Coming Down

Although a lot of students here at Western were born and raised in the South, there are a handful of us (from the North, obviously), who have flown south for the winter and have never left. For instance, I was born in Connecticut and moved to the North Carolina coast when I was ten years old. Oh, sure, that was thirteen years ago. But I still recall a handful of stark differences between the North and South, as do many other northerners-turned-southerners here at Western.

Of course, it’s all America, so we’re not quite as different as television and movies might make us seem. Moving from the North to the South isn’t quite like changing channels from VH1 to CMT, but believe me, there is a faint tingling of culture shock. For instance, the northerner’s experience of taking three or four steps out of any southern airport is akin to taking three or four steps onto the surface of the sun.

The heat alone down South is an entirely different animal from northern weather. On top of obscene, ceaselessly record-breaking temperatures every spring, summer, fall and portions of winter, the humidity of the South is only comparable to driving (or flying) to hell and taking a long, refreshing dip in the lake of fire. I may not be in peak physical condition, but I know I’m not the only northerner in the South that could carry a canoe everywhere and simply paddle down the river of sweat I produce the moment I step out of air conditioning.

But not all of the differences between the North and South are as significant as ten to sixty degrees of heat. Clichéd though it may be, what southerners call soda really is referred to as pop up North. I say soda, clearly; but it’s been thirteen years, so cut me some slack. I may not speak for the entire population of the North, but I think iced tea is probably the most repulsive drink on the planet and I can’t imagine why people like it so much. But grits are good and southern barbecue wins over northern, hands down. In fact, I think southern food in general is better than northern, so I’m willing to let the iced tea thing go.

The language is different, though that’s true of moving from any one region to another. It’s all English, though, and I only find myself saying “what?” between one and two dozen times a day, and even then only when I’m talking to a construction management major. No, I’m just kidding, folks. Southern slang is no more or less derivative than northern slang, and in terms of pace, I prefer the relaxed, slow speech of a southern fellow over the rushed tone of a northerner. I still can’t say “ya’ll” without sounding ridiculous, but I’m working on it.

I’d say that although the South is openly friendly, it is less tolerant in terms of diversity and alternative lifestyles; the North is the exact opposite. It’s debatable as to whether a simultaneously friendly and unfriendly culture is preferable to a sort of public malaise and loathing of all members of humanity equally, but the differences are noticeable. I can’t say that I agree with many of the beliefs and opinions of die-hard southerners (though there are always exceptions to the rule), but I will say that I do enjoy living amongst people who will return a smile or stop to jumpstart a car with a dead battery.

Sure, there are a lot of differences between the North and South, including some controversial topics that could fill entire pages by themselves. But it’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, Yankees and Southerners are both Americans. We both fly the same flag, we both live by the same laws, and we both hold the same freedoms dearly. Of course, some people simply don’t want to get along; but even the most opinionated among us can celebrate that at least we’re not a part of the west coast.