I was born and raised in the north. In Charlotte, Michigan to be exact. It was a small town, and it was a country town. I did not think too much would change when I moved to Oklahoma, then later Tennessee. Of course I had visions of cowboys, rodeos, farms, and bonfires. I also knew that these were more stereotypical images, and that the south went in to the 21st century at the same time as the north. But I did not realize how much would be different. Here is a list of 6 things I did not know until I lived in the south:
1. Boots and scarves are fashion accessories.
Being born and raised in Michigan, I was always brought up believing that boots and scarves are necessities, not accessories. My boots and scarves served one purpose – to keep the cold out – and their appearance barely mattered as long as they worked. I move to the south and as soon as the temperature goes below 70 degrees, everyone pulls out their UGGs and colorful scarves. I even notice people have several boots – rain boots, knee-high boots, ankle boots, leather boots, – the list goes on. All we had were snow boots. And then the scarves. They match them to their outfits. They find different ways to fold them around their necks. I have even learned that there are different scarves for different seasons. Yes, summer scarves exist.
2. Sweet Tea
In the north we do not have “sweet tea”. We just have “tea”. Unsweetened tea. Sometimes we add sugar to it after it is already in our glass sitting on ice. I would like to say I never even heard of sweet tea until I moved to the south, but that is not true because I remember when McDonalds starting serving its famous “Southern Sweet Tea”. Down here tea has sugar added to it right after it is brewed, while it is still hot. Lots of sugar. So much sugar, it could be classified as a syrup. And everyone drinks it, even children. In the south there is no “do you know that has caffeine in it” or “do you know how much sugar is in that” children just drink it. And it is accepted. It’s just the way it is. I like to refer to sweet tea as “southern Kool-Aid” but that is not correct. People here are very particular about their sweet tea. So particular I want to ask if there is anywhere that holds “tea tasting”. It would be perfect for your everyday tea connoisseur.
3. “Bless Your Heart” AKA “Southern Hospitality”
I have always heard the term “southern hospitality”. While living my northern life, I always assumed this meant cowboys taking off their hat, calling you ma’am as they held the door open for you. No. It means that with their little southern accents they can make horrible, snide remarks, and pass it off as a (sort of) compliment. (i.e. “That is the fattest, ugliest, woman I have ever seen, bless her heart.”)
4. People are very into college football.
Until I moved to the south I have never been to a college game. Okay, to be honest I still haven’t. But by the reactions of everyone around me, I am now slightly curious as to what the big deal is. College football seems to be the topic of conversation. I always know when it is game day because of the orange and white attire everyone is sporting. My six-year-old daughter’s elementary school even dedicates days to “orange and white day” and “spirit day”. And now that it is fall maybe I will go “tailgating” (whatever that is) and join in on the fun. I will let you know if it ends up being all it’s cracked up to be.
5. Southerners are proud of their famous people.
A lot of famous people come from the south. I never realized this. And no matter what town I’m in someone always lets me know which celebrity came from their town. I have even seen road signs that say things such as “Welcome to Grandfield, Home of Miss Oklahoma”. No one shows pride like the south shows pride.
6. EVERYTHING can be fried.
In Michigan I knew the south was known for some good fried food. After all, there was a “Kentucky Fried Chicken” right in my hometown. But I had no idea to which extent these southerners took their fried food. My first job I had after moving to the south was at a Sonic (which was also my first time seeing, or eating at a Sonic). And this was the first time I ever tried fried pickles. There they call them Pickleos. They are pretty good. And I later realized they are quite common in the south, along with fried Oreos, fried okra, fried tomatoes, and fried Twinkies. Pretty much anything you can batter and fry is battered and fried in the south.
I have yet to hang out with cowboys, or watch a rodeo. I haven’t even been invited to a bonfire (which is strange because we had them all the time in Michigan, and we thought we were being southern.) But I have tried fried pickles and sweet tea. I’m even starting to admire the “boots-and-scarf-in-summer-weather” look. I’m looking forward to attending my first college football game. Overall, I am enjoying my time in the south. Even if their ways seem a bit unusual at times – bless their hearts.