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25 Things That Puzzle Northerners About Southern Living

Everyone knows that Southerners do things a little differently. But have you ever thought about just how differently they do things? Grab yourself a glass of sweet tea as we explore 25 things that Southerners do that Northerners will never truly understand.

“Sir” and “Ma’am”

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Down in the South, using “sir” and “ma’am” is almost like breathing. It’s a sign of respect and manners, which parents teach their kids from a very young age. If you take a trip to the South, don’t be surprised if both adults and kids talk to you this way. After all, that’s just the Southern way.

A Slower Life

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You’ll probably notice that a lot of Southerners talk a little bit slower, but it’s so much more than that. Sure, some people think that Southerners sound uneducated, but their slow speech is actually because they live life slower than Northern folk. Life’s a bit more laid back in the South, and they leave rushing around for the city people up North. 

Nectar of Life

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In the South, sweet tea is a cultural symbol, so don’t be surprised if you see it at every meal and gathering. The best Southerners know it needs to be strong and sweetened to the heavens, while some like to add a slice of lemon for some extra zing. Sweet tea is part of their famous hospitality, and it’s pretty refreshing on hot days.

Not Just for Sundays

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A lot of Southerners take pride in their appearance and not just when they’re stepping out for church. In their everyday life, looking good is a sign of being proper, so they’ll wear a nice hat or put on some polished shoes. It’s part of their Southern values of showing respect for themselves and other people.

Everything’s Better Monogrammed

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For Southerners, monograms are a stamp of pride, and they love to turn ordinary items into personal statements. It doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of jewelry or some linen because they’ll put their own stamp on it. Some Southerners will even give gifts with monograms on them to make even the simplest presents feel special.

Porch Sitting

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You might just think the porch is just another part of the house, but not for a Southerner. For them, it’s where life happens, and it’s the prime spot for watching the world go by. A lot of Southerners will sit on the porch during the evening to catch the evening breeze on a hot summer day.

Southern Delicacies

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Southern cuisine is all about comfort food that feeds the soul, like fried chicken and grits. It tastes good, but it also brings people together, and these comforting dishes make any kind of meal special. There’s also some history to it, as a lot of this food has been passed down through generations.

College Football is a Religion

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College football is popular everywhere in the States, but it’s got a special place in the South where they take it very seriously. Tailgates and traditions are all part of the game for Southerners, and it’s pretty normal for entire towns to shut down on game days. Why? Well, because everyone’s either in the stadium or gathering around the TV to cheer on the local team.

Every Season is College Sports Season

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But it’s not just college football that’s important here, as college sports are year-round entertainment. They’ll show their school pride with basketball in the winter, then join in the community with baseball in the spring. Whatever time of the year, there’s always a game to get excited about.

Barbecuing is Serious

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A Southern BBQ is a work of art and a competition. Each area in the South has its own style, with each state claiming they’ve got the best ones. If you’re looking for something a little tangier, head over to North Carolina for some vinegar-based sauces. If rich and smoky flavors are more your thing, then you should try a Texas brisket. 

Being Neighborly is the Law

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In the South, neighbors are like family, and you should expect plenty of friendly chats or even the occasional pie brought over just because. They’ve got a real sense of community, which means they’re always helping each other out. Everyone looks out for each other, and you should do the same there.

Canning and Preserving

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Sure, your grandma might like canning, but in the South, practically everyone does it. When summer gives Southerners peaches, they’ll make jam, pie, and everything in between. It’s a way to keep the pantry stocked and to share their harvest with other folk. In the South, everyone gets a taste of the season’s best, and according to Vox, it’s made another comeback.

History and Heritage

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Southerners take their history and heritage pretty seriously. Some people might say it’s just a history lesson, but it’s really a way for Southerners to honor the past and understand where they come from. In Texas alone, they spent over $4.6 billion in 2013 preserving the state’s historic sites so they can keep the stories alive.

Southern Hospitality

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There’s nothing like Southern hospitality to make you feel at home. It’s a genuine warmth that’ll give to everyone, whether they’re a lifelong neighbor or someone just passing through. Southerners will make you feel part of the family in a way that Northerners just never could. Don’t be surprised if you get invitations to sit down for a meal after speaking to a stranger for a few minutes.

Front Yard Socials

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Forget about private fences because, in the South, front yards are where the community comes together. They love having open spaces, open doors, and open hearts. Like most Southern traditions, they’ll let anyone into this tradition, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve known them for five minutes or fifty years.

The Importance of Prom

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Movies like to show prom as a serious event where the whole town gets involved, and in the South, that’s pretty accurate. Lots of high school proms will include parades or even coronation ceremonies for the Prom King and Queen. And it’s not just the schools, as loads of businesses will decorate their storefronts to celebrate.

Going Outdoors

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Since the South has so many wide-open spaces, it’s no surprise that enjoying the great outdoors is a big part of life here, and many Southerners will go hunting or fishing regularly or know someone who does. It’s a time when they can connect with nature and spend quality time with loved ones in the beautiful South. Oh, and to get some food, too.

Small Towns, Big Hearts

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There are loads of small towns in the South, which might have a slower pace, but they’re also full of character. They’ve got people who know your name and probably your grandma’s, too. Lots of small towns have a sense of community that you just can’t find anywhere else, and it’s mostly because of the local festivals and parades that bring people together.

Sacred Sunday Dinners

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For Southerners, gathering around the table for Sunday dinner is a time for family and togetherness. Since everyone’s so busy during the week, what other time do you have to catch up with each other? Plus, with all that delicious food, it’s no wonder that Sunday dinners keep the Southern heart beating strong.


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Quilting can be a way to pass the time, but in the South, it’s how they connect to the generations before. Plenty of small towns will have quilting bees where everyone takes part in stitching the community tightly together. It’s just another Southern tradition that makes everyone even closer than they were before.

Music Tells a Story

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Music is in the South’s soul, and you can see it in every genre. Yes, there’s a huge mix of styles here, but do you know what they’ve all got in common? They all tell Southern stories, and they have a melody for every moment. It’s no wonder the National Endowment for the Humanities called the South “the birthplace of some of America’s most treasured musical traditions.”

Folklore and Legends

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Many Southerners grew up on tales of legendary heroes and tall tales that might just be true. They’ll spend many nights just listening to the soft voices of their elders as they spin yarns to make the world even more magical. These stories are a huge part of their culture because they keep history alive and teach the kids some valuable lessons. 

Real Family Reunions

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Forget your Northern family reunions because nobody does family reunions like South. You’ll see everyone there, including your third cousins and great-aunts twice removed. These reunions are a time to build connections and eat a whole lot of good food. You’re bound to learn something new about where you came from.

Adult Tea Parties

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Around the South, tea parties can be pretty sophisticated, and they’ll usually include fine china and delicate pastries. They’re also an excuse to dress up in your Sunday finest. Everyone’s got their own opinion on what to serve, but they’ll all celebrate this ritual together in one form or another.

Matriarchs and Patriarchs

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Any Southerner who visits the North will probably be surprised at how families speak to each other. Down in the South, everyone respects their elders, no matter what. They’re the heart of the family and give advice that you best take, whether you agree with it or not. Older people are the leaders of families, and you’d do well to remember that in the South.

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