You wouldn’t think that moving from Indiana to North Carolina would’ve been much of a change in culture. After all, in my area of Indiana, schools were closed for the Opening Day of Hunting Season, and the Ford vs. Chevy truck debate was alive and well. In fact, my first ever job was shucking corn in Indiana corn fields for a summer. I’m no stranger to the “country” culture, and so I thought I was prepared for our move to North Carolina over four years ago. Besides, I reasoned, we were moving to Winston-Salem…which was on the northern most part of NC…which was practically Virginia…which was practically Pennsylvania…which was definitely the north. Oh my friends, was I wrong. Was I ever wrong.
It’s an entirely different world down here. Let’s start with the vernacular, shall we?
Bless ‘er heart
You may not realize it, but somewhere there’s a verse that goes something like, “If ye do so choose to gossip, ye only need to end your gossipy tidbits with ‘bless her heart,’ and it will be like ye never gossiped in the first place.” I know, they didn’t share that part with us northerners in church, but everybody knows southerners are closer to God anyway.
It’s pretty obvious, but it’s crazy how easily that one slips into your vocabulary.
I can’t lie, I’m still not 100% sure what this means. Southern friends, would you like to comment? It seems to be used most when referring to children, and usually when they’re misbehaving. As in, “Shew, we had to leave Target ’cause Bug sure was showin’ out.”
See, the southerns have a great capacity to say something harsh in a way that makes you want to thank them. It’s like pouring sugar on brussel sprouts, and the phrase, “wide open” definitely falls into that category. It’s basically a nice way to say, “she crazy.”
Apparently the word “purse” is a little outdated down here. I’ve been told that “pocketbook” or “handbag” are how you may correctly refer to whatever you choose to carry your keys in.
Now moving on, let’s discuss the food…
I don’t know exactly what they are, but I do know 1)They’re gross and 2)It’s not an outdated stereotype…people down here really do eat them.
Sweet Tea and Barbecue
These two things get lumped into the “things southerns are abnormally fanatical about” catagory. I could take or leave both these, but I dare not utter that out loud.
Chick Fil A
Oh, Chick Fil A. Me and a #1 on wheat with diet pepsi have kind of a thing going. Just trust me. Oh, sweet Chick Fil A.
Everything is better on a biscuit
This isn’t a particular food persay – just a generally held belief system. Grits, gravy, barbecue, chicken, coleslaw, beef…if you want to take your food up a notch…put her on a biscuit!
Okay, so if you come to visit, you are now prepared to speak southern-ese and can adequately navigate your way around a menu. But, you ask, what about the deeper cultural differences? Let’s discuss the two that stand out most (to me, at least).
Friendliness and Genuineness
People down here are super friendly – it would not be strange for someone I barely knew to come up to me in the supermarket and say, “Hey! How ya’ll doin’? How’s that baby of yours? You guys doin’ okay?” and it’s not an easy task to navigate from Sunday School to the worship center on Sundays with all of the, “how’re you?”s and “what’s goin’ on?”s. I love that when I have family visiting, they are never without someone making conversation with them when we’re with friends.
In the north, if you’re walking and are passing someone walking in the opposite direction, you stare at the ground until you pass. If you know them, you might venture a curt nod and “hello,” but you’re just as likely to completely ignore them. If you do that in the south, people will think you’re either clinically depressed or just plain rude.
The double edged sword of this friendliness is that – in my experience – southerners can be very difficult to get to know. It’s not an easy task to crack through someone’s veneer of friendliness and get to who they really are and how they really feel about things.
Jesus is still alright by me (Jesus is still alright, oh yeah)
Oh, excuse me. I thought it was 1992 there for a second.
Having faith – especially Christian faith – is surprisingly acceptable in the south. Northerners tend to have a much stronger separation of “church and state,” and the weekly church go-er is the exception, not the rule. Shawn and I are still shocked when we see news coverage of churches or the things people are doing because of their faith. Most of the teachers in the public school system down here are Christians, whereas Christian teachers are a minority in the north.
Again – this has both a good side and a bad side. There are five churches on every corner, and it can sometimes be difficult to ask people to step outside their complacent view of God and church. It’s a widely held view that going to church every Sunday makes you a good person, which means you’ll get into heaven (regardless of how life is lived outside the church walls)- and truthfully – that’s not easy to combat. On the other hand, it’s encouraging to know that Bug has a great chance of being taught by Christian teachers, and that he’s very likely to have strong Christian influences in almost every arena of his life.
So there you have it – my humble and completely incomplete northerner’s guide to the southern culture. So ya’ll go grab your grits, put ‘em on a biscuit, and drink up that sweet tea. Bless yer ever lovin’ heart.