sewage canal off the Jersey Shore.

Even among those who aren't trying to insult the Midwest, the term has a pretty flexible definition. For our purposes we will use the definition of the Midwest that encompasses Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Today we will be concerning ourselves with Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.

The Midwest states are defined as much by what they are not as what they are. They are effectively surrounded and connected to every other region of the United States, many of them border Canada, and the traditions of those regions bleed into the Midwest. This cultural overlap is the rind that surrounds the heart of the Midwest and that heart radiates out from the Great Lakes.

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