1. Pollen-covered cars.
Our state tree, the Longleaf Pine, is a prodigious pollinator. Need proof? Take a look at any car anywhere in the state between March and May and you’ll find they’re not just coated, they’re practically battered, with chartreuse pollen. The stuff’s everywhere.
In North Carolina, barbecue is tantamount to politics or religion: you pick a denomination and stick with it, only crossing party lines in secret. That means Eastern ‘Cue—whole hog doused in a peppery vinegar sauce—or Lexington ‘Cue—shoulders and butts and sauce made sweet and thick with tomato or even brown sugar. You have your favorites and you’ll fight about styles, sauces, which wood to use and how early you need to get to B’s, but you’ll admit one thing: nothing beats North Carolina ‘cue even if it’s not your preferred style.
3. “Barbecue” used as a verb.
One does not barbecue, one eats barbecue. There’s no barbecuing of burgers or hotdogs, that’s grilling or having a cookout (hence the name of the most excellent late-night burger drive-through).
You moved here from “Up North”? Well good for you. You’re here now, shut up about how you did things “back home.”
5. And “Half-Backs.”
Many a North Carolinian has accepted a neighbor from Connecticut or New York or even New Jersey, but everyone agrees that the worst among them are the Half Backs. These folks retired from jobs at IBM in the northeast, headed to Florida, didn’t like the humidity, then drove halfway back home, settling in North Carolina.
6. Proper pronunciation.
We have some deceptive place names — Topsail Island, Ocracoke Island, Bodie Island. Appalachian State, Kerr Avenue—and if you pronounce it like it’s spelled, you’re doing it all wrong. Say it with me: Top-sul Island. Okra-coke (like the vegetable plus the drink). Body Island. App-a-latch-un. Car Avenue.
Especially traffic in towns with two stoplights or fewer. God forbid it takes us more than 15 minutes to drive anywhere. Except across the state, which we know takes 8 hours or longer.
8. People not knowing the State Toast.
North Carolina is the only state with a State Toast, so when someone lifts a glass, mason jar or red SOLO cup and begins to recite, join in.
The abbreviated version goes like this:
Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State!
9. NASCAR results that aren’t what we had hoped for.
We love Richard Petty’s hat, we’ve been to Richard Childress’ vineyard, thoughts of losing the race at Rockingham brings a tear to our eye, and we can rattle off a list of homegrown NASCAR drivers. Why? Because the sport of stock car racing was born in these hills and perfected on the red dirt ovals of countless tracks across the Piedmont. NASCAR calls Charlotte home and there’s just something thrilling about the sound of those engines revving at the starting line.
No matter where you live, you’ve got a strong opinion on the white stuff. On the coast, you hate it (but secretly love it) because when it snows an inch, the whole county shuts down for a day. But in the mountains, you want more than a dusting every winter — you want to head to Boone to go skiing.
11. Blue Laws.
Oh, North Carolina loves its craft beer and our wine and spirits—both legal and from “a guy down the way” but we hate the Blue Laws. Those are the ones that have blessed us with the state-run (and high priced) ABC Stores, the ones that prohibit beer and wine sales before noon on Sunday, and the ones that keep early brunch-goers from having a Bloody Mary with their shrimp and grits.