Photo: Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

10 Customs You Need to Know Before Visiting Alabama

by Scott Summers Mar 20, 2017

1. Wear your best on Sundays.

There’s something to be said about dressing up — namely that it’s expected on Sundays. Between Sunday service and the post-service family dinner, it’s not out of place to wear something nice. Alabamians take it a step further, because it’s not just God or family we dress up for: It’s also football!

Sometimes, people go all out with their bright orange or deep crimson button-downs and slacks, but most of the time it’s subtle. Maybe someone is wearing a lapel pin or some earrings. It’s just a little way to let everyone else know where the battle lines are drawn. Of course, if you’re catching a big game at the stadium, game day dress (think business casual, with the appropriate colors) is a great way to attend.

2. Be ready for three square meals a day.

There are three proper meals in Alabama: Breakfast, dinner, and supper — and breakfast isn’t a bowl of cereal or last night’s leftovers. Your morning meal can be pretty hefty, while dinner is traditionally a light meal, designed as a holdover to supper.

Alabamians love to eat, and many love to cook, so don’t be afraid to clear your plate when those home cooked meals fly out of the kitchen. That’s how we know you appreciate it.

3. Age comes before beauty.

Respect for age and station are big things in Alabama. Everyone takes pains to make sure that elderly relatives are included. Sometimes that means letting them pick the restaurant or claiming the best seat at the table. Often, it means that they’re served even before guests unless they yield that privilege.

If you’re visiting, most of the time you’ll have second pick of anything. Any host will give you preference on meals and places to sightsee, but our patriarch and matriarchs always get first choice out of respect.

4. We’re all about family, all the time.

Family unity is one of the most important things you’ll see in Alabama. I’m not talking about immediate family. That’s a given. I’m talking about the whole family. All of them, down to second and third cousins, distant relatives, and even friends of the family who didn’t have a place to go when a gathering took place.

If you’re visiting, you’re probably in that last category, but don’t worry! If you’re present and smiling, that’s good enough for us! Get comfortable. Take your shoes off. Stay a while.

5. Mind your Mouth (and your Manners)

Okay, look. This is probably the only serious one on the list: Watch your mouth and mind your manners when you’re visiting Alabama. You can’t go around dropping F-bombs everywhere, insulting people, or otherwise acting rude and disrespectful. Casual vulgarities are out of place, people will notice, and someone may have a mind to do something about it.

Southern culture and tradition doesn’t allow for extreme impropriety. We’re a button-up culture, most of the time, and we pride ourselves on saying “Please” and “Thank you.” Vulgarities and obscenities, which may be casual fare in other parts of the world are heavily frowned upon in Alabama, and harsh words have a way of ringing in everyone’s ears and mind.

6. Hunting season is the best season. (After football, of course.)

Around October, many Alabamians adjourn to the woods with their weapons and their dogs to hunt. It’s a hugely popular activity across the entire state, both in private hunting grounds and on state lands, and often a family-oriented. It’s not uncommon for kids to climb into the tree stand with mom and dad if they’re old enough to stay quiet for an extended period.

7. We have a nice porch for a reason.

If it’s nippy outside, Alabamians might gather in the living room to complain about the cold, but if it’s a nice day during any of the other three seasons, don’t be surprised to find us out on the porch. As a visitor, we’re dragging you out there with us.

Porches are a southern staple, especially in Alabama. You can expect this to be a tradition if you see rocking chairs and swings on the front porch when you approach a home. If there’s room to sit — or if someone got fancy and wrapped their porch in screens to keep the bugs out — then it’s a place for social engagement.

8. We will deep fry almost anything.

It doesn’t matter the occasion or the food. We’ve considered deep-frying it. Turkey, chicken, sausage, potatoes, veggies, butter (yes, butter). It’s a dietary staple, for better or worse, so prepare your palate and your stomach.

9. We also travel south for the winter. We just don’t have to go very far.

While Alabama doesn’t experience the blistering winter of our northern neighbors, Alabamians do get cold, just like everyone else. Our version of “chilly” is about 55 degrees with “cold” being anything below about 40. So, when March rolls around and the temperature climbs back into the 70s and 80s (note: it never actually stopped doing this, but it was cold in the morning and it felt that way), Alabamians pack up the car for a weekend at the beach.

10. We have a spare Mason jar and some iced tea just for you.

In addition to saving your place at the dinner table, we’ve also got an extra jar and some iced tea with your name on it. We probably have a pitch of sweet and unsweet tea in the fridge. Just let us know your preference before we pour you a glass.

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