Coming to the South, I had no idea what I was in for. I grew up in the North, so the North was all I really knew. Here I some things I wish I had known before making the absolute best decision of my life:
Up North, I was lucky if someone pushed the door enough so I could slide through, so coming down South I didn’t expect much. I heard chivalry wasn’t dead but coming from a place where we pay for our own meals on dates, I wasn’t too hopeful. Coming to rocky top, the first time someone held a door open for me, I was extremely appreciative. Little did I know, this was commonplace. Since being here, I’ve had car doors opened (which I didn’t know happened anywhere other than movies), people offering for me to cut in front of them in lines (which I didn’t think happened anywhere), and even people offering to clear my plate for me. While I sit there in awe, my friends from the South don’t think twice about it. So when preparing to head down South, play it cool, southern hospitality is not just a myth.
I was talking to a friend on Facebook the first time I heard “bless your heart”. I didn’t think much about it at first, but after I moved down South, I noticed southern belles generously using the phrase “bless your heart” or “bless it”. Finally, one day, I asked a good friend the true meaning of the statement. Most times it’s used out of pity for a hard situation. More rarely, it can be used instead of “good luck”. Try saying it to a northern friend from high school for fun - they’ll for sure be confused. Then, educate!
Coming down South, I was expecting sunny and 75 weather all of the time. But when October hit, the cold front came in. Some days its 90 degrees and sunny, but the next day it could dip into the 50’s (absolutely freezing!). I’m not saying to bring your parka down before Thanksgiving break, but sweatshirts and long sleeves are a necessity because you truly never know what Mother Nature is going to bring. Layer, layer, layer!
“Y’all” is the word that stereotypes the South from a northerner’s perspective. Coming down here, I did not think I’d adapt to the southern “twang”. However, I picked up saying y’all just a few weeks in. It makes most sentences easier, and saying “you guys” will most likely get you made fun of by a true southerner. The first few times I said y’all, I was called a “fake” or a “wannabe” by a northerner, but the truth is it’s hard not to pick up a word that is used so commonly. And besides, it sounds adorable.
In the South, there are 2 days where people bond together to celebrate something they believe in. Sunday is the morning of church. Everyone wakes up in their Sunday best, heading to their place of worship. Even if you aren’t a religious person, I recommend trying different worship ceremonies with friends, you could learn something and maybe even figure something new out about yourself. Saturday is when everyone celebrates the same thing, and that’s SEC Football. Here, Neyland Stadium sells out every weekend, and win or lose we are al there to cheer on our Vols. So once again, if football isn’t your thing, it will be after your first real SEC game.
The South is a unique place. It is far different from the life I have led up North. It is spiritual, welcoming and everywhere you go feels like home. College is a place to find yourself, and if you are ever unsure of the path you want to take, the South is a place to do that. People go to college to fall in love with a future husband, future sisters, or future bridesmaids, but before they do all of that they will be sure to fall in love with their school.