(I do not own this photo.)
South Carolina is not a one-size-fits-all state. The culture dramatically shifts from city to city- even from county to county. However, I gathered many of my first impressions from the lonely first months of intense culture shock after I got married and moved to a tiny town.
I felt a bit like I was smushed in a primitive time capsule; everyone and everything was so darn…redneck. My inner “class radar” was consistently violated, and I’m not even a hardcore city kid.
Suck it up, buttercup.
I thought the south was known for its friendliness, but my discomfort and displacement syndrome wasn’t greeted with the empathy and kindness I longed for. I had no friends, and I stumbled aimlessly over cultural and language barriers, which often pushed me farther into my shell of resentment and isolation.
Bless your heart. (That phrase is an empathetic endearment, but it is also commonly used as a sugar coated insult. It’s a skill to know the difference. Just FYI. ;))
Clearly, my first impressions weren’t a complete or accurate summary of the entire southern region, but like I said, I was experiencing culture shock.
It’s been over two years now, and I can honestly say this house is my home. Granted, anywhere with my little family is home, but still, I think I am more attached than I realize. I have many more acquaintances and a few great friends who are basically a second family. I have come to love a lot of people in my time here.
Time really is a friend when it comes to adjustments. It tends to happen gradually, then one day you look back and realize how far you have come.
I had one of those moments the other day. My husband and I were on the way home from town after dark when we drove into thick smoke, pressed low due to humidity. The woods to our left was burning. No worries, it happens all the time! Down here, owners intentionally start their pine groves on fire to burn out the underbrush. At least ten trees were glowing red hot fire, high in the air as we drove past.
I laughed to myself thinking how bizarre that eerie apocalypse scene would have seemed to me five years ago, but now it’s normal.
I stopped myself. Does this mean I’ve adjusted?
I don’t usually think I love my town, but when I drive to other rural areas for the first time, I think, “This place is weird.”
Does that mean my place feels like home?
I still don’t consider myself “southern,” but apparently I’ve adapted and found my niche. What a happy realization that I have permission to be myself even if it’s different. It is wonderful to be at a point where I genuinely value the unique cultural aspects of SC in my own multi-colored skin.
I am still called a yankee where I live, but ironically my state of residence got me dubbed a Georgia peach when I visited a New York winery in 2014. Apparently, I’m one big melting pot of culture and experience.
Here’s my northern girl list of southern state characteristics that would have seemed foreign to me five years ago.
- BBQ joints- small town gourmet cuisine. To me, “hole in the wall” is a better description, but they do have some good food.
- Armadillos- It’s very common to see dead armadillos beside the road. The only armadillo I ever saw in Pennsylvania made it into the Gazette. 😉
- Spanish moss- southern beauty at its finest.
- Sandy soil- The first time we tilled our garden we found maybe two rocks. Growing up, picking up rocks from the garden was a yearly gardening chore.
- Language barriers- To this day, I hate how difficult it is for me to understand the native black folks in this area. Sometimes I literally can’t understand a word spoken in a sentence. I try.
- Army jets- we live near air force training bases, and it’s very normal to hear the loud Blue Angels show equivalent roar of jets flying overhead. I’m still waiting for the day that someone fails their training or accidentally drops a missile over our house. Ha. Not really.
- Sweet tea- This isn’t on my list because I drink it. (I rarely do) It’s just that sweet tea may as well be water down here. Side-note: if you really want to stand out in fried chicken/sweet tea land, have a healthy diet. Mission accomplished. 🙂
- Local watermelons and cantaloupes- In the summer, I often see gutted school buses hauling watermelons from the field. I wish I would have gotten a photo of the black kid riding a bike down the street with a big melon on his one shoulder. Epic.
- Pine trees- I miss maple trees and northern hardwoods a lot, but I’ve gotten used to the towering pine groves. I can’t say I’ll ever get used to pine needle mulch though. This girl was raised on the rich, black stuff.
- Road-side produce and shrimp stands. They are not limited to stands. Just pull beside the road and sell what you got or caught off the back of your pickup truck.
- Swamps and black water- let’s just say I am still completely freaked out about this element of the south. You won’t catch me splashing in creeks where water snakes can hide. I still prefer my water clear and gushing.
- Mosquitoes- See above. ^ We live next to a swampy area unfortunately. It’s only March, and my ankles are already covered in red bites. This is why our garden tends to go south (get it? ha) in the dead of the summer. The humidity and mosquitoes drive me insane. I react pretty badly to mosquito bites, so this point is definitely a downer.
- Coastal tourism- We don’t go as often as we used to, but I love living so close to Charleston where wide hats and sundresses abound, and the historic buildings are some of the oldest ones still standing in the U.S.
- Mild winters/early spring- I’m afraid I’ve turned into a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold temperatures. 30 degrees feels so much colder than it used to since it’s been years since I’ve lived in arctic northern winters.
- Stickers- the kind that hide in the grass. I grew up running barefoot across lush green grass, but that habit won’t last long here. Ouch!
- Cotton- Southern charm. I never had the chance to see clothes growing in a field before I lived here. The fields were beautifully snowy when we got married in October.
Cheers to adjusting and adapting well. Happy Hump Day!