It’s a Friday afternoon here in Georgia – about 3:15 or so. School is finally out for the day. And all the teachers are breathing sighs of relief. No doubt that’s pretty much the way things are where you are also. However, some things are definitely different and I thought I’d fill you in on a couple of them.
People always ask me if I like living in the south – the heart of Dixie – and they always seem a bit incredulous when I answer in the affirmative. Of course, there are differences, some more obvious than others, but that only serves to add to the charm (and sometimes frustration) of being a transplanted “Yankee.”
Probably the most obvious difference is the accent – that slow Southern drawl is sometimes hard to understand. Even after living here for two years and being consistently surrounded by folks who speak with it, I still have trouble with some of the words. Of course, that works two ways; they don’t always understand what I’m saying either. I call those carbonated drinks “pop” and everyone else calls them “soda.” I have whole days where I must repeat everything I said because no one understood a word I said the first time.
A less obvious difference is the pace of life here in the South. You’ve heard the phrase, “Take time to smell the flowers,” haven’t you? Not only do Southerners take time to smell the flowers, they take the time to plant their own!!!! Summers are long and warm and folks like to sit on the front porch, sip lemonade and talk.
I live in the rural South where everyone knows everyone and their families. Speaking of families, they are very important. Folks visit their “kin” and keep in close touch. Along similar lines, church attendance is common. I teach at a small public high school and the vast majority of the students here are active in their church. That includes worship services (Sunday AM, PM and Wed. evening), youth groups, Sunday School and choir.
Another noticeable difference here in the South is the courtesy men of all ages extend to women of all ages. If I am walking across campus with one of the male students and we come to a door, I never have to open it. The guys always open the door and wait for me to go in first. That is normal behavior for most of the guys on this campus and in this area. I bet right now all you guys are thinking “wait a minute, that’s not such a big deal. I always open doors for my dates.” Right? In the interest of fairness, let me further point out that this happens all the time, not just on dates. It is, however, the attitude toward these little courtesies that makes all the difference. When these guys open a door or carry a chair or do whatever for the “weaker sex” it is a natural sort of action – not something they do as if to say, “Aren’t you impressed with how polite I am?”
Guys are not the only ones who are polite, however. The student body as a whole is a polite bunch of kids. “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, sir” are common replies to questions asked by anyone older than the students – parents, teachers, coaches, salespeople, etc. It is something that I have found is very easy to get used to and I appreciate it very much.
In some ways life here is much the same as it is where you are. My students complain about having too much homework, too many tests and not enough time, as I imagine you do. They like to play football and basketball and baseball and almost every other kind of sport. They have school spirit and classes they don’t like. And, like you, they all look forward to the day when they can get that all important driver’s license. But for all those similarities, there are some very real differences that can only be appreciated by living here in the heart of Dixie.