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Miami-Dade vs. Broward: The Differences are “Night and Day”

September 02, 2010 By Carlos Miller in Miami: Local News  | 17 Comments

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Back in the day, when those of us from Miami would call those from up north, “the Cowards from Broward,” the lines between the two counties were more prominently defined.

The old joke was that you needed a passport to enter Dade County (it didn’t become Miami-Dade until years later).

This, of course, was back in the heyday of the 1980s, when boatloads and planeloads from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua dramatically altered the county’s demographics.

It was also at a time of racial tensions, riots, drug wars, police corruption and murder rampages.

But even today, after thousands of Miami-Dade residents fled moved up to Broward, causing its Hispanic population to boom, the lines are not exactly blurred.

For the most part, Broward County remains in the shadows of Miami-Dade. That’s the way it’s always been. That’s the way it will always be.

Think Los Angeles and Orange counties. Los Angeles is the bustling metropolis that gave us Hollywood, Rage Against the Machine and low-riders.

Orange County gave us Disneyland, the Saddleback Church and the O.C. Not to mention the Anaheim Angels who now call themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, even though they play in Orange County.

Like Orange County, Broward County is a suburban sprawl of strip shopping centers, cookie-cutter communities and Type B personalities.

“People are just much more aggressive in Miami,” said Danny Hammontree, who was born and raised in Miami, living here until he was 32 before he moved up to Broward.

“They drive much crazier down there.”

The truth is, Miami is brash, unabashed and the road rules are more lax. And that’s just the way we like it.

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“Night and Day”

Willie Morris, who lived in the Brickell area before moving to Ft. Lauderdale, said “the differences are like night and day.”

“Broward is much more laidback,” he said. “There is a lot less traffic and it’s easier to get from one place to the other.”

“But there is less to do in terms of nightlife.”

It’s not like Broward doesn’t party. Ft. Lauderdale, known as Ft. Liquordale to locals, was the college spring break hotspot for years – before the locals got fed up and chased the college kids away.

And don’t forget “the Dollhouse in Ft. Lauderdale” as sung by Motley Crue in 1987.

But that was actually in Sunny Isles, which is in Miami-Dade County, not Broward. The famous strip club is now called the Beach House Cabaret.

But Broward does have the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, which offers entertainment in a Disneyesque sort of way.

But nothing in Broward compares to South Beach or downtown Miami’s 24-hour liquor license district, where debauchery, douchery and depravity rage until dawn.

Florida state law requires last call to be at 2 a.m. but has allowed counties to make their own exemptions.

Even before the City of Miami approved a 24-hour liquor license district in downtown, bars throughout the county would regularly close at 5 a.m.

But it was only until a few years ago that Broward, which used to have last call at 2 a.m., extended its last call to 4 a.m. to compete with Miami.

But no matter how hard it tries, it will not be Miami. And that’s ok for people who live in Broward.

“You get more for your money up here than you do in Miami,” Hammontree said.

“And people up here at least speak English. It’s really hard living in Miami if you don’t know Spanish.”

The Language Barrier

And that’s probably the main difference between the two counties. Compared to Broward – or most anywhere else in the United States for that matter – Miami-Dade is just so damn foreign. So foreign that it might not be accurate to call it “diverse.”

“There’s not much diversity outside of Latin American culture,” Morris said.

In that regard, Broward may be more diverse in that it has small pockets of different cultures throughout the county, but it’s predominantly white.

According to 2008 census reports, Broward claimed 67 percent white non-Hispanics, 26 percent black non-Hispanics and 24 percent Hispanics.

Miami-Dade, on the other hand, claimed 63 percent Hispanics, 26 percent black non-Hispanics and 18 percent white non-Hispanics.

So yes, Miami-Dade is one of the few counties in the United States where being a minority puts you in the majority.

And that makes some white non-Hispanics uncomfortable. Or it at least makes it difficult for them to carry on their everyday lives without coming across some type of language barrier.

“Sometimes it’s like living in a Latin American country,” Morris said. “I even had problems at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) with workers who did not speak English.”

For some of us, that is the allure of living down here. I spent two years in Europe and one year in Colombia as well as visited there numerous times for summer or Christmas vacations to visit family. So the idea of living in an area that is not so Americanized does not scare me.

In fact, living anywhere else in the United States, with the exception of maybe New York City, can be pretty boring after living in Miami.

James Echols, a non-Hispanic white American from Texas who has lived in Miami-Dade for the last several years, said he wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.

“I love the Latin/Hispanic influence in Miami,” he said. “I think it adds flavor and spice to life of the city. White American culture tends to be pretty bland. What’s our biggest claim to fame? Deep fried Twinkies?”

When asked for his opinion on Broward, he wasn’t able to muster much.

“Broward, hmmm… I rarely go. Every time I do, it feels like a very ‘normal’ place. I mean, I’m sure it’s a nice enough place, but it doesn’t really hold any particular allure for me. I know some cool people who live up there, though.”

The fact is, people in Broward have strong opinions about Miami, but people in Miami rarely even go to Broward.

The Airports

The difference between the two counties can best be reflected in their respective airports. Miami International Airport is chaotic, neurotic and traumatic. Especially if you are not under the influence of alcohol.

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Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, on the other hand, is organized, efficient and more affordable. Compared to MIA, it’s like walking along a peaceful beach after braving a crashing tidal wave.

However, it contains a fraction of the international flights you’ll find in Miami.

And that’s probably why you never hear of any large cocaine busts in FLL when they occur on a regular basis at MIA.


Survey Says

Miami is constantly ranked in those never-ending surveys that you find online. But you hardly ever see Fort Lauderdale making one of those lists unless it is for something like the Top Ten Most Underrated U.S. Cities, which stated the following:

Say goodbye to its days as a raucous spring-break spot – today’s Fort Lauderdale is all about upscale beach chic, as confirmed by the string of swanky new hotels on the block, like the St. Regis Resort (opened May 2007) and W Hotel (set to open October 2008). Stroll the stunning seaside promenade and comb a strand of sand that rivals Miami Beach, then set out for some irresistible shopping, and finally cap off your day with a culinary feast at one of the city’s stellar international restaurants. Combined with a surprisingly sophisticated arts and museum scene, an extensive yachting and golfing network, and one of America’s top gay and lesbian scenes, Fort Lauderdale’s status as Florida’s fashionable destination du jour is long overdue.”

Meanwhile, Miami is ranked in everything from the Top Ten Places to Live in the World, where Miami is described as “sizzling and sexy”, to America’s Top Ten Miserable Cities, which describes Miami as ranking in the “bottom 10% of areas when it comes to commute times, violent crime and corruption.”

Miami-Dade is definitely a county of extremes, containing one of the most expensive zip codes in the United States, Fisher Island, as well as one of the poorest neighborhoods, Overtown.

It is where you can indulge in an overpriced meal surrounded by celebrities on South Beach as well as pay a few dollars for a hearty meal surrounded by immigrants in Little Havana.

It is where you can dress to the nines at a South Beach nightclub and wear next to nothing on the beach the following morning.

For me, it’s one of the few places in the United States where I feel normal. But then again, I’ve never been normal. And neither has Miami.

Related Categories: Miami: Local News,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

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17 Comments on

"Miami-Dade vs. Broward: The Differences are “Night and Day”"

Maria de los Angeles says:

I’m so glad Broward is what it is.  Where else are Miamians going to go to escape for a little relaxation? Also the boating industry is much more intense in Fort Lauderdale. One thing FLL has that Miami doesn’t: a beautifully developed riverfront area, plus 300 miles of navigable inland waterways.  The Miami River development project is nowhere near that, though they’re working on revamping the non-industrial areas of the river.  In addition, unlike Miami, people actually live and work in downtown Fort Lauderdale and there is a lively nightlife scene by the river.

Posted on 09/02/2010 at 11:28 AM

the bulldog says:

i was the one who made Danny Hammontree leave dade!

Posted on 09/02/2010 at 11:55 AM

Christy says:

Excellent article Carlos! I loved hearing your opinions as well as the research behind it.

Posted on 09/03/2010 at 11:15 AM

Doug says:

I spent a good amount of time in both counties, and I would say that over the years, things have become more homogenized now with the passage of time.  I don’t really notice a big shift in driving habits going from one place to the other, and I still hear a good number of conversations in Spanish and other languages going on around me on Las Olas.  Hollywood still feels very distinct, but not so much Ft Lauderdale proper.  For me, it wasn’t until I got up to Stuart that I noticed a pronounced cultural shift.

Posted on 09/03/2010 at 1:48 PM

Hank says:

Not that I’m an expert on strip joints, but there actually was a Dollhouse in Broward—except it was in Pompano Beach, not Ft. Lauderdale, back when Motley Crue was singing about it.

Posted on 09/03/2010 at 4:52 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

Orange County, actually, is nothing at all like Broward. People like to make the analogy, but OC really is its own “city” with its own culture and own identity. It even has 2 of its own sports teams. It’s more like San Diego than LA, and most Orange Countians I knew there realyl resent being lumped in wih the cesspool to the north.

Theoretically, I like Broward better. People operate with more common sense, people seem a little smarter, and things run smoothly. I just think leaving Dade is admitting defeat.

Posted on 09/04/2010 at 1:42 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

Also, I’ve found Lauderdale airport to be WAY more stressful than MIA. They actually do not staff their security lines nearly as well as MIA (probably because of less traffic) and am always in line there a lot longer than at MIA. Also, the non-continuous terminals can be a pain in the ass. I actualyl PREFER MIA, regardless of drivign times.

Lastly, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are often lumped together in those “Best Cities” rankings, as media-wise it’s considered one market. So saying Broward doens’t make those lists is a little inaccurate.

And for f**k’s sake, can we PLEASE stop using airport codes to refer to cities? I’m going to start talking about going to MCO for the weekend to check out Harry Potter World if this persists

Posted on 09/04/2010 at 1:47 PM

Eric says:

I think this is all summed up in one possibly, unintentionally double-meaning sentence Carlos wrote: “before he moved up to Broward.”

The “allure” of South Beach and its over-priced, over-rated, douche-bag-filled clubs isn’t worth the trouble and hardly makes up for the aggravation and inconvenience that is day-to-day living in Miami.

Posted on 09/05/2010 at 9:17 AM

Wil Gomez says:

“The truth is, Miami is brash, unabashed and the road rules are more lax. And that’s just the way we like it.”

I’m sorry, but I have to shoot this down in flames.  Why glorify reckless driving?  It’s bad enough that people are killed and injured by idiotic Miami drivers who run red lights, speed, drive drunk and drive recklessly, without people like you glorifying it.  I wonder if you’d feel the same way if someone you were close to had been killed or injured by this awful behavior?  There is really no excuse for it and it should certainly not be considered one of the “positive” aspects of living in Miami.  Miami should be exciting for the right reasons, not because it has a bunch of stupid drivers who think they are above the law and can endanger life by driving laissez-faire.

Ridiculous.

Posted on 10/11/2010 at 7:17 PM

QR100 says:

Miami is basically one big lie.  You bash Broward, yet how is Dade really any different?  As Eric mentioned, the only difference is that there are more douchebag filled clubs and I agree with him 100%, none of that makes up for the day-to-day stress and aggravation of living in the cesspool known as Miami even remotely worthwhile.  Miami is just the same soulless concrete jungle that Broward is.  The Latin people in Miami who think they are so far above the “gringos” of other parts of FL culturally are really no more enlightened and are just as ignorant, classless and uncultured as the rednecks and hillbillies in other parts of FL.  Miami hides behind the veil of diversity, even though it is not diverse at all (it’s just a bunch of people from Latin America, mostly Cuba).

Posted on 10/11/2010 at 7:31 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

QR100, I say that ALL the time. Miami is actually one of the most homogenous cities I’ve ever been to. 2/3 of the population is from one ethnic group. Other cities with numbers that high? Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Washington DC and Detroit. Not exactly cradles of diversity.

That being said, the lawless driving IS a benefit if you’re the type of person who likes to drive like that. Like I am an extremely impatient person, and I like that I can choose to make my drive more efficient if I so choose. Not every city gives me that option.

Posted on 10/11/2010 at 9:51 PM

Jon says:

” I like that I can choose to make my drive more efficient if I so choose. Not every city gives me that option.”

@ Matt

That’s the problem here - the self-entitlement of those who think they are above the law and can drive as they please.  A lot of people are injured or even killed because of such behavior and this problem adversely affects the quality of life here of those of is who do obey the law and do not drive in a manner that potentially endangers the lives of other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians who may just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

No wonder Miami is one of the most dangerous cities to drive in; people practically glorify the “Too Fast, Too Furious” culture here.

Posted on 10/12/2010 at 6:26 AM

Matt Meltzer says:

Well, really more like “Too Slow, too Furious.” Since, ya know, the source of most of my fury is generally people driving too slow.

Posted on 10/13/2010 at 9:41 PM

Peter Liggett says:

How is the job situation on Broward County?? Better than Miami Dade , I hope?? plan on living down there, that’s why I ask?

Posted on 06/02/2015 at 4:39 PM

David says:

A lot of hate flying in both directions! I have lived in both! You are full of it, broward is just as much crap as dade. South Florida is plagued by crime and rude people in general. I was held up in broward for the first time in my life not dade. Broward people need to get off their high horse their county is slowly going just as bad as dade. Miami is full of Cubans , Colombians, nicas.This is their area just like Jews, Italians and southern people, and blacks have certain areas they stick to. Everyone has an area they call home! Dade can be scummy ares but so is broward sunrise, Davie, Pembroke Pines. Lots of weird ass people I see all the time in east broward also. I was born in another state! South Floridians whether from dade or broward white, Hispanic, black all think their better! Super rude in the end, crime ridden with people who don’t really care about others! From parkland to homestead!

Posted on 10/29/2015 at 12:19 PM

daniel says:

ya well today Miami has become MUCH calmer apart from south beach. Broward has become way more rough crime is about doubling than miami. im happy i was raised and will countinue to live in dade

Posted on 03/17/2016 at 1:51 AM

Black English American says:

Miami Dade is like living in a third world county,I hope a category 6 hurricane comes and blows it away. too many latins who do not speak English,who do not assimilate. They have latins in government jobs,such as DMV who do not speak English well. It’s a third world county now. They breed rats,overpopulating our school roadways,and government services,such as the DMV postal office etc. I can get an appointment the next day at a broward dmv. In maimi dade I have to wait 4 weeks to get an appointment. White non latins just are smarter,nicer,more organized and more efficient than latins. I’m only in miami dade for my county job,I will retire some where up north where the real America is,where the real Americans are.

Posted on 03/30/2016 at 4:27 AM

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