Crossing Cultures: North Meets South

Winston Salem, North Carolina. Not a place I’d ever have thought I would live.  Tony’s job required the relocation and no matter how many times we move, my feet hurt like I ran a marathon. But when I pause to see where we now live, the pain is quickly forgotten.  I see green treetops from every window.  In the distance, I see the outline of mountains in Virginia.  And mostly, I see the ubiquitous Carolina blue sky.

This past two years has been an interesting cultural experiment.  You see, I’m a girl from the North.  North as in New York.  New York as in Queens.  N-O-R-T-H.

And I live in the South – and I’m reminded of it every day. E-V-E-R-Y day.

When I have to slow down and be a better small talker.  (They are much less direct here in the South. Unless, of course, they really don’t like Northerners. Then, they can be direct is a way that is jarring!)

When I have to ask many questions about the menu at a restaurant. (They don’t have grits in the North.)

A restaurant menu in N. Carolina a good example of when Southern hospitality borders on not so hospitable. (I'm not misplaced - I live here!)

When I go to the voting booth to vote on an amendment that would change the state’s constitution to ensure that marriage is only permitted between a man and a woman. (That would NEVER be on a ballot in the North. N-E-V-E-R.)

When I had to ask what the difference is between y’all and all y’all.  (Language – it is tricky! For example:

“Are y’all going to the movies?” means that you are asking if movies are in the plans of the group. The person asking is not focusing on whether the whole group, or just some of them, are going.
“Are all y’all going to the movies?” In this case, the person asking specifically wants to know whether the whole group is going.)

 

When I see a Baptist church. (MANY!)

When I see signs that support and embrace tobacco production.  (When I lived in New York City  in the 1990s I recall ads in the subways that showed images of African Americans smoking and a tag line that said something like “First they made us pick it, now they make us smoke it.”)

When I have to ask for UNsweetened tea. (We offer sugar in the North.)

When I pass through NASCAR country. (We don’t race cars up North, unless you’re into street drag racing, which isn’t quite legal!)

Despite that horrific (in my not so humble opinion) amendment vote, there is much to love about the South.

Like the fresh air.

And the farmer’s markets.

And the hospitality, which is more often than not sincere.

And the small cities with buckets full of charm.

And the sense of community.

And the strong international education scene.

Will I stay in the South for long?  Only time will tell. But for now, I will continue to practice the fine art of crossing cultures.  As Tony has said to me before, without judgment intended, “living here sometimes feels like living on another planet.”

It sure does y’all.

And when I pause to think about his reflection, I gently smile and nod.  I understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Welcome to the south- my home, my culture, where my momma and deddy live. ( I don't really say "deddy," but I do say 'y'all." There's no other word that captures the meaning of y'all. Of course, we're crossing cultures in Peru at the moment, but I look forward to joining you for some good BBQ and baked beans when I return to NC! Enjoy my beautiful state and friendly people. I miss it.

    • Missy Gluckmann

      You are MISSED – especially now that we're 90 minutes closer than before! I am learning so much, still, with each interaction. I cannot wait to hear more about your familiy sabbatical and to do so over BBQ and baked beans. Y'all have fun and see you soon. Time WILL fly! Meanwhile, I promise to enjoy your beautiful state and its myriad of people!

  • As much as I wish I could defend the north…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_c

    🙁

    • Missy Gluckmann

      Good point! I should have specified NY. Interestingly, NYC Mayor Bloomberg gave the Commencement speech at UNC Chapel Hill and ripped into the state about the amendment. Of course, he was in the liberal hub of NC!

  • Drew

    Hey Missy. So sorry I'm getting to this so late. I LOVED the post. The virulent homophobia and other such tendencies are an embarrassment to so many of us. I think a lot of people want to take the fun parts of our culture (the food, the laidback attitude, the music, etc.) and divorce them from those, uh, awful parts that they tend to come packaged with. There's a comment that Patton Oswalt made about the South that I try to tell everyone who's just experiencing it for the first time:

    "In terms of landscape, alcoholism and literary prowess, The South is America's Ireland."

    And PS: I love the North! 🙂

    • Missy Gluckmann

      Thanks so much Drew! I learn every time I step outside. As much as I miss the north, I don't miss the road rage, dirty cities or hectic pace. If only I could take the best of both worlds and blend them! I had not heard that quote before – interesting!

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