Assume we’re all bible-slinging, boring prudes who don’t know how to have a good time.
As a graduate of the University of Alabama, I can assure you that we are a state full of family oriented hard workers and academic achievers with a (possible facade of)touch of class, all the while having 100-proof bourbon running through our veins on any given day without it being evident.
I’ll never forget an internship on Capitol Hill where the Senator I worked for was in the office down the hall from an Alabama senator. The senator regularly strolled over to knock on our door and ask if we had any limes. He wasn’t making guac, ya’ll. Roll tide.
Be a condescending asshole who makes generalizations about our socioeconomic status, hygiene, and education.
There are a number of people who perpetuate the barefoot, no-plumbing, no-teeth stereotypes, but as a person who grew up in St. Louis once told me, “There are way more hoosiers up north than there are here.” (In St. Louis, the term “hoosier” essentially means unkempt, ignorant, and all together messy individuals.)
Huntsville, AL is nicknamed “The Rocket City” and is the home to the Marshall Space Flight Center (the largest NASA center), and it’s common for Huntsvillians to know or be an actual rocket scientist. Harper Lee hails from Monroeville, AL, where she met her childhood and lifelong friend Truman Capote; Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, was born in Mobile and is a graduate of Auburn. Hardly a group of unproductive rednecks.
Judge us for our fervent loyalty to our SEC teams and assume we love Alabama/Auburn.
SEC football is a part of the culture here comparable to religion. Weddings are scheduled around it. The energy and magic of a Saturday in Alabama can’t be described unless you’ve experienced it — whether you’re on the couch in your jersey with buffalo chicken dip, wings, and ice-cold beer, or screaming your heart out in the stadium after a few too many shots of pregame whiskey. The near panic attacks, euphoric emotional highs, and rock bottom pitfalls are felt simultaneously across the state as each play is made. Don’t be hateful about the fact that you’re not invited and will never truly be let in.
It is, however, entirely possible to get burned out on the whole thing. As one of my friends in Tuscaloosa said: “Don’t say Roll Tide as your response to ‘Where do you go to church?'” If you fall under this category, take advantage of grocery shopping on a game day to find the aisles eerily desolate and barren.
Get frustrated because we take our time.
Whether it’s the lingering manner in which we talk or our measured approach to getting things done right, don’t peg us as “slow.” We often take the time to be intentional and think about what we’re saying, what we’re doing, and the impression that it makes. We also were raised to be hospitable and have a genuine interest in connecting with other people from all walks of life. We get weirded out when we visit other cities and see everyone rushing around, not making eye contact, and giving us a look of sheer bewilderment for smiling and asking how their day was.
Ask if there’s anything to do here.
As a kid growing up in Huntsville, it was routine for me to wander around the Space and Rocket Center — home to rockets, engines, spacecraft, simulators, and yes, space camp. Birmingham is the home of the renowned UAB medical center, a zoo, museums and venues, and has recently been undergoing an economic surge with several fantastic breweries, local shops, and restaurants. Mobile, with the Gulf Coast in its backyard, is the home of Mardi Gras. Orange Beach holds some of the country’s most beautiful sugar-white sand beaches and live-music venues like the Wharf, as well as my personal favorite dive bar in the world, the legendary Florabama.
Assume we don’t have good food.
As one of my friends in Birmingham said, “Someone from California once asked me if we had Mexican food in Alabama. She was 25-years old.” Not only do we have fabulous Mexican restaurants, we have some of the best slap-your-grandma soul food around, and north Alabama specializes in a life-changing white barbecue sauce. Speaking of barbecue, we’re home of the famous Dreamland. The Gulf also has some of the best fresh seafood around. If you assume we kill our own deer and catch our own fish and eat them, you might be right, but we won’t share our recipes for delicious deer jerky, deer chili, or grilled snapper.
When it comes down to it, Alabama is a state rich in history, culture, storytelling, sports, and some of the most interesting folks you’ll ever meet. If you do piss us off, don’t be surprised if we respond with a hearty, “Bless your heart.” We just won’t tell you the real reason we’re smiling because this is Alabama-speak for “You’re an idiot.”