Southern Paradoxes

Since I have lived in Myrtle Beach I have written extensively about my fun adventures and discoveries of Southern culture. I covered everything from the restaurants to the accents to the music. I have taken on the various towns and weather. I have even analyzed snacking habits. But what I am about to do tonight celebrates Southern culture in a unique way that I currently have not addressed.

After eight months in South Carolina I have realized that there are some concepts in this part of the country that might seem to the Westerner as paradoxical or, to borrow a Southern word, wackadoodle. Mind you that I am not saying these Southern ways of life are backwards nor am I implying that Westerners must be living under rocks. Rather I am just happily trying to provide some context and translation that I have picked up on since living here. So very quickly let me go through five habits/attitudes of life in the South that don’t necessarily have wings in the West.

Southern Concept: Dollar stores on every corner.
What Westerners Would Think: Cool, I can now really stretch my dollar bills at numerous businesses.
Reality: Although very familiar with Dollar Tree, before moving to Myrtle Beach I had never seen a Dollar General or a Family Dollar. All of a sudden I couldn’t travel a half mile without passing one of these stores. Initially I thought it was great because I do buy some select items at Dollar Tree and with these two new stores at my disposal, I would have an even wider selection to purchase items for $1. Wrong. Although the name implies that stores such as Dollar General and Family Dollar sell most of their inventory for a buck, this isn’t even close to the truth. Majority of the items are much more than a dollar. The prices are just a tad lower than what you would find at a CVS or Walgreens and the stores themselves are dumps.

Southern Concept: What do you say we do BBQ tonight?
What Westerners Would Think: Sounds great! I love hamburgers and hot dogs.
Reality: I freely say this, us Westerners are so wrong on this. BBQ means pulled pork, brisket, and baked beans. It doesn’t mean using a propane grill to cook food. My whole childhood I grew up thinking that BBQ food consisted of burgers, dogs, steak, and chicken that my dad would prepare on his BBQ at least once a week. I was totally oblivious to the fact that BBQ really referred to flavorful comfort food that had nothing to do with tossing something on a grill and burning it to death.

Southern Concept: Hey bartender, could I please get a shot split four-ways?
What Westerners Would Think: That’s an interesting name for a shot! Does that mean I am getting a shot mixed with four different types of liquor?
Reality: I learned about the craziest drinking practice down South. Bar patrons will order a shot but ask that it be split up between them and their friends. Thus, if you want it split four-ways a bartender would pour a drop of alcohol into four different plastic cups and of course charge the tab for one regular shot. If you wanted to split it two-ways, you and your friend would each get a half of a shot. This is a responsible and noble way to curb overdrinking but this practice hasn’t come close to reaching out west. If it ever does I am afraid to say that people would probably just mock it and laugh at it. The first time a shot ordered this way was when I was with Sidney. She split up some shots and I had absolutely no idea what she was requesting until she explained it to me. I definitely found it very odd.

Southern Concept: USC = University of South Carolina
What Westerners Would Think: USC = University of Southern California
Reality: This really isn’t a Southern thing as much as it is a South Carolina thing. If you go anywhere within these state borders and someone mentions USC, please note that they don’t mean The USC in Los Angeles but rather the University of South Carolina. This persists even though Southern Cal has every legal document signed that says they are the only school that should be referred to by that acronym and even though the 49 other states in the country identify USC as gold and cardinal rather than garnet and black. But I get it, why wouldn’t residents of South Carolina use the natural abbreviation to identify one of their state universities? It doesn’t bother me but it does bother others. Because Myrtle Beach is full of transplants, I have seen several out-of-staters passionately try to tell locals that they are silly to refer to the Gamecocks as “USC.” I found it weird at first but by this time it is just second nature to me…Steve Spurrier is the head coach of the USC football team.

Southern Concept: It is chilly out here.
What Westerners Would Think: T-shirt, shorts, and sunglasses please because I am hitting the pool!
Reality: There is a stark contrast between what Southerners think is cold and what Westerners think is cold. For example, today it was sunny and 65 degrees here in Myrtle Beach. The low didn’t even dip under 40 degrees. I found the weather today and this month heavenly and warm while people who have lived in the South their whole lives call it cold. This is one gap between cultures that will just never be bridged.

I get a kick out of things like these. Although I might joke around and say that one area has it right while the other has it wrong, I realize that these small differences help make this country so great and diverse. I appreciate both Western and Southern cultures. Don’t Blink.

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