By spending time in Tennessee and North Carolina this past week, I took advantage of a great opportunity to experience the south. With some time in Florida accounting for my only true taste of how things are in the southeastern United States, I got exposed to a relatively new culture. I thoroughly enjoyed observing both the differences and similarities between the life “there” and the life “here.” In this post I simply want to bring to light the five main themes I observed while in the “Tar Heel” and “Volunteer” states.
Accents – I always thought when I watched movies that took place in the south the actors would greatly exaggerate their accents just to give the film more flavor and extra credibility. Boy, was I wrong. The southern accents in Tennessee and North Carolina are thick. Words are said differently, sentence speed is in a whole other league, and unfamiliar expressions are used. The way people talked made the accent of my travel partner, a Texas native, sound like he was from California. You know a way that a girl can get to my heart?…have a southern accent. I don’t know how else to describe it but many of the women just sounded so sweet when they talked. I sometimes wondered if it sounded like I had an accent when I interacted with the people down there but I never did ask. Any of my southern readers care to answer my question?
Eating Good in the Neighborhood – There is no other place that eats the way the south does. Having traveled through much of the country and indulged in shoving my face at each place, I can honestly say that the south takes the cake. Although too busy to sit down to eat most of the time, we did get to experience some southern dining. The night we got in to Johnson City, Tennessee, we ate at a little dive restaurant called Red Pig Bar-B-Q. The place just had that southern comfort feel the moment you walked in. Right when we came through the doors the owner of the restaurant came up and shook our hands. The special of the day was written out on a chalk board while the rest of the food selections could be found on paper menus. For $9.99 I got a half rack of ribs, baked beans, cheese fries, and garlic bread. The combination and quantity was something I was definitely not used to.
The next day we had to meet with the restaurant that was catering the post-game meal for the football team. During the meeting we were treated to lunch. The server came out and said “This is how it works here…I am going to bring you ten different items and let you eat until you get full.” He then returned with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, Salisbury steak, green beans, cole slaw, biscuits, corn, apple sauce, and two other items I can’t remember. He kept coming back asking us what we wanted more of. We then ate banana pudding for dessert. BBQ places lined the streets, grits were served everywhere, and I am pretty sure no one ever left a place hungry.
No Excuse Not to go to Church – The first thing I noticed once we got in the rental car and started driving from place to place were the vast array of churches. Just a couple of sentences ago I said BBQ places lined the streets but churches still had them covered. Predominately Baptist, these churches were at every corner of our journey. It was interesting to see the different architecture/building design of each one and it was fun to read the marquees as each church had its own thought provoking and clever saying to catch the eye of parishioners. We joked that there had to have been at least one church for every two people who lived in the region. Then again, I kind of think there had to be some truth to this thought because every church we drove past we never really saw anyone outside or vehicles around the structure. But I guess it was not Sunday.
Color Me Green – The areas of the south I visited on this trip had great natural beauty as everywhere we went was covered with lush green trees, bushes, and plants. It seemed like we were on back roads for the majority of our transportation from place to place and it was as if we were driving through Sherwood Forest. It really did look like a fantasy land. The thick green trees extended across the roadways, making for a tunnel of green foliage that we drove through. On Saturday morning, a co-worker and I drove up to an area that overlooked acres upon acres of vibrant forest land. It was quite the sight. Even at Kidd Brewer Stadium you were surrounded by greenness and trees. The humid temperatures and good amount of rain the area receives contributes to its impressive blooming appearance.
Southern Hospitality – Finally, I will remember from my visit the kindness and genuineness that the locals treated us with. As I mentioned in my post from last night, we were treated with class and thankfulness from the Appalachian State fans. The same can be said about the athletic department staff from App State as well. They went out of their way to accommodate us and make sure we had every need tended to. But it goes even beyond the folks at Appalachian State. Everyone who Jimmy and I worked with were top-notch from the hotel staff to the airport personnel to the transportation specialists. But again, it goes beyond them too. Everyone who we just encountered as a byproduct of spending time in the area (from the supermarket clerks to the waitresses who served us breakfast to the people on the roadways) treated us with nothing but consideration and respect. Yes, southern hospitality.
We are constantly told stories, fed stereotypes, and left to wonder about ways of life many miles away. The thing is, we will always be left to wonder unless we actually get to visit the places in question. Luckily for me, I was fortunate to visit an area of the country I had never explored before and was able to bring back with me to the good ol’ west a very favorable opinion. Don’t Blink.