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.

Fun Differences Between the South and the West

Although I have only lived in South Carolina for just over 20 days it has given me enough time to observe the way of life and culture down here. While I have said more than once that in general people are people wherever you go, different regions do have certain personalities, brands, and quirks. For tonight’s blog post I want to briefly describe five things that are distinctively southern and five things that are distinctively western.


Accents: When I watched movies with southern characters I used to think they purposely exaggerated the accents. They didn’t. Southern people speak with an accent, some more than others, but I love the sound of it. There are certain words that sound absolutely awesome when rolled off the tongue of a southern person.

Phrases: With the accents come the phrases too. The word “ya’ll” isn’t a stereotype of the southern language, it is a word near and dear down here that is used constantly. For the most part everything is “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am.” Many women will address people with words such as “hun,” “baby,” or “darling.” The word “Coke” is a catch-all term for any type of drink. Give me three more weeks and I will have another list of terms to rattle off for you.

Food: I would say food is a big difference for me coming from the west. Seafood is king down here, especially in the area I am living. In the past week I have tried grits, hush puppies, and sweet tea. The south is famous for BBQ and so predictably there are a lot of restaurants specializing in it. Surprisingly I have also noticed that there are many mom and pop wing places down here. I am embarrassed to admit that I haven’t dined at any of these local places but have managed to visit Buffalo Wild Wings twice. As I mentioned in a previous post, you will find alligator on some menus.

Corn Hole: It took me my first full day in Myrtle Beach to realize how popular corn hole is out here. For my western friends asking what corn hole is just think of a bean bag toss type game. You will find people playing this on the beach, in pool areas, at bars, or at any social event. When I attended the Finals Frenzy night at CCU I watched as two teams almost ended up brawling with each other because their corn hole match got so heated. This game is not for the faint of heart.

Mt. Dew and Peanuts: Today I was walking to lunch with our media relations and publications editor and he filled me in on one of his favorite drinks. Explaining his concoction he told me he will occasionally take a bottle of Mt. Dew and pour a pack of peanuts (shell off) into it…and then drink it! I posted this very unique recipe on Twitter and received a few responses back telling me that this is a completely southern thing. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought to mix something like that up.


Coffee Shops: The other day at lunch I had to explain to our director of news and public affairs about the millions of independently owned drive up coffee stands that line the streets in the western states. With my boss helping me out, we explained the size of such a stand by comparing it to an ice shack here in the area (yes, in South Carolina they offer places you go just to pick up ice). I explained how people develop loyalties to such stands and how many of these places now operate under themes such as baristas in bikinis or baristas dressed in zombie makeup. You definitely don’t find Java Huts or the Daily Grind down here.

Annunciation: My friend Sidney and I talked about her southern accent for a few minutes. I then asked if I sounded different to her. She said I did sound different because of the fact that I didn’t have an accent. She said I annunciated my words almost to a fault. That is pretty much the consensus from southerners on how westerners talk.

Cold Weather/Snow: Just like I have very little idea of how bad the humidity will impact me down here, southerners don’t know too much about the bitter cold we face out west. When I tell people that I left Montana when there was still snow on the ground their jaws drop. When I follow it up by telling them that Missoula saw snow just this month their jaws drop even further. I don’t really even get into the negative twenty below temperatures we “enjoyed” this past winter. I just say that the south beats the west when it comes to weather.

More Health Conscious: I could probably put Missoula up against any place in the nation when it comes to the importance of fitness and love of the outdoors so the south doesn’t need to feel bad that I am putting the west ahead of it when it comes to the role of exercise in everyday life. You don’t see people running, riding bikes, walking dogs, and hiking down here like you do in the west. You don’t see the elaborate organic and healthy eating displays either. When I enrolled in my benefits package I was told premiums were higher than back where I am from simply because I now live in an area that specializes in the production and consumption of the tastiest (and not low-fat) food you will find anywhere.

Grocery Stores: I could have used this point under the south heading too but the west category needed one more so here it is. Co-workers asked me what grocery stores I shopped at out west. After I threw out the names of Albertson’s, Rosauers, and Safeway they looked at me with blank stares. You won’t see any one of those down here. Rather the main players are Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, and Kroger.


Definitely some changes to get used to but nothing to rattle me too much. In fact, all of these differences just make this new adventure in my life even more fun. I love experiencing new things and life in the south has provided me with that. However, despite what people tell me, I am 99.9% sure I will never develop a southern accent. Don’t Blink.