Yankee in the South: Culture Differences

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Yankee in the South: Culture Differences Yankee in the South

Technically I’m not a Yankee. I’m a third culture kid, but for 10 of the last 13 years I lived in New England, so it’s easier to claim being a Yankee than explaining where I’m from. Living in the North for so long and then moving South has made for cultural differences to stick out much more.

Here are a few things that I have come across in my last three years in Chattanooga: 

Manners: Yankees are known to be rude and in a way this is true if you consider minding your own business rude. We don’t say hello on the street unless we know you. We don’t do small talk because we have a feeling that there is an ulterior motive. We get straight to the point and say what’s on our mind. Southerners are better at holding doors, being polite, and striking up conversations with anyone on the street. I always find myself hesitating when people interact with my little one and ask her name because I’m thinking, “Stranger Danger. I don’t know you,” but I know they don’t mean anything by it. 

Speed: Everything moves at a slower pace in the South. When I would visit my husband while we were dating, I could feel the slowness in the atmosphere. Everyone in the North is always in a rush and you can feel it in the air. I struggle in this area. There are times where going slow is great, but there are other times in which I’ve got places to go and people to see.  

Sweet tea: When you order tea in the North, be prepared to add your own sugar. I don’t think I will ever get used to Southern sweet tea. My tea is made with a dash of sugar. Whenever we host people for dinner, I always place a bowl of sugar on the table and warn our guests that the tea is probably not sweet enough. 

Toboggan: The first time I heard someone refer to their winter hat as a toboggan was when there was no snow around. My first thought was, “Why do they need a sled?” Even though the dictionary lists stocking cap as a definition for toboggan, the first definition is for a sled and that’s what I know it as. I will never understand calling a winter hat a toboggan and it is one of those cultural words you will never find me adding to my vocabulary. 

Monograms: Forgive me, but I don’t understand the obsession with monograms and putting them on EVERYTHING. And yes, some of y’all have a problem in this area. I haven’t seen monograms used in such a in your face way anywhere else but the South and I don’t get it. Could someone please explain it to me? 

Mac ‘n cheese: I have nothing against mac ‘n cheese except for when it’s considered a vegetable. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but mac ‘n cheese is NOT a vegetable. The first time I came across this was when I was vising my then boyfriend, now husband. We were out to eat and our waiter went through the daily specials. When it came to ordering, I asked what the vegetable of the day was to which he responded mac ‘n cheese. When he went through the daily specials, my brain didn’t register mac ‘n cheese as a vegetable. I LOVE my vegetables and you will never convince me that mac ‘n cheese is to be considered among them. 

College football: In the North we could care less about college football; what matters is the NFL. 

Barbecue: This is one of those words that I catch myself tripping up on often. If you get invited to a barbecue when up North, don’t expect Southern BBQ. Expect a grill with burgers, hot dogs, vegetables, and chips. Since moving I’ve had to change my vocabulary from barbecue to the terms grilling or cook out. 

Dressing: At Thanksgiving you have turkey and dressing or “stuffing” as we say in the North. My first southern Thanksgiving I was confused about the stuffing. “Where was it? Dressing is supposed to go on the salad.” The only difference between the two is how they look and are cooked. I prefer stuffing.

Chick-fil-A: The obsession with Chick-fil-A. When I was first introduced to Chick-fil-A, I didn’t understand the hype. It just seemed like another chicken sandwich. We didn’t get Chick-fil-A up North until 2015 and fast food wasn’t a thing for me growing up. Since moving to the South however, I appreciate it more, but I am not to the level that some of y’all are at. 

I’ve gotten used to making fried okra and buttermilk biscuits, but there are some cultural differences that I don’t foresee myself incorporating into my life. If you are a transplant, what difference have you come across? Do you find yourself infusing them into your life?  

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Hi, my name is Kimberly and I am a new stay at home mom. I am a nomad of sorts. Born in Arkansas to a military family of five children, I was speaking German by the age of 4. I have lived in Germany, England, and the United States and have traveled to countless other countries. In 2006 I moved to Providence, Rhode Island in order to attend Johnson & Wales University where I received a Bachelor's degree in Food Service Management, an Associate's in Culinary Arts, and an Associate's in Baking and Pastry Arts. So you could say that I'm a foodie.  After college I worked in Collegiate Ministry for many years and loved every second of it. I would do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance today. I met my husband, Wade, in 2011 through Collegiate Ministry but we didn't start dating until 2015. Our entire relationship was long distance and we saw each other a total of 10 times before our wedding. After our wedding in 2016, I moved to Chattanooga where my husband is an associate pastor and I can say that this move was one of the hardest things I had ever done. After two years of marriage we welcomed our daughter into the world this past October. She is a joy, loves to smile, and has turned our world upside down. If I'm not in the kitchen baking or cooking, you can find me outside enjoying nature. 

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m from Texas, where manners and some accents are similar to the South, but much else is different. However, I am very comfortable here. I find the sense of community comforting and endearing.

    Prior to Texas, my father was USN, so grew up in Australia, Japan, San Diego, and Fairfax County VA. I understood the third culture child reference.

    My spouse, Travis, is in ministry, and is the head of a surf team for Chattanooga Christian School. If your spouse surfed in HI, and would like to go along as a chaperone some time, I’m sure he would be welcome.

    Enjoy the day!

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