Culture Shock

As I reflect on my sixteen year anniversary since moving to this wonderful southern state, I think back on the things that were sort of a culture shock to me.  Granted, I am an English speaking Caucasian by birth, so coming here was a lot less shocking than it probably is for people coming from other cultures, but nonetheless there were (and still are!) some things that really caught me off guard.  It's no wonder these folks down here think it's like it's own country!  I know northern Americans who come down here and experience culture shock as well!

Here are some things I learned when I moved down here:

  • The phrase "bless your heart" is used often and it is not a compliment!  There's a Miranda Lambert song called "Only Prettier" that has a line that says, "I don't have to be hateful, I can just say bless your heart."  The idiot neighbor you have that can't seem to find their ass with both hands?  Bless their heart.
  • People can fake an accent, but it's the inflections and word choices that indicate whether someone is really a native to these here parts.  My husband can ask for a pen or a pin and it all sounds the same to me.  Where I come from, they call it "in-SURE-ance."  Down here it's "IN-shurance."  They do this with a lot of words.  My husband, way back before I had moved here, used to tease me because I'd say stuff like, "I will phone you later."  No one here would ever say that.  Down here, "pop" is either coke or soda, and down here if you order tea in a restaurant, you'll get iced tea.  And quite probably it is unsweetened.  That was very weird my first time.  If you order a side of gravy here, it will be white gravy...where I grew up I had no idea what this was.  
  • I didn't have to go to high school here, but my siblings did.  In my high school back home, I had spare periods where I could go home early.  Open campuses for lunch.  I could skip class without being arrested!  Down here, that is all different.  Closed campus, truant officers.  It's quite an ordeal.
  • Food is different here.  First of all, there is SO much of it.  So many options, so much variety.  So cheap!  They pair weird things together.  Chicken and waffles?  Sorry, I still haven't tried that yet.  Biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak AND chicken fried chicken?  What the heck is going on here?  You can break out into a fight over what true chili should consist of, and to this day I still don't know.  My sister tells me real chili doesn't have beans, but forget that business.  My chili has kidney beans.
  • The pace here is much slower.  This was a hard adjustment for me.  I walk fast, talk fast and I like to live my life at a fast pace.  Down here, people are leisurely.  They savor the moment.  I often, even now, feel frustrated that nothing is happening as fast as I would like.  I am sure to those around me, I seem wound up and frantic in comparison.
  • I didn't really realize this until I went back home the first time, but service people here will fall all over themselves to give you a pleasant experience.  They work hard for their tips, and Americans are great tippers when the service is good.  When I went home the first time, I was appalled at the service I got almost everywhere and it was then I realized how spoiled I had gotten.
  • People here say "sir" and "ma'am" ALL THE TIME.  Kids in school are reprimanded for not saying it.  My own husband will say "yes ma'am" if I ask him to do me a favor. I was too old when I got here to get into this except in a funny way.  Also, people will call others Miss/Mister whatever their first name is.  Miss Brenda or Mister Steve.  These might be your neighbors or your coworkers.  Especially for children to call adult acquaintances, but many of my coworkers do this as well.  At first, I found this very weird and off-putting, but now I find it charming!
I have been here for sixteen years and there are still some days that I feel totally foreign.  I still hear my husband's accent.  There are people (from Louisiana, for example) that I still cannot understand when they are speaking English to me.  I say the word "pasta" like "pass-tah" and people look at me like I am a weirdo.  Nobody here knows what the hell a duotang is.  I forget what they call them here.  When I, in my exasperated way, say, "oh bloody hell!" people find that quite hilarious.

Sometimes they laugh at my accent, sometimes there is miscommunication, but I have zero regrets about coming here.  The people are kind and friendly and so generous, the cost of living is cheap, and the spaces are wide open.  As Frasier says (you knew I had to go there), this is "the only place in this bad ol' world that I choose to call home."  I could go anywhere, and I would if I wanted to, but this is home to me now, this is where I plan to stay.


  1. chicken fried chicken?? LOL

    This whole post is a culture shock for me! LOL


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