We live in Virginia, but visited Columbia, SC last week, and noticed an even deeper Southern manner, steeped like "Sweet Tea" in long standing tradition.
Yes, etiquette & manners in the South, and the Deep South are uniquely lovely.
How many of y'all are visiting NC, SC & GA beaches this Summer? Driving down? Stopping along the way?
Here are a few Southern tips:
- When in the South, even when passing a stranger on the sidewalk, make eye contact and say "Hello." To everyone. Southerners speak on the sidewalk. "Hey" or "Hi y'all" will do as well. Also make a gesture of a small wave. It shows respect.
- As your Mama taught you, Southerners respect everyone. Always.
- Your Mama said: Never talk about religion or politics. It only ultimately leads to drunken brawls. Southerners raised right do not participate in drunken brawls.
- Speak softly everywhere you go. The public street is not your college campus quad.
- The air is thick in the South. Even the night air. Everything is slow. So, slow down. This is the point.
- After it rains, because it is so hot, steam rises up from the roads like fog. So, go slow. Go slow anyway, it's the South. No hurry. No worry.
- Always ask: "How is your Mother?" or "How's the family?" It shows respect, and Southerners do not like talking about themselves. Southerners always ask the other person how they are and their family are doing.
- Use your magic words in abundance! Please, Thank You, May I and You're Welcome should be used all the time and in daily conversation, even if casual.
- Try to only listen and not to give an opinion, (& especially not a religious or political opinion) but if you must, give it diplomatically and quietly. Southerners do not yell (remember, it only leads to that ugly drunken brawl thing).
- If you order Tea in a restaurant, your server will ask "sweetened or unsweetened." Just know that if you order "Sweet Tea" it will be ICED, and will contain LOTS of sugar. Very sweet! If you want hot tea, you have to say the word "Hot" because, the South is usually about 98 Degrees from May to November, so no one orders "Hot" tea.
- Grits are simply, boiled corn kernels. Hominy Grits have the cereal germ removed. Grits are better left plain with butter. They are good with cheese too. They are also really good with shrimp. They are not so much good with complicated sauces. Southerners do not like their grits swimming around in fancy red & brown nouveau cuisine sauces.
- If you borrow something, return it in due time with a small treat added. Southerners never return an empty container. Because it's empty. What's the nicety in that? Fill it with a little treat, candy, cookies, or recipe. Say: "I've been having this container in my car for a week and I need to return it to you." "Been havin' " is the preferred phrase.
- Don't criticize other people or complain. EVER. It's tacky. The only acceptable public complaint is of the weather: "It's hot outside." Period.
- In the South, if it is not proper it's tacky. Don't aspire to be tacky, because, well, that's just tacky.
- Always dress up, just a bit. It shows respect to yourself and others. Long khaki's at night for men (not shorts). Women: always have on lipstick & mascara. You never know who you'll run into at the grocery store, and you WILL eventually run into a friend of your Mother's at the store.
- Always hold the door. Always give up your seat while on the Bus for an elderly person or a pregnant woman.
- Yes, "Ma'am" and "Sir", albeit recently under scrutiny for smacking of a world "Gone With The Wind" still does show respect, and especially for older persons. It is how they were raised. The custom is to simply show respect. One can also say: "Yes, Mr. Baker" as well.
- Saying "Miss Kathy" or "Mr. Jim" to a stranger, for example on a customer service call, shows respect. It is an old fashioned custom, and this nicety is still practiced.
- Do not chew gum like a cow in public and do not ever smack your lips.
- Do not touch your head, especially at meals or Afternoon Tea. Do not blow your nose at the table. Do not pick your teeth in public.
- If you need to excuse yourself from the table, say: "Please excuse me." No explanation needed. DO NOT say: "I have to go to the bathroom" as this sounds like the "act of." Yuck.
- Do not show distaste for food. If you do not like a certain dish, when receiving it, say: "Thank you" and pass it along to the next person at the table.
- Always bring a Hostess gift. Never show up at any event, party or house empty handed. Southerners do not like empty things, plates or containers.
- Southerners love sitting on the porch. All the time. Winter and Summer. All day and all evening. Some men I know, grew up sleeping on the "sleeping porch" with their Brothers (screened in porch, with a space heater in the Winter) as the girls get to sleep upstairs with the window air conditioner. Many homes in the South still do not have central air conditioning, as it is an expense that is just not a priority. Education, Charity work, and the Debutante "Season" are priorities.
- Southerners sit on the porch, preferably with "Sweet Tea," Lemonade or a cocktail after Five o'clock, but it's always Five o'clock somewhere in the South. Relax! It's the South. It's hot. It's ONE cocktail, if you are of age. If you are not "of age" you may wait (and wait & practice your patience, as patience IS a virtue) for the cherry from your Daddy's Manhattan cocktail, or a strawberry from your Mother's champagne, but you must patiently and quietly wait. Its good for you to practice waiting. If you are of age, and break protocol and get drunk, you have to sleep in the horse trailer with the other bad boys, unless you are a girl, in which case, you'll have to deal with the wrath of your Mother.
- Ladies NEVER get drunk in public or get drunk in private, because, as Rhett Butler said: "if you drink in private, eventually everyone finds out." This shows self pity, desperation or despondency in a self serving way, and tacky behavior such as this from a Lady is just not proper. Seek treatment instead.
- Southerners speak softly, deliberately and slowly, and finish their sentences. So, simply listen slower.
- At school, do not bully other children. Again, it shows selfish interests, and is not polite. Southerners are always polite and never say bad things about other people because it would embarrass the other person, therefore, embarrasses you, yourself! Southerners are leaders, and leaders always make others feel special.
Basically and interestingly enough, old Southern manners are very similar to old European manners. (refer to this column if need be).
One does not have to come from or have money to have manners.
Good manners will take you everywhere. Enjoy!