Wilmington, NC, Azalea Festival represents the South in all its glory! (Photo by Sandra Chambers)
Traveling “Down South” the Right Way!
Since relocating to a beautiful coastal town in North Carolina—leaving behind my old life in the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan area– I have had a true “conversion” experience. My eyes have been opened, my mind enlightened, and joy has filled my heart – I have become a “true Southerner.”
Since my conversion, you will no longer hear four-letter words from my mouth– except for the occasional “y’all” or “yes’m.” I also sleep later, drive slower, and wear the T-shirt that says: “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as fast as I could!
Many of you already know you’re an outsider, which puts you one step ahead of people like myself who used to think of ourselves as “part Southern.” I finally had to admit that being born in West Virginia didn’t make me Southern. “Hillbilly” and “Southern” are not synonymous terms. (And, of course most people know that West Virginia sided with the North in the Civil War. Also, be aware that in the South you won’t hear about the Civil War; only about The War of Northern Aggression.)
Even living in Virginia (I was there for 25 years) doesn’t qualify me to be a Southerner. Coming from the northern Virginia area, I can attest to the fact that there are neither Southern accents nor Southern manners to be found in that area—especially when driving the Beltway! (A very recent trip to DC confirmed that!)
Because of my life-changing experience, I feel compelled to invite you to come along with me to discover this unique territory and culture known as “The South,” and to offer my assistance in making your visit more enjoyable and acceptable —both for you and the rightful residents of the land upon which we Northerners surely trespass.
Basic Rules for Traveling (and relocating) to the South:
(1) First and foremost, practice your Southern drawl before arriving in the South. Like all foreign travelers, you are more likely to be looked upon with favor if you at least attempt the local language. Practice slurring your words together like “y’all.” Hold for at least two seconds.
(2) Never argue over Southern pronunciations. Although I was an English major in college, I have thrown away my Webster’s Dictionary in favor of the vernacular pronunciation. For example, Standard English will tell you that “Kerr” Avenue is pronounced with an “er” sound, but the Southern pronunciation is with an “ar.”
(3) When you order iced tea at any Southern restaurant you must specify “sweet” or “unsweet.” Of course, real Southerners always drink sweet tea (heated first so that the pound of sugar dissolves before chilling). It is acceptable, however, to order half and half if you admit to being a recovering sugar addict.
(4) You also need to know that “grits” are not just for breakfast in the South. “Shrimp and grits” is standard Southern fare for lunch, dinner, or snack.
(5) Google Paula Deen before crossing the Mason Dixon line. You don’t want to be culturally illiterate when discussing fine Southern dining with locals. It would also be wise to know what goes into a “mint julep.”
(6) Be sure to eat at a Calabash Style seafood restaurant. Some Southerners will argue that it’s the only way to eat seafood (lightly battered and fried.)
(7) Last but not least –although I do not get the point of whipping my neck back and forth a hundred times while watching cars speed around the track—all true Southerners should know who Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon are.
There you have it– seven rules to help you make the most of your visit (or relocation) to the South. While you’re here on my site, check out some of the awesome Southern destinations we cover in this blog. Sign up to receive notice of any new Southern-Traveller blogs via e-mail or RSS feed. You will get an e-mail whenever I post–which is definitely on Southern time–maybe once or twice a month. Then you can click to read the article or totally ignore it (which of course, defies all Southern politeness!)
© Sandra Chambers