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Difference Between Northern and Southern Girls?

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Woods

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I am not trying to get cruel humor started on this thread. Quite the opposite. I've tried to search on the Internet about this, but I can't find any helpful information--just blogs making fun of one or the other.

Personally, I don't see that big of a difference. There are so many different personalities all over the world. I have a lot of northern friends who I cherish. The two major differences I can spot are northerners speak loud (and fast) and they won't touch fried food with a ten foot pole. . . .  ::)

The reason why I'm asking this question is my current WIP is set in the Deep South. I want to point out the southern charm . . . just not sure what to point out.

#1 - January 30, 2012, 05:57 AM

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Well .. be careful .. and make your Southern authentic. Is this set in the present? Because things have changed somewhat. And a lot depends on WHERE in the deep south. Big city? Medium? Small? Rural?

Your larger cities are going to be more mixed. Also any city that contains a military base or a university is likely to be more diverse because both those institutions will pull in a lot of outsiders.

And what age girls?  And where specifically in the South?  I grew up in Georgia, have lived in several states in the last twenty years, and currently live in Texas (for the third time).

I get perturbed when Texas is painted with a broad brush. Texas is a huge state and culture will vary from place. Where I live is definitely more Univision than it is CMT.

And as for Georgia ... which I think is true Deep South ... it depends ... are you talking Atlanta or Vidalia (where the onions come from .. I know.... my sister used to date an onion farmer)?

I have a friend who just moved to Alabama, and Huntsville is a lot different than the lower part of the state, mostly because of NASA being there.

Without specifics, there's not much to rely upon but stereotypes.

So can you zero in on it a bit ...




#2 - January 30, 2012, 06:43 AM
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 06:50 AM by Lill »
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It depends on the time period that you are writing about and the area.  I grew up in the South and love sweet tea.  Bologny sandwiches are big also.  Growing up we went to bunkin parties or sleepovers.  We still  say 'ya'll'  and depending on what part of the South, we extend our vowels.....like eeeegg and my husband's name is Ben, but everyone pronounces it 'bin'.....I have noticed that my friends from up north hold their emotional cards closer to their chest. 
#3 - January 30, 2012, 06:47 AM

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The two major differences I can spot are northerners speak loud (and fast) and they won't touch fried food with a ten foot pole. . . .  ::)

I don't think either of those are true, or are only true for some people. Also, the same could be said for some people from the south. Plus, Northern vs. Southern is a huge area. Are you talking about a specific part of the country that's north of where your story takes place, or a certain area of the south? Because Seattle is different than Boston, which is different than NY, which is different than Minneapolis or Pittsburgh. You could do the same in the south: Charleston is different than Miami, which is different than New Orleans, Houston, Albuquerque ... etc.  And big cities are different than smaller towns.

I don't think you can accurately make any big generalities or cliches about half of the country vs. the other half.

By being specific to one person/town/city/region, you will capture the universal.
 
#4 - January 30, 2012, 06:48 AM
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This is kind of a cool topic. I was a  Navy brat, so I lived in NY, Maine, Georgia, and went to HS in Charleston, SC. I don't qualify as Northern OR Southern, but I did see a lot of differences between the places. These differences are mainly involving the weather, and how people adapt to it than anything else. The food wasn't that different (except for pulled pork), the speech wasn't that different (not overly, and not in any way that would show up in text), and the people weren't that different. Then again, I always lived near universities or military bases. (And still do....)
#5 - January 30, 2012, 07:04 AM
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When I think of Deep South .... I think of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, the Carolinas, Tennessee ... maybe parts of Texas.

I grew up and went to college in areas with a rich Civil War History. I think Atlanta might have gotten over it by now, but I'm not sure about smaller towns. There's a lot of pride in land and history and family. Some areas still get Confederate Memorial Day off. A year or so ago I traveled through the lower halves of the Southern States between Texas and Florida. There was a whole lot of confederate flag, Rebel, gun related merchandise to be had in the convenience stores along that route. The man who cuts my hair (he's Hispanic) and I were discussing that recently ... and how he had to tell his wife to not be so friendly when they traveled that route .. because well .. Mexican can be a bad thing to be in those parts.

A lot of people are really surprised when I tell them how strong the German influence is in South Texas. We've got our Weinerschnietzal right alongside our Taco Cabana.

I don't even consider Florida Deep South. For me Deep South is more culture and attitude than location.

#6 - January 30, 2012, 07:13 AM
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Charleston is different than Miami, which is different than New Orleans, Houston, Albuquerque ... etc.  And big cities are different than smaller towns.

Heck, Charleston is different than COLUMBIA.

Okay, seriously, though. :) I've lived in nine states, and generalities irk the heck out of me. (While in jr. high in Texas, a girl on the bus found out I'd been born in NJ. "What's it like," she said with big eyes, "Up North??" As if Up North were a place inhabited by two-headed aliens.) But it's equally true that culture can vary a lot from place to place, even within the same state (and yes, I'm serious about what I said above, too!) What it boils down to, though, I think is this: Everywhere, people are nice. And everywhere, people have the same basic feelings. But their ways of being "nice" and their ways of sharing those feelings are different. In Charleston, the way to be "nice" and the proper way to be polite in a grocery store is to meet eyes with whoever you pass and say hello. In Michigan, the proper way to behave in a grocery store is to stay out of people's way, and don't make them nervous by staring at them like a weirdo and making striking up unexpected and possibly unwanted conversation. Both people think they're being "nice."

Another reason people have cultural differences is that the specifics of their environment (weather, what kind of jobs people do) can affect how they approach different kinds of tasks. The fishing industry on an island might bleed into the culture, just as the long winter might, or farming, or working in a very dense area where there is little privacy unless you *decide* to ignore what's staring you in your face. (Which may come across as unfriendly, but in a way, it's allowing someone else to have a little privacy they wouldn't have otherwise if you crowd 8 million people onto an island together.)

I agree with Ani Louse--the best way to make something feel real is to make your characters specific *people.* That way, their quirks will feel authentic to them, even if they don't represent the entire species.
#7 - January 30, 2012, 07:19 AM

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The WIP is set south of Georgia (on the coast), and it's present day.

Age of characters: ranging from seventeen to nineteen.
#8 - January 30, 2012, 07:24 AM
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 07:26 AM by Woods »

You need to differentiate your northern states as well as your southern states and your cities from your rural areas. Your stereotype seems to be aimed more at New yorkers -and by that I mean NYC not the state. But all it is is a stereotype. As well as your comment on fried foods. ummmm, No. They eat lots of fried foods in the north also. They might not eat fried snickers bars, but they'll eat pretty much everything else. The handful of northern girls you know personally might not eat fried foods, but the vast majority of them do. Maybe not everyday, but they do.

I do think that whatever you do, you want to avoid cliches and just give your characters unique personalities. You can give them regional touches without making them stereotypes.

#9 - January 30, 2012, 07:37 AM
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Okay so South of Georgia on the coast would be Florida? Or are you talking Savannah and Jekyll Island in Georgia?  Coastal living is going to be a whole 'nother ball game ... as retirees and tourists play into the culture a lot .. and there's a more relaxed atmosphere.
#10 - January 30, 2012, 07:37 AM
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Okay so South of Georgia on the coast would be Florida? Or are you talking Savannah and Jekyll Island in Georgia?  Coastal living is going to be a whole 'nother ball game ... as retirees and tourists play into the culture a lot .. and there's a more relaxed atmosphere.

Talking about good ol' Jekyll Island. :)
#11 - January 30, 2012, 07:44 AM

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Um...I also want to add that The North is a big place. Philadelphia is not rural NJ (yes, thank you, there is such a thing), is not Bangor, is not *gasp* one of those places in the geographic north that nobody even thinks about, like Milwaukee or Missoula or Fargo or Spokane... If you have a specific character you want to be coming from the nebulous North somewhere, maybe it would help to decide on a specific place she comes from, first? Then you could research what the charms of that place are, what people value most there, and what kinds of expectations kids grow up having. If you know the specifics of where she comes from, you'll be able to figure out what feels "different" when she gets to Georgia. (Which naturally opens the question: what cultural group is she interacting with in Georgia? White middle class? Northern transplants? Gullah/Geechee culture?)
#12 - January 30, 2012, 07:47 AM

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Yep, definitely zero in on WHERE north and south. And I just have to throw in my funny story ..I was living in a large city .. and a store clerk kept talking about her boyfriend from up north .. I was thinking they must have had a heckuva commute .. until I realized she meant the north metro area. We lived on the south.

One thing I've learned from moving around so much is .. there is a HUGE difference in an area where few people move in or out .. and a place that is a blend of natives and outsiders. Which is why the atmosphere around a university or a military base will be different. And you can have both those atmospheres in the same city. One side can be old roots ... and the other can have a greater influx of outsiders. Just like where I live now .. a coastal ... retiree ... military town. Old money is on one end, young families and military retirees are on the other. There is a difference in shops, restaurants, churches etc from one end to another ... one is more chain .. the other is more upscale and established ... and I'm not in a humongous metro area.


#13 - January 30, 2012, 08:05 AM
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 08:30 AM by Lill »
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Being of deep southern roots, I wouldn't recommend writing about the South if it's an area with which you are not familiar. I would never write about Wisconsin. I know nothing about it, and my efforts would sound faked and plastic, stereotypes and cliches. If I visited, stayed there 6 months... I might begin to get a feel for the people and the lifestyle and the community. I think writers should write what they know.

As said above, the South is very diverse, complex [and yes, Florida is the South, though another flavor, for certain.] Come down, stay a while. Then write.
#14 - January 30, 2012, 08:27 AM

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I've lived in nine states, and generalities irk the heck out of me. (While in jr. high in Texas, a girl on the bus found out I'd been born in NJ. "What's it like," she said with big eyes, "Up North??" As if Up North were a place inhabited by two-headed aliens.)

Generalities irk the heck out of me too! Here's a good example of something specific, that has slightly different meanings in one state, and totally different from what Olmue was talking about above:

"Up North" in most of Minnesota means something wildly different than in the South or in other places. Up North in MN usually means Northern MN, and sometimes means: anywhere north of where you live in the state. So obviously, when someone in MN talks about up north, what they are talking about depends on the person and the area in the state they are from. Many times up north is followed by a location so that the other people in the conversation will know where you are talking about ... unless you are talking generally about going up north - most people get that reference without a specific qualifier. It's important to realize that even within a state, the same term can refer to something different, but culturally have a meaning that everyone understands. That's why you really have to be specific to your characters.

If you get something slightly wrong, some people might know, and others might not even realize it. Another example is what is the syrupy and bubbly drink called where your characters are from? Is it soda? Pop? Soda-pop? Or Coke? Even best selling authors can and do get that wrong, but most readers won't know that.

<edited to add> posted at the same time as Lill and just saw her comment about, "Up North." So you really do have to do research on the area your characters are from.
#15 - January 30, 2012, 08:29 AM
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 08:32 AM by Ani Louise »
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I'd think you want to focus on what is more specific to the area you're writing in. Coastal Ga/Carolinas is the home of shag dancing - a particular sort of vinegar and mustard bbq sauce - there are live oak trees and cockroaches that crack when you step on them. It's humid like a wet rag and the 'o's' are pronounced differently then anywhere else in the south. "We went roand aboat the hose (with a 's' sound not a 'z' sound). Coastal kids know about marshes and handling boats and eat lots of seafood. Shrimp shacks are the equivalent of an inland burger joint.  Hurricanes are taken seriously and every spring there will be an influx of people from all over the south for spring break. People know families and generations. Where you go to church is a topic of conversation. Politics seem to be passed down to.

As far as generalizations - it's hard to find real sweet tea outside of the south. I didn't learn to say the 'f' word out loud in an argument till I married a Northerner.

Breathing by Cheryl Herbsman is a sweet romantic YA set on the coast of Carolina - very authentically done, I thought. Might be a good read.

I'm an L.A. girl (lower Alabama, not far from where Bubba Gump operated his shrimping business), lived in Atlanta for 8 years, now in the mountains of North Carolina. All are distinctly different. My significant other is a brass, Italian, upstate New Yorker with a loud mouth and arguments happen loudly and are then over, unlike what I'd known from my own family who are more passive and occasionally will hold a grudge.

Have fun with your story.
#16 - January 30, 2012, 08:35 AM
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Given that you're talking about northern vs. southern girls ... and Jekyll Island .. and 17-19 year olds ... is this a Spring Break story?
#17 - January 30, 2012, 09:11 AM
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I've lived in a lot of places: north, south, in between, midwest, and now the west. The biggest differences I've noticed are between urban folks, suburban folks, and rural folks. Regional differences are trivial compared to those. YMMV.
#18 - January 30, 2012, 09:14 AM

"The biggest differences I've noticed are between urban folks, suburban folks, and rural folks. Regional differences are trivial compared to those."

I TOTALLY agree with what Jeff said on this one.
#19 - January 30, 2012, 12:02 PM
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Generalities are bad, I agree, but as someone who grew up in the south and who now lives in the north, it was music to my ears to hear a new student reply, "Yes, ma'am" the other day. I hadn't ever heard that in this area, but I grew up hearing it all the time. It turns out the student had just moved from somewhere in Texas.

The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) might be a good resource to help you track down localized speech patterns.
#20 - January 30, 2012, 01:53 PM

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I don't even consider Florida Deep South. For me Deep South is more culture and attitude than location.



Florida is DEFINITELY NOT Deep South.  LOL.  (I live in the Orlando area)

I agree with others who have said it really depends on the specific place more than "north"  or "south". 
#21 - January 30, 2012, 01:59 PM
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Perhaps I didn't make it clear. . . I'm sorry.  :slaphead: I'm actually from the Deep South and I grew up in Georgia. My MC has lived in Georgia her whole life. I know southern ways, but I just want to know what characteristics stand out the most to people whom aren't from the Deep South (or the Georgia area). What may be considered normal to Deep Southerners may be something abnormal to a non-local.
#22 - January 30, 2012, 02:04 PM

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Well...I guess I still don't understand what you're asking.  If we're not from your character's area, how are we supposed to know what's "normal" or "abnormal"?  Do you really want a list of stereotypes that non-fried-food-eating, fast-talking non-southerners might have about southerners?  :shrug:

I think you might want to concentrate on telling your story and your characters and do your world-building from the inside, rather than worrying about how it might differ externally from other parts of the country. 
#23 - January 30, 2012, 02:49 PM
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I know southern ways, but I just want to know what characteristics stand out the most to people whom aren't from the Deep South (or the Georgia area). What may be considered normal to Deep Southerners may be something abnormal to a non-local.

Every person is going to have a different response to this, many of them conflicting. Since you are writing about a place you know well and love, and that your character knows well, I would focus on what is meaningful to your character (and/or you). Offer up your descriptions, observations, and experiences as true as you know how. Make the southern charm come alive through the character's eyes. The reader will meet you halfway and bring their own background to the table--you can't control what they take away, and every reader is going to interpret things differently. If you are writing with the outsider in mind making assumptions about what they may or may not know, rather than writing from what the main character does know, you risk weakening the writing. The goal is to tell an engaging story, not to instruct--no?
#24 - January 30, 2012, 02:54 PM
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I concur on the anti-cliche vote AND on the big differences being rural v uban not N v S.  

However, I grew up rural Pennsylvania & moved then after college to NC for 7 years. I was in Carolina for all of two weeks before I took a job at a local diner & then a couple months later moved to a biker bar.  When I went home to PA, the biggest thing I noticed was a) accents/regional slang and b) manners.  All thru Carolina, the default was polite: drivers were more courteous; strangers opened doors. "Ma'am" and "thank you" and "Do you mind" were all through people's sentences.  Oh, and Coca-Cola/Co-Cola/Coke meant the same as "pop" and "soda."  No, the food was not all fried in the South, but there were def regional cuisines.  Pig pickins, awesome local diners, BBQ to die for, & OMFG good pies were all over--but I couldn't find what I considered a good pizza or Philly anywhere whereas in PA/NJ they were all over. Kudzu. I was enthralled by it when I first came South. I found that it was a slower pace for pretty much every repairman or mechanic I encountered during those 7 years (which meant that I was downright baffled when I moved to SoCal after the South). The tea, oh! The tea in the South is so much better--sweet like it should be.

Yankee imports who moved down after I'd been there a while always commented on how slow things got done, & when I went home I grumbled about how fast everyone wanted things.

There were more country stations--classic & "new country"--as well as great local music joints where true Blues can be found, which was lacking in the North.  Back home, I found new classic rock bands all over, but the Blues bars were definitely easier to find in the South.

The weather in NC is so amazing that sometimes I swore I could taste flowers from how humid the air is, and on the coast, I still catch myself licking my lips for that salty air. The beaches in the North, California, Pac NW, Ireland, & Scotland don't give me that urge. . . kinda like the South in the Fall never gives me that need-to-inhale bc of woodsmoke & fallen leaves scent.

Response to snow was a biggie.  I'd moved out of an area where 6inches of snow meant a 2hr delay, but in Carolina the hint of flurries closed things & caused grocery dashes. Folks handled hurricane warnings with mixed responses, though. Some people shrugged; others told of the time the warning led to crisis.  

So, I guess my vote is to pull the differences that are little threads.  Those are what always stand out to me and friends who move incessantly.

#25 - January 30, 2012, 02:56 PM

I was in 9th grade when my parents moved our family from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Hendersonville, North Carolina.  I was horrified.  My first day of high school (because, to make matters worse, we'd moved in the middle of the year), I didn't understand what people were saying to me.  The accents were thick -- at least to me -- and I literally couldn't understand.  I felt like people thought I was stupid because I had to think back through what they'd said before I answered.  I had never heard of sweet tea or corn-dogs before, and thought they were both disgusting (I have since become a sweet tea convert).  I was mocked for using the word, "pop."  In NC, if you ask for a Coke, it could just as easily mean Sprite or Diet Pepsi.  I thought the word "Tarheel" was funny and had no idea what it meant.  I got called a Yankee.  Other kids were nice, but they were also curious.  My mother was the second female doctor in the city and everyone was shocked that my father was a house-spouse.

This has changed since then -- in fact, my year may have been the last -- but Gun & Hunter Safety was still being taught when I arrived.  In fact, on my second day of high school in North Carolina, I was taught to shoot a gun in the gym.  With blanks (I assume).  

Now, I love being from the south and I definitely consider myself to be a North Carolinian and not a Michigander... but at 13 years old, I was terrified and angry and angst-ridden.    
#26 - January 30, 2012, 03:03 PM
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"Up North" in most of Minnesota means something wildly different than in the South or in other places. Up North in MN usually means Northern MN, and sometimes means: anywhere north of where you live in the state. So obviously, when someone in MN talks about up north, what they are talking about depends on the person and the area in the state they are from.

Haha yes in San Francisco, everyone says "down south" and means LA... Los Angeles. It took me a long time to understand that (I couldn't figure out why SO MANY people would go to Louisiana or Mississippi for just a concert, baseball game or long weekend!)

I think TV and cable have really erased a lot of regional eccentricity, to be honest, especially among the higher income brackets.  When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, I would visit my cousins in rural Louisiana. While they were often a bit behind in terms of fashion and such compared to NYC or LA, even back then in the dark ages of the 90's they were devoted followers of pop culture. They very often had much less of the thick french-pecan-pie Cajun accent of their parents, and they all were very connected with the popular music, TV and movies that everyone else in America watched -- and they also ALL were dying to leave and go to college in California!  (I ended up going to college in New Orleans - I think THEY all went to UCLA!)  

Also -- even in Louisiana the accents vary wildly. Where my family is from there is a Cajun accent. The New Orleans  accent, though, can often be mistaken for Brooklyn -- it is VERY VERY VERY different from Col. Sanders. ;-)
#27 - January 30, 2012, 03:07 PM
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The yes ma'am/sir  no ma'am/sir thing ... it's considered polite in the south ... but can be viewed as anything from strange to overly formal to rude by northerners. I've heard people from the north complain about it when they were transferred south.

I've heard people outside of the south say the south is slower and more relaxed.

The fact that racism or civil war type loyalties still exist could be a surprise to some.

Regional foods/slang/accents/customs.

A difference in religion. For example, in most of the Georgia I know a Lutheran is an exotic creature ... nobody knows quite what one is ... however in Minnesota or Wisconsin they'd be a dime a dozen. When I lived in Nebraska, there were enough Catholics that serving fish in the schools during Lent was common ... however Baptist churches, particularly those identified as Southern Baptist were hard to find. At least that was so in my area.

Someone else mentioned weather and insects ... those things could be a shock to someone not used to the south .. just as I had to adjust to a whole new climate when I moved North.

I do not know about the Jekyll Island area ... but in the parts of Georgia with which I'm familiar ... family ties, number of generations in the area, land ownership are all important ... as in "Are you one of the Petersons from Hawkinsville?"  Someone from a more urban area, who has no agricultural background could find that odd. Since you've grown up in the Deep South, you are probably familiar with people still being tied to the ol' home place ... if such still exists.

Boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes, okra, bacon or lard cooked with beans, eating the turnip greens instead of the turnip roots, Brunswick stew ... those might all be odd or different from someone who has never experienced the Deep South.

Southerners reactions to extremely cold weather ... or a very rare snowfall would also baffle someone who has always been from the North.

And the obsession with football might be a huge surprise to someone who comes from a more urban type environment.

Also, I've found northerners to be surprised at how in the South people wave or speak to perfect strangers when out and about. That too may vary by area.

Those are some of the things I think would stick out. Hope that helps.
#28 - January 30, 2012, 03:08 PM
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 03:31 PM by Lill »
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 I am a NOrth Carolina gal through and through... and I love Melissa's description of my home state. That's all I have to add to this thread. Everyone else has given you great feedback already! :)

I concur on the anti-cliche vote AND on the big differences being rural v uban not N v S.  

However, I grew up rural Pennsylvania & moved then after college to NC for 7 years. I was in Carolina for all of two weeks before I took a job at a local diner & then a couple months later moved to a biker bar.  When I went home to PA, the biggest thing I noticed was a) accents/regional slang and b) manners.  All thru Carolina, the default was polite: drivers were more courteous; strangers opened doors. "Ma'am" and "thank you" and "Do you mind" were all through people's sentences.  Oh, and Coca-Cola/Co-Cola/Coke meant the same as "pop" and "soda."  No, the food was not all fried in the South, but there were def regional cuisines.  Pig pickins, awesome local diners, BBQ to die for, & OMFG good pies were all over--but I couldn't find what I considered a good pizza or Philly anywhere whereas in PA/NJ they were all over. Kudzu. I was enthralled by it when I first came South. I found that it was a slower pace for pretty much every repairman or mechanic I encountered during those 7 years (which meant that I was downright baffled when I moved to SoCal after the South). The tea, oh! The tea in the South is so much better--sweet like it should be.

Yankee imports who moved down after I'd been there a while always commented on how slow things got done, & when I went home I grumbled about how fast everyone wanted things.

There were more country stations--classic & "new country"--as well as great local music joints where true Blues can be found, which was lacking in the North.  Back home, I found new classic rock bands all over, but the Blues bars were definitely easier to find in the South.

The weather in NC is so amazing that sometimes I swore I could taste flowers from how humid the air is, and on the coast, I still catch myself licking my lips for that salty air. The beaches in the North, California, Pac NW, Ireland, & Scotland don't give me that urge. . . kinda like the South in the Fall never gives me that need-to-inhale bc of woodsmoke & fallen leaves scent.

Response to snow was a biggie.  I'd moved out of an area where 6inches of snow meant a 2hr delay, but in Carolina the hint of flurries closed things & caused grocery dashes. Folks handled hurricane warnings with mixed responses, though. Some people shrugged; others told of the time the warning led to crisis.  

So, I guess my vote is to pull the differences that are little threads.  Those are what always stand out to me and friends who move incessantly.


#29 - January 30, 2012, 03:09 PM
« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 03:12 PM by DonnaE »
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And another thing .. since your setting is Jekyll Island ... there may be things that outsiders wouldn't realize about a vacation/resort/ type town. For example, where I live on the Texas coast there is some resentment toward tourists. People want things to stay the same and they don't want to give up driving down the beach just so some big resort hotel can be built for the tourists. Also, Spring Break is kind of like blizzard season for us. You have to make sure you have all your groceries and stuff in the house .. because getting out around town during those weeks is a major pain. But I have seen things like middle aged sales clerks be very motherly to the barely shirted young men who walk in to buy beer. "Y'all enjoy your visit, but be careful."

Of course, I haven't been to Jekyll in probably over 20 years, so I don't know how different it is from my coastal town.
#30 - January 30, 2012, 03:17 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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