The American South is a pretty unique and interesting place. It has a bit of a bad rep over the years, what with its staunchly conservative political climate and tumultuous racial history. In truth, even many Americans prefer not to go there, which is a shame because the region itself is stunning. From scenic coasts to sweeping landscapes, many parts of the American South are a postcard come to life! If you still want to visit it, you'd do well to learn a few things about it. One is that they're pretty big on manners here. Another is that they love meats (vegans be warned!). And it's best to learn what “Bless Your Heart” really means!
A Racially Diverse Region
Contrary to its many stereotypes, the American South is a racially diverse region. In fact, it's safe to say that it's one of the most diverse parts of the US
. Southern States like Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama have as many African-American residents as they do Caucasian residents. Florida, in particular, is also famous for its massive Hispanic community. So before you generalize the South as this white-dominated rural area, know that the states here are just as diverse as the big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, and more.
It's Largely Conservative
Perhaps the most common stereotype about the South is how conservative it is. And to a certain extent, this is true. Most Southerners are notoriously religious, so much so that it's ingrained in society here. They honor family values the most and are largely opposed to more liberal ideas more common in big cities. As a result, the region gets a lot of flack for its strict adherence to tradition and imposition of Christian values despite the separation of church and state. It's even come to the point that members of the LGBTQ+ community here are often marginalized, especially in the smaller towns.
Mind Your Manners
Still, a good side of the South's traditional values is that the people are more mindful of their manners, specifically American social customs
. Naturally, they expect visitors to do the same. What may seem rather old-school and passé in terms of courteous acts and chivalrous manners are still very much the norm here. For instance, a lot of people still refer to others as “sir” or “ma'am” especially when addressing older folks. When invited to someone else's home, it's common courtesy to bring a dish of your own. And before leaving, don't forget to say “thanks for having me” as a form of farewell.
Southern Hospitality is Real
In relation to how well-mannered most Southerners are, this also proves that the stereotypical “Southern Hospitality” is real and it's alive and well. For one thing, strangers will take the initiative to engage in small talk with you, whether you're just a tourist or a new resident. And if you're the latter, it's also common for neighbors to introduce themselves to you. Some would even go so far as to prepare a dish and bring it to your home as a welcome gift. Don't be surprised if they invite you to their home as well. It's simply the norm here!
Know What “Bless Your Heart” Means
Upon getting to the South, you might hear many people say “Bless Your Heart” with that signature southern twang. At first, it's easy to think that they're wishing you well or that they find you adorable. But it couldn't be farther from the truth! Most of the time, perhaps around 90% to 95% of the time, Southerners say “Bless Your Heart” as a form of shade (urban definition: implied insult). Oftentimes, it means you're being naive or perhaps something worse. And because Southerners are so well-mannered, it's hard to detect the shade if you're not used to it.
Public Transport is Mostly in The Big Cities
If there's one thing you shouldn't expect in the South, it's public transport. At least, not in the smaller towns. Fortunately, the big cities in the region still have efficient public transport. Atlanta
in Georgia and Miami
in Florida are two good examples. But once you venture further into the more rural parts of the South, you'll find that they barely have any taxis/cabs of their own. There are buses that travel from town to town, but not a lot that travel just within that specific commune. And you can forget about transportation apps too!
Expect to Eat A Lot of Meat
Truth be told, Veganism is virtually non-existent in the South. Sure, there may be a few who want to push for this lifestyle in this part of the country, but not a lot of locals are getting into it. Southerners simply love their meat. Practically all of their local delicacies have some sort of meat in them. They also love partaking in backyard barbecues, specifically those who live in suburban neighborhoods and small towns. Whenever there's a holiday in the US
, you're sure to find Southerners hosting cookouts and grilling all sorts of meat.
Expect to Lose Cellphone Service
Perhaps the most common thing about the Southern US States is that there's a lot of land around these parts. The region takes up a huge chunk of the American countryside, with really only a handful of big cities in between. As such, in the smaller southern towns, you can expect to lose cellphone service a lot. No matter which American mobile network
you join, the South is simply a place where service is rather scarce. If your phone is your life, you're better off staying in the major metropolises.
Do you plan to visit the American South? Before you do, it's vital that you learn a little bit about this place. It's not an exaggeration to say that the South is unlike any other part of the country. Perhaps even any other part of the world too!