Start moving like everyday is Sunday.
Welcome to the South, you’re probably not from around here. First things first, take a deep breath and slow it all down. Down here life is a little more simple and relaxed. We take our sweet, sweet time doing things. That doesn’t mean we aren’t efficient, we’re just pretty dang chill.
Pledge allegiance to the chicken fried steak.
Your diet is going to change a little once you’re south of the Mason-Dixon. It’s time to add a few notches to that trusty old belt and trade in your bagels for biscuits. You’ll also have to become comfortable with a few new adjectives to properly order food, specifically covered, smothered, diced, capped, and chunked. Test out your new language skills at Waffle House, conveniently located on every corner.
Commit to an SEC team.
Even if you hate sports, you’re going to need to pick a team and commit to it. That doesn’t mean you have to care about it, but to be a good Southerner, you need to at least pretend that you know something about one of ‘em. Pick the one closest to your locale, memorize the names of some of the popular players, then toss it into any conversation and you’re basically golden. If you blank, just spontaneously say the same adjectives you now use at Waffle House.
Master the art of “passive aggressive.”
Southerners have a way of saying how they feel with a language and tone that don’t necessarily match the meaning. Now, I’m not saying you should do that, too, but you should at least know what to look for. If someone says your cooking was “memorable,” they probably mean a memory they wish they could forget. If someone gives you a compliment like that and you don’t catch on, well, bless your heart.
Learn to subtly wave at every single person you drive by.
I guarantee there’s a country song that gives exact directions, but this really isn’t something to joke about. You’ll wave at every person, in every intersection, in every town you visit in the South. You can even drive for 300 miles, not a pass a soul, but when you finally do, you’ll wave.
Remember that manners matter.
Growing up in the South we might call our friend’s parents by their first names, but you wouldn’t dare answer one of their questions with anything other than “Yes, Sir” or “No, Ma’am.” It’s true, a little Southern hospitality goes a long way, but you’ll be amiss if you don’t meet that hospitality with some steadfast and wholesome manners. But also never confuse manners with etiquette. Like mama always said, “Bad etiquette is using your dinner fork for your salad. Bad manners is pointing out that someone used their dinner fork for their salad.”
Memorize the words to your new state’s “song.”
Every state in the South has “their song.” If you find yourself at a karaoke bar in Nashville you will witness mass hysteria when someone undoubtedly performs “Rocky Top.” The thing about the hysteria, though, is that it’s the most fun type of hysteria you’ll ever encounter. People aren’t just singing, they’re screaming, but they’re screaming with pride for a place they love. You’ll hear “Sweet Home Alabama” in Mobile, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in Statesboro, and a handful of other songs declaring the love of their state, or simply just saying the name of that it in the lyrics.
Always order a Coke.
Even if it’s a Dr. Pepper.
Train yourself to not crave Chick-Fil-A Sunday.
The last step to really becoming a true Southerner is alway the hardest. You have to teach yourself every route in town that takes you around Chik-Fil-A because it’s closed on Sunday. Without a doubt, though, you’ll trick yourself into thinking about it and crave that perfect chicken sandwich all. day. long. Honestly, none of us have ever gotten used to it, but you can’t say we don’t try.
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