Help! Northerner lost in the South

And then I said, “Ok, boomer.”
November 14, 2019
Greenville auditor Scott Case to speak at UBA event “God’s Will”
November 14, 2019

Help! Northerner lost in the South

When I moved from my home in New Hampshire to South Carolina to start my freshman year at BJU, I thought I was prepared for the differences of living in the South. 

But living 1,000 miles from my hometown has taught me some surprising, confusing and downright amusing life lessons. Here are some of the ones I’ve learned so far.

No one has any idea where you’re from.

When I tell people I’m from New Hampshire, they don’t even bother asking what city. Most can’t even name the capital (It’s Concord, by the way). I usually explain that it’s that forgotten state above Massachusetts. You know, that state with Boston? That’s when I see the recognition in their eyes. 

Close enough, I guess. 

I used to make the mistake of saying I’m from New England. I thought this would be easier than saying New Hampshire—since it’s an area that covers 71,992 square miles and it’s home to the amazing New England Patriots—but I’ve actually gotten more confusion this way. People don’t know which states are in New England, and I’ve even had a few people ask me why I don’t have a British accent since I’m from England.

If you don’t think you have an accent, you probably still do. 

Speaking of accents, I was under the impression when coming to the South that I didn’t have an accent. I’ve been assured countless times that I was wrong.

Apparently, the lack of y’all’s and bless your heart’s in my vocabulary is a dead giveaway. Dropping R’s off the ends of words or throwing in a “wicked awesome” here and there is another. 

Southern weather is less predictable than asking a child what their favorite food is. 

Ask a 5-year-old what their favorite food is, and it might change every day, or even several times a day. Southern weather is just like this—it likes to change on a whim. 

In the North, I can expect to need a jacket any November day. It’s cold, but at least it’s consistently cold.

In the South, it’ll be freezing cold one day and 70 degrees and sunny the next. Sometimes I forget to check my weather app in the morning, and I’ll be hit unexpectedly with a torrential downpour at 10 a.m. even though it was sunny five minutes earlier.

Sweet tea is almost a religion. 

The first time I had tea in the South, I almost spit it out. I had asked for “regular,” and I didn’t realize this meant they would put as much sugar in it as physically possible before reaching the saturation point. 

But be wary making fun of southerners’ love for this sugary drink. Everyone knows that it is a cardinal sin to make fun of sweet tea. Especially if it’s from Chick-fil-A.

Driving in the South is a whole new skill. 

Southerners either drive an excruciating 10 miles under the speed limit or 20 over. There is no in between. 

Don’t get me wrong; there are bad drivers everywhere. But in the South, I quickly learned that turn signals mean nothing and that left lanes are “travel lanes” and not just for passing (causing problems when the aforementioned drivers go 10 under the limit in the left lane). And everyone’s favorite thing to do is pull into the middle of an intersection, wait until the light is red and then turn left. 

Give me black ice or a blizzard any day.

You are expected to talk to strangers. 

What happened to “stranger danger”? The South happened, apparently. 

In the North, we don’t talk to people we don’t know. I will happily stand in line for half an hour without talking to a single stranger. If an acquaintance asks how you are while you’re walking down a hallway, you answer, “Good,” and keep walking. And they don’t consider you rude.

In the South, it’s a different story. You are expected to smile at people you walk past. If you’re in line at Starbucks, someone will probably say something to you and will continue the conversation long after you order your coffee. And they expect a detailed answer of the question, “How are you?” 

Once, freshman year, I made the mistake of just saying “good” and continuing my walk, and I caused mass panic. Everyone thought I was having the absolute worst day in my life. 

People are willing to go above and beyond to help you. 

Lastly, living in the South, though it’s caused its confusion and entertainment, has ultimately been great because of the people here. No matter how much I complain about the humidity or make fun of southern accents, I love the people here. 

The friendliness the South is known for extends into most people’s everyday lives. The people I’ve met here are some of the kindest, most genuine people I know. They’ll jump to your rescue if you spill something or offer to help if they see you’re in need.

Case in point, last year my car ran out of gas and stalled in the middle of the road. At an intersection. On a hill.

Within minutes, I had half a dozen different people stop and ask if I needed help. One stranger even parked his truck and spent the next half an hour getting my car across three lanes of moving traffic into the nearest parking lot. Another complete stranger drove all the way to his wife’s car a few miles away to get a special funnel I needed to fill my car with gas. He then spent almost an hour trying to help me start my car.

The people here might call me “honey” and “ma’am” too many times for me to handle, but they are also some of the sweetest people I know (and not just because of their favorite drink). 

I love the North, and I’ll never stop talking about how amazing it is. But don’t get me wrong—the South can be pretty great, too.