1. While our nature probably won’t kill you, it can certainly ruin your day.
Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, alligators, black widow, brown recluse. You’ve got to watch your step in the great Alabama outdoors (e.g: the backyard, the parking lot, and any ground-level building). The heat and humidity is a breeding ground for some tough-as-nails wildlife that can seriously derail your plans if you’re not paying attention.
2. Tradition still has a place here.
If someone calls you sir or ma’am, holds a door open for you, or invites you to say grace at the dinner table, they’re not mocking you or making fun. Alabama is a conservative state, and traditional southern hospitality is a way of life. If you’re not used to it, the level of “hospitality” can feel extreme, even invasive.
The thing that’s easy to overlook is that, most of the time, Alabamians care very much about being good hosts. They want to make sure you’re comfortable and that you feel included. So when someone asks you if you’re really sure that you don’t want something to drink, don’t be offended.
3. Civil Rights is a big deal here.
You’ll see memorials and museums everywhere. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King and the march. The violence in Selma, Alabama. The Tuskegee fight for voting rights. It all happened here, and it’s a living history that the state carries with it every day.
In addition to finding more information about the Civil Rights Movement than you probably wanted to know, just keep in mind that it’s a sensitive topic down here.
4. There’s more racism than most of us would like.
But the Civil Rights movement didn’t solve all the racial problems in the state, much less the nation. There’s still a heavy undercurrent of racial discrimination in political and public discourse. The farther away you travel from the major urban centers, the less diverse the population becomes.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to public beatings or that someone will outright refuse service to a person of color, prejudice and mistrust in these areas can be brutal for minorities.
5. If you want to find Christ, you’ll find him in Alabama.
For most Alabamians, religion isn’t something you experience during Sunday worship or Wednesday service. It’s something that lives with you every day. It’s more than a morning prayer or a blessing at the dinner table. Churches are strong community centers in the South, and you’ll find them in abundance.
Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to a social gathering hosted by the church. If you have no religious affiliation and words gets out, you’ll have a group of individuals with a vested interest in bringing you into the fold.
6. There are really two Alabamas.
Based on the media, you’d think that Alabamians are a bunch of uncivilized, gun-toting Republicans who roll around in the mud and don’t understand how shoes work. While that’s not entirely untrue — deep country living is certainly a part of Alabama culture — it’s not the whole story.
You’ll find Alabama cities crackling with southern flavor. That includes museums, colleges, research institutions, and theaters. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is located in Huntsville, AL. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (10th largest in the world) is in Montgomery. The University of Alabama Hospital at Birmingham is one of the best in the nation.
There’s more to this state than you might see at first blush.
7. It’s hot. And it’s a wet heat.
It feels hotter than it really is. The humidity in the state is high year-round. That can make the summer sun feel oppressive and a cold snap bite a little more than you’re accustomed to if you’re coming from a dry climate.
The good news: It’s manageable. The bad: It sucks, and there’s no way around it.
8. We love our BBQ.
Sure, other states do barbecue. They may even do it well. But nobody does Alabama-style barbecue better than Alabamians. White sauce barbecue is our regional style that you won’t find anywhere else — and everyone does it a little differently.
You’ll find barbecue restaurants scattered across the state Pro tip: Don’t be deceived by the big restaurant chains. Those hole-in-the-wall restaurants around Decatur and Tuscaloosa have some of the best food you’ll ever eat.
9. Alabama is one of the most diverse states in the Union.
Have you ever seen a picture of your state and thought: “I’m not sure that was actually taken here?” That’s easy to do in Alabama.
The southern tip of the state holds unique wetlands and coastal waterways. The southernmost range of the Appalachian Valley and the Piedmont Plateau stretch across the northern half of the state and hosts some of the most sophisticated caving networks in the US. This extreme variation in biome and ecosystem makes Alabama home to a number of endangered and threatened species.
The state protects 127 species under the Endangered Species Act, currently ranked third nationwide.
10. Mardi Gras is a thing.
Mardi Gras is recognized worldwide, but it’s very rarely celebrated full on. Think parades, floats, beads, and moon pies. Especially moon pies. Because Mardi Gras in the US started in Mobile, AL, it’s a tradition that’s ingrained in the southern culture. You won’t see floats and parades everywhere, but if you’re cruising the Southern coast in February, be prepared to party hard and give up something for Lent.
11. It’s called a buggy.
Your shopping cart? Yeah, we call that a buggy. Don’t question it. Just get on board.
12. There’s more to do here than hunt or watch football.
While those things exist here and are pretty much a given, there’s a ton of stuff to do in Alabama beyond watching the game.
Zip-line through the mountains, or go spelunking. If you’re on the coast, charter a fishing boat, go parasailing, or dive somewhere off the coast. And if you’re just passing through? Well, ya’ll come back now, ya hear?