Friday, July 15, 2016

Moving to the South Survival Tips

I can hardly believe we've made the three year mark this July 4th. Sometimes it doesn't seem that long ago yet other times, it seems longer (not in a bad way). Either way you look at it, it feels like the home I have longed for, forever. Over the past three years, I've learned a lot about small town living in the South. I'm gonna share my fun list with you based on first hand experience. Now, this is all fun so don't go getting all offended by anything. Laugh, it's good for the soul!

  1. Shorten your "How on earth did you find (fill in town name) from California?", story. Now, if I had a dollar for every time I've had to answer that, I'd be a thousand dollaraire right now. Do yourself a favor and condense your story to ONE sentence because it does get tiresome to repeat. Trust me on this one. 
  2. Who's your relation? Don't lie about this because, well, I'll explain later. Military, job transfer, witness protection.... yes, those too. Don't lie.
  3. Be prepared to meet pretty much everyone in town. After three years, I think there's still a small (minuscule) percentage we've yet to meet. And remembering names... forgettaboutit! I hate to admit, it usually takes me about 3 times before I remember names with faces. 
  4. Be open to new experiences. Culture, food, language, lifestyle, accents, smells, slower pace, the art of porch sitting, seeing dead hunted animals in the back of trucks, mosquito bites, dewy skin, ya'll, mud bugs, BBQ (does NOT mean using your grill, it's pulled pork. Grilling out means using your BBQ), buggy (shopping cart), The Pig (Piggly Wiggly. Yes, it is a grocery store and yes, our main market in town), gas station pizza, limited nights to eat out unless you go into "town" (the city), waving (whether you know 'em or not!) and a whole lot more.
  5. Do not state the obvious. EVER. Every single place on this earth has its downside. Of course it is obvious to everyone living there but for heaven's sake, keep your mouth shut! There are nice, subtle ways of approaching things but calling them out with your handy dandy list is only going to get you one thing; hated. Instead, volunteer your time to help fix what you "think" is wrong. You'll gain friends that way and be less offensive. But again, do not complain about the new place you call home. And again, trust me. 
  6. Your house address means nothing. Every house in a small (historic) town has a name. True story. Our house is the Garner house. Maybe after 20 years or so, it'll be the Anderson house. Or maybe not. You see, here in the South, people don't move that often or "upgrade". Homes get passed from generation to generation and families get raised in these houses until they move off to college or marry out. It's actually pretty cool. Especially when you learn the family's history in town and what they contributed. 
  7. Driving. We live 40 minutes from the city, whichever way you drive. I actually LOVE it. There's no complaining. Period. You just do it and enjoy the drive. It's a two lane highway and some of the prettiest countryside you'll ever see. Embrace it. Use that time wisely by speaking to our Creator. Look around, there's beauty everywhere, from freshly baled fields, deer eating in the shadows of the trees, deer standing alongside the road (ugh!), baby cows, buzzards eating on roadkill and the most beautiful skies you will ever see. You'll have your favorite farmhouses you pass, see who's doing what (once you learn who lives where) and the list goes on. 
  8. SEC. What is that you ask? Football! College ball. The South is S.E.R.I.O.U.S about their football. One of the first questions we got, "Who you for?" Huh? Umm.... pardon?  "Alabama or Auburn?" Umm..... Alabama? "Oh, no! You gotta go for Auburn." Oh, okay. Well, as it stands, we are a house divided even though our Petunia is attending Auburn (War Eagle!). Okay, not only do you have a team, you have to show your spirit! Believe me when I say they take their dress serious! Ladies dress up to go to games. Fancy, school color appropriate fashion. Drop. Dead. Serious! Clothing, jewelry, wreaths, car emblems, flags (both at home AND on  your car) and any other imaginable item you can think up. 
  9. Weddings are scheduled around Football season. No lie. Really. I may go out on a limb and say that quite possibly child birth might be too. Not sure, but maybe. It really is that serious. :)
  10. Sharing. People are genuinely kind hearted sharing their garden bounties. Don't decline, that's offensive!
  11. Don't talk or gossip about anyone! This is where #2 comes in to play. In a small town, EVERYone is related! Everyone. Directly or indirectly, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, 5th cousins, whatever! If you start that nonsense, you're doomed. If you find yourself on the receiving end, keep your mouth shut and just shake your head but never, and I mean never, let one word escape your lips. It's a trap. 
  12. Make friends with everyone. It doesn't take any extra effort to be nice to everyone. Really. And yes, you will say hi to EVERYONE, whether you know them or not. Practice your 'Hey!' because in these parts, that's the equivalent to 'Hi, how are you?'. Say it with a smile, it comes out pretty! And eye contact. Of utmost importance!
  13. Hunting. Whether you are for it or against it, get over it. It is a LIFE STYLE! And there is a calendar and everyone knows what day deer, turkey and duck seasons start. Boys go hunting before school and they have school clubs for it. If you are anti guns and anti hunting, do yourself a favor and do not move to the South. You'll get slaughtered.  
  14. Country music. The lyrics have a whole different meaning. Seriously, you gain real life visual with country music. 
  15. Pets. Everyone has dogs. Multiple dogs. They have jobs and they have human names. And they're family. And horses? Yes, they have real names too. The South is an animal loving region. If someone's pet gets lost, the search party heads out. Yes, I know first hand. Our Mia decided to take a walk about and if it weren't for my wonderful friend, she would have wasted away in the woods or became coyote food. One night in the woods did her in. She doesn't wander anymore. :)
  16. Ma'am and Sir. Oh, Lawdy, Do NOT, under any circumstance, tell someone NOT to call you Ma'am. It's a sign of respect, NOT age! Oh boy, the West Coast does not embrace the Southern way, as far as this is concerned. Children address adults as Miss. Amber, Mr. Bruce, etc. Yes, we have/are teaching our children the Southern way. :) 
  17. Love where you live. It's a place filled with American History. Take it in! Learn about it! Touch it. Feel it. I am still amazed of all of it. Embrace it and take the time to learn. Talk to people, you will learn so much. 
  18. Learn to love the fragrance of OFF. Ticks and skeeters. Enough said.
  19. Southernisms will infect you by osmosis. I swore I would not say Ya'll. Swore. Yeah well, I call BS. It just happens. I still sneak in the You Guys every once in a while but the ya'll, it's a given. 
  20. Humidity... yes it's damp. And yes, in the summer, it's hot and sticky. But, there is a huge difference between that and "dry" air that we were used to. Fact of the matter is, dry hot air is dry and hot whether you're in the sun or in the shade. The beautiful thing about humidity is like a free swamp cooler. Yes, you'll die if you stay in the sun but if you seek out the shade whether it's the porch or the gazillion trees in this beautiful place, you will reduce the temperature greatly. I, personally, love the humidity. Other than the hair frizz, which isn't so bad if you pull it up, I would not trade it in. We do, however, get the occasional "cold front" that pushes that tropical feel to the gulf. Those are pretty special days. 
  21. Tornado warnings. Depending where you are, you will get them. The weather here can get downright ugly! The first full year we were here, I was a wreck. I couldn't sleep and every time the weather radio went off, I made the family get up and go to the basement. As time went on, I learned to check the radar map of our Montgomery News. They are pretty accurate in their timing. And you add the weather app to  your phone for emergent warnings. You just do. I stopped freaking out after realizing that we picked the best place on the map as far as topography is concerned. We live on a ridge and the weather pattern goes around. It's weird but there are houses here that are over 150 years old that have withstood those years of weather. Now, we all just sleep through those thunderstorms. Our greatest fear now is that the oak tree between us and the neighbor breaks and lands on our heads. Oh, and another thing I'm grateful for. No earthquakes. At least with in-climate weather, you get a warning. Don't miss those surprise earthquakes. Nope. 
I could go on forever but this is the gist of it. Be genuine. Embrace a new way of life and be willing to bend a little. I haven't had to because the South has been a dream for me. No culture shock, no changing my ways, nothing. It's just been as good as I could have ever imagined. I have found my true home. Granted, it's not for everyone but it sure as hell is for me.