Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Southern Way

I was lucky enough to have been transferred south of the Mason-Dixon line for a long enough period of time to have truly experienced the southern way of living. I must admit that "lucky" was not my initial feeling however, as the difference between a Yankee and a Damn Yankee were explained to me:
"A Yankee is a person who comes down from up North, spends a little money, and then goes home. A Damn Yankee wants to live here."

What I found over time however was a very polite and patient group of people who were willing to put up with my particular eccentricities (too many to contemplate, let alone list) and who genuinely welcomed me into their midst. That is not to say that there weren't differences in culture that it took a bit of time to adapt to. It is some of those that I would like to mention here:
  • In the North, when someone says "How are you?", they mean that they are acknowledging your existence, and would like move on with a short and non-committal response. In the South, they actually want to know how you are doing.
  • In the North, someone asking for the 1st day of deer season off means that they want the 1st day of the traditional deer hunting season off. In the South, it means they want the 1st day of gun season, black powder season, bow hunting season (and I think rock-throwing season) off; and you might as well close the shop on those days because everyone wants them.
  • In the North, a woman is addressed by her last name and usually out of fear of sexual harassment lawsuits i.e. Ms. Demaria (chosen for my granddaughter). In the South she is addressed by her first name, but always with a polite title i.e. Miss Maggie or Miss Margaret and always with a great deal of respect.
  • In the North, a waiter at a restaurant asks if everything is alright with your meal; hoping that you won't complain and usually not caring if you do. In the South, two waiters, the cook, the cashier, and two other patrons ask if everything is alright with your meal; almost preventing you from eating it.
  • In the North, grits are one of the possible selections of food for breakfast, but are not served everywhere. In the South, grits are a necessary part of breakfast, are served everywhere, and are in fact a religious experience. (I once asked a local about instant grits, and was lectured in great detail on how no self-respecting person would ever serve such a thing. Even contemplating it identified me as a Yankee.)
  • In the North, the city is a place like New York, Chicago, Detroit, or Los Angeles. In the South, the city is anyplace with more than a couple of stoplights.
  • In the North, a house away from the city sits on one acre of land and is on a well-paved road (well, except in Toledo). In the South, a house away from the city has a one acre pond, and can't be seen from the road.
  • In the North, the Civil War is part of our country's history. In the South, the Civil War is part of our recent past; and anyone who doesn't think so is probably a Damn Yankee!
I am back living north of the Mason-Dixon line these days, but have to say that I sometimes regret the fact that these days I am back to being only a Yankee.

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