The Ground Rules

Tomorrow in Atlanta the New England Patriots will be playing the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl. That means a whole lot of folks from the not-South are descending on the South even as we speak. Now while I would posit that the love of football unites us all, there are certainly some things that will be different, dare I say foreign, to folks who come down here. That’s probably why social media has been rife with memes like this one that set out some ground rules for visitors from the non-South:


So I got to thinking that if there are rules for traveling down here, are there rules for traveling up there … to the North? I’m under no illusions that we Southerners are perfect, and I’m quite sure that there are things we do when we travel that annoy. That’s why I decided to do some highly scientific research (i.e. I put a call-out on social media) to find out just what we should and should not do if ever we cross the Mason-Dixon Line.

Here’s what I found out:

  • As hard as it may be for you to believe, not everybody in the world drinks sweet iced tea. When you go out in the world and order “tea” it might come hot and, if iced, will likely be sans sugar. You can, however, ask for sugar. And speaking of drinks…
  • Don’t ask for a Coke when you really mean Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Sprite, orange drank or some other “soda” or “pop.” We know to ask what kind of Coke you want, but other folks probably won’t.
  • Don’t be overly friendly or ask a million questions. Just politely get to the point of whatever it is you have to say and move along. Apparently not everyone wants to get to know us or be known by us. Go figure.
  • Now brace yourself for this one. Really. Hold on to something. I have to tell you that  no matter how you think your granny will roll over in her grave, no matter how ingrained it is in you, no matter if you got a whuppin’ that one time you forgot to say it, the use of “ma’am” and “sir” is not accepted and generally taken as sarcastic and almost offensive.

I’ll give you a minute here to gather yourself before we move on.

Feel like we can continue? Here we go.

  • Nobody says “Joisey” except people who aren’t from there. This one speaks to the greater issue of accent. Don’t mimic somebody’s accent. Just don’t. You don’t like it when people do it to you. Don’t do it to them. It makes you sound stupid and it’s rude.
  • Get ready to clutch your pearls. You should never ask people what church they go to or where their church home is. I actually think this one should apply no matter where you are. Religion is private, and your nosiness will either make the other person feel awkward or force them to say something that might embarrass you like “I don’t.” When someone asks me this question, I prefer to invoke the following sentiment which I believe was attributed to Dorothy Parker when some asked her age. She said, “If you’ll forgive me for not answering, I’ll forgive you for asking.”

And finally, this should probably be the cardinal rule:

  • Remember you’re in their house. It is incumbent on you to be a good guest and adapt, not on them to change. Just as we don’t like folks coming down here and trying to change us, don’t go up there expecting them to be anything other than who they are.

So go on out and travel. See new things. Meet new people (just don’t question them too much right off the bat). And most of all, just be your good old polite Southern self.

6 thoughts on “The Ground Rules

  1. Should any of you folks, North or South, come to Oregon, two things to know. You aren’t in OreGONE, you’re in OreGUN. That’s how we pronounce it. And the river running through Portland isn’t the WillaMET, it’s the WillAMit, dammit. That’s how we pronounce Willamette. As for sir and mam, Dude fits anywhere. Do come see us, dudes and dudettes.

    1. And if you ever come to California, don’t call SF “Frisco” and no one IN California calls it “Cali”. And as Glennis mentioned, Dude for everyone. It’s also the equivalent of “HEY!” in conversation.

  2. Don’t expect Southern Hospitality anywhere else. Your hosts are not going to bend over backwards for you. They’re not going to re-order their lives to accommodate your visit. Once you’ve become accustomed to Southern graciousness, this takes some getting used to!

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