North vs. South

Listening to: Less Than Jake, “The Rest of My Life”

We’ve been living down here for almost seven weeks, and I’ve wanted to write this entry for about six of those. I feel prepared for it now.

Please note: these are the observations of someone living in the northernmost part of the southeast U.S., who has lived in the Northeast all her previous years. I’ve visited southern states many times in my youth, as my grandparents lived in Tennessee–but visiting and living in are very different things.

These are just the interesting differences I’ve noticed, and are only my opinions and observations. And very little of this is politics-related–this is more about atmosphere and way of life. So, without further ado…

The North and the South: A Comparison


  • North: A cool, reserved demeanor is common. Generally, strangers are polite but keep their distance. Naturally, exceptions abound. An example: I was a regular at Denny’s for over three years, and only one server actually knew my name. Also, walking to the mailbox around neighbors I’ve lived by for two years, there would be brief eye contact followed by a curt nod or a wave.
  • South: They don’t call it “Southern Hospitality” for nothin’. Even just walking to the mailbox, people meet your gaze, ask how you’re doing, etc. Also, I’ve had bartenders and servers ask and remember my name on just one visit.
    • Note: This sounds nice, but it has its downsides. I’ve also had a woman who I’d known for about three hours, and who I’d spoken about six sentences to during that time, asking me detailed questions about my parents’ marriage(s). I’m still not even sure how the conversation got there. This isn’t a single-incident phenomenon, either–people in the South generally want to know more of your business than people in the North.


  • North: Let’s just get this out in the open–I am a woman in a hurry. If I’m out shopping or whatnot, even if I’m just leisurely wandering through the mall to pick out a few shirts, I want to get the job done and get out of there. I don’t have time for people dawdling in front of me, eternally unsure which direction they want to go next. I have always been like this, since I was a little thing, although I’ve forced myself to slow down a little in the past several years.

    In the North, there’s an even mix of slowpokes and speedsters. But even in the North, people just can’t go fast enough for my liking.

  • South: Everyone. Is. Slow. (Unless they’re driving–see below.) This has really forced me to slow down, as I can’t be so rude as to blast around everyone wandering through the store aisles. Still–come on, people. I’ve got places to be!


  • North: This, of course, depends on where you are in the North. In Boston, for example, they all drive like the devil himself is on their back bumper and they’re gonna get that little bastard off, dammit. In New York…well, I don’t know, because I will never drive in New York. Boston was bad enough.

    And everywhere you go, there will be leadfoots and cell phone yappers, tailgaters and people who drive 45 mph no matter what the posted limit is, and people who haven’t used a turn signal in so long that they probably wouldn’t notice if you took out the turn signal lever. It just seems like there aren’t as many of them (except the 45 mph ones, who are always there if you’re in a hurry) up north.

  • South: Where are you people going in such a damn hurry? Because I can guaran-freakin’-tee that, when you get there, you’ll dawdle like you have all the time in the world. And please, I’m beggin’ ya…if you’re going to cut me off, could you at least use your turn signal when you do it? A little warning before you place your back bumper within six inches of my front one would be nice, is all I’m saying.

TVs in Bars

  • North: Generally tuned to local news and/or sports. Neutral stuff that has a higher chance of appealing to more customers.
  • South: If there’s more than one TV, one of them will be tuned to FoxNews. If there are multiple smaller TVs and one larger one, then generally, the larger one is tuned to FoxNews. I offer no opinion about this–just noting it for the record.


  • North: I come from small towns in the mountains. Fireworks in the mountains means lots of echoes, which means the fireworks are good and loud. This can be good and bad: it’s great on the Fourth, when the local fireworks are set off and have amazing, booming sound to accompany the visuals; on the other hand, it also mean you have to listen to all your neighbors, and their neighbors, and their neighbors, set off their own (illegal) fireworks for the weeks prior to and following the Fourth.
  • South: In the flatter areas, it’s like watching fireworks with earplugs. Where’s the boom?! Where’s the earth-shaking noise?! Rather unimpressive, I think.


  • North: It is a Pennsylvania state law that any establishment with a liquor license must stock Yuengling. Flout this law at your peril. Since I hit drinking age, this has been nice, as I thoroughly enjoy Yuengling. Generally, if I’m in Pennsylvania and I’m drinking beer, you can bet it’s Yuengling. It’s both a taste and a state pride thing.

    Other, more formal PA state laws, however, can be annoying. One can only buy beer from state-licensed beer distributors (except six-packs, which can be purchased from bars). One can only buy liquor and wine from state-licensed stores. Strict hours of operation are set, and Sunday sales are a point of controversy and nonexistent in most places.

  • South: A few bars carry Yuengling, and some even have it on tap, but chances are good that I’ll have to find another beer to drink. This has been fabulous, actually–I’ve tried several new beers, and realized, to my shock, that Yuengling is not the only tasty beer out there. Sam Adams Summer Blend, Dead Guy Ale, and Miller Chill are all satisfying to the palate.

    And, specific to Virginia, may I just say…beer and wine in gas stations and grocery stores? Sold past midnight, and on Sundays? Bloody brilliant. I’m sure it doesn’t help the drunk driving rates, and it certainly makes being an alcoholic less complicated…but I do love shopping for wine in the grocery store.

That’s pretty much it, I guess. It’s been a fascinating experience, for this writer, to spend an extended period of time in a part of the country that is so different than the small, two-hundred-mile radius in which I’ve spent most of my life. I’ll always be a Pennsylvanian at heart, but the South has many charms and benefits. I’m sure I’ll come up with more observations as time goes by, and I’ll be sure to add them to the list. If you have any further thoughts or observations, feel free to drop by the comments and speak your mind!


P.S. I started out listening to Less Than Jake’s “The Rest of My Life” on my Yahoo Launchcast. As I wrap up the entry, Unwritten Law’s “Rest of My Life” begins. Odd…

2 thoughts on “North vs. South

  1. I got a kick out of reading this, since I live in the South. I live in Florida, and yes, much of it is much more “southern” than many people think. When I went away to AZ and came back, I had to re-adjust.

  2. You moved out of Johnstown PA?! Where exactly are you? Are you anywhere near Miami Florida? I don’t read Kristophrenia much, but i picked a hum-dinger of a time today. –Your most favorite college roommate…ever.

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