Newcomer’s Guide to the South

I’ve lived in the south all my life, but I have several friends who are northern transplants, which always gets extra funny around this time of year when southerners go crazy over a little snow and ice. I was trying to explain to someone in the office the other day and one thing turned into three, then I thought, what the heck…

Ladies and gentlemen, A Newcomer’s Introduction to the South:

1. Southerners are friendly. I know a few people who have thought this was an exaggeration or fake, but no – it’s really real. When we say “Let us know if there’s anything we can help you with,” in general, we really mean it. Need the 411 on where to buy the best groceries? Finding good childcare? An explanation of the lay of the land, which parks allow dogs or are safe for single female joggers? If you have a question, four people will dive on it and you’ll have an Ask Jeeves debate on your hands before you know it.

2. Don’t be surprised if you hear “Where do you go to church?” over and over. I know it’s not politically correct, but it’s a cultural thing. We know not everyone goes to church…but most people in the South do. It’s not meant to be impolite – the person asking is only trying to figure out what social circles you run in, kind of like asking where your kids go to school. If you don’t go to church, a general “we may start looking soon,” or “we’re not religious” will suffice. The question can also be deflected by turning it back on the interviewer – “Where do you go to church? Really? I’ve heard that’s a good one…” They will talk for hours.

3. If you hate college football and country music, you might have to fake it. This would be kind of like living in Washington D.C. and not being interested in politics. Sure you can refuse to follow either, but in the end it’s best to pick a college team (or at least one artist you sort of like) and pretend to be interested enough to carry on small talk at the water cooler.

4. Ya’ll is a real word. It’s not something we’re saying to be cute. I don’t think I could stop if you gave me a swear jar and made me put a dollar in it.

5. We’re all dieting….sorta. Like most women across America, Southern ladies are usually “watching their weight,” but there’s always room for a cheat meal if someone brings home-baked goods.

6. The smallest indication of snow will shut the city down. Shut it down. They sometimes even cancel school if they think it “might snow.” If flakes start falling from the sky, forget about it. I don’t know what you had planned for the day, but you probably aren’t doing it anymore. Snow is a rarity – like a flamingo in the henhouse. And most cities in the deep South don’t have a huge budget for salt trucks. You northerners can laugh all you want – we secretly laugh at you when it’s 90 degrees in New York and the “heat” makes the Nightly News.

7. It’s not the “free-way” – it’s the interstate. Sometimes pronounced innerstate.

8. The official fast food chain of the South is probably Chick-fil-A.

9. Watch your language.

10. Yes, you really can leave your doors unlocked and it will probably be fine.

11. Sharing recipes is serious business. We were “pinterest” before Pinterest was cool.

12. The beach is never far away.

13. We can make fun of southerners, but don’t you try it. It’s like poking fun at your own family.

14. The South is a great place to raise kids. With mild temperatures, an emphasis on manners, it’s generally family-friendly.

15. Once you move here, you’ll never want to leave.

We can’t help it, we’re awesome.