“What do you mean you don’t know X country song?”
Even those Alabamians who love country don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of every country song ever written. If you’re familiar with the genre, “country” music usually involves love, heartbreak, slammin’ screen doors, a few pickup trucks, (occasionally) revenge, and ‘Murica. Those are the broad strokes.
Also, FYI, “Sweet Home Alabama” isn’t a country song.
“What’s your favorite football team?”
If you’re familiar with Alabama college ball, you have a 50 / 50 chance to guess correctly. I like to consider myself a neutral party for most sports-related activities, but even I prefer one team over another — and I don’t even like sports.
“It must be so hot down there!”
Oh, yes. And it’s not a dry heat, so you’re going to feel it. On muggy, rainy days, it’s hard to tell whether you’re walking through wet air or swimming through a mostly-dry cloud.
“Did you grow up in the backwoods?”
Contrary to popular belief, Alabama has roads, electricity, and running water — even in the most remote areas. That being said, it can be pretty remote in the Alabama woods. It’s not a place you want to be if you’re underprepared. Between the heat and the dangerous critters, it’s easy to find yourself in a tight spot.
“Why is Alabama so religious?”
Tough question. I personally believe that Alabama’s religious and conservative nature are both wrapped up in and reinforced by the belief in wholesome family values and respect for tradition. It’s a chicken and egg type of question, but religion and conservatism both strongly reflect the things most Alabamians find important.
“What’s a grit?”
In a nutshell, a grit is ground corn, usually boiled in water or milk.
You can add butter for flavor, but it’s a southern dish that’s used as a base or a side for a ton on of breakfast plates. Some people treat grits like a soup and mix in sausage and ham (or greens) to make a breakfast bowl. Others eat it straight as part of the standard morning lineup — bacon, eggs, grits, and toast — but it’s rarely eaten alone.
“What’s a buggy?”
It’s a shopping cart. Don’t ask.
“What do you guys do for fun?”
If you’re looking for fun in Alabama, most of it happens outside. You won’t find many fancy festivals or big theatre performances across the state unless you live in Birmingham or (sometimes) Montgomery. For those a little farther afield, it’s rural entertainment all the way down. That means hunting, fishing, sports, camping, and any number of recreational pastimes in between.
One of the reasons football is so big in Alabama is because of its indoctrination on the local level. Almost every middle and high school has a football team. It’s a sport beloved across the state. Everybody plays it, and almost everyone supports it.
“Where’s your accent?”
As someone who has lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line and has travelled abroad, people always ask about my southern accent when they learn I’m from Alabama. I don’t know what they’re expecting, but the traditional southern drawl isn’t always well received. Sometimes, we southern folk have to pretty up the language a little to get the rest of the world to pay attention to us.
But don’t you worry: it’s still there. Learning how to turn the southern accent on and off is a skill unto itself, but it’s a pretty valuable one once you cross state lines.
“So if I say I want a Coke…”
We will ask you “What kind?” Don’t be surprised. Also, don’t say “soda” or “pop” unless you want funny looks. This is true even if you encounter an Alabamian outside of his or her local habitat. Those words are foreign to us, particularly in the context of soft drinks.
“Have you been through a hurricane?”
Yes. All Alabamians have been through a hurricane if they’ve lived there for any length of time. Sometimes, it’s the remnants of a hurricane as it moves inland and breaks apart, but overall: yes. Most of the time, a hurricane is just a very windy rainstorm, but every storm is different. Georges just rained nonstop. Ivan threw tornadoes everywhere as it moved inland.
Most Alabamians remember the bad ones. Wanton destruction isn’t something easily forgotten.
“I didn’t think you guys had X down there!”
With the exception of some regional chains (what’s a Safeway?), Alabama probably has something similar to whatever you’re talking about unless it’s really unique. For example: we don’t have the Smithsonian Museum, but we have a ton of museums celebrating fantastic (and sometimes strange) history.
We also have access to modern technology . . . although satellite internet is still a thing in some places.
“No winter? That sounds amazing.”
Alabama winters are usually wet, but you won’t see much by way of snow or ice. This means that the roads are almost always clear, and all of the problems our northern neighbors deal with are foreign to us.
The downside is that we don’t often see dramatic seasonal changes. There’s no “real” fall in Alabama like you’d see in the Northeast. Instead, it’s just wet, muggy, and usually warm, so you won’t see a white Christmas down here unless something has gone horribly awry.