The American South can sometimes seem like it’s worlds away from the rest of the country in terms of culture, traditions, climate, and landscape. Typically more conservative and traditional than the average US state, the South is known for its hospitality and friendliness. Southerners also have a reputation for always remembering their manners, no matter what situation they're in.
If you want to blend into the South without standing out like a tourist, there are a few etiquette tips that you should be aware of. Find out what they are by reading the list below!
10 Remember Your Manners When Talking To People
The South is known for its manners. People are typically as polite as they can be when talking to others, always respecting their elders. This means that young people are taught to say call those older than them ma’am or sir and to end their answers with those titles. Typically, children in the South don’t call adults by their first names either.
Please and thank you should never be forgotten, as these words are considered a basic courtesy in civilized conversation. As a rule of thumb, be as polite as possible and you’ll fit in fine.
9 Know Your Way Around A Formal Dinner Party
You might get the pleasure of attending a formal dinner party while visiting the South. This can seem daunting if you’re not used to it and there are just a few things to be aware of before you go. According to the Draper James blog, the most important thing is to understand the silverware.
When it comes to your knives and forks, start from the outside and work in toward your plate. The bread plate will be on the left, and the glass will be on the right. At the end of the meal, lay your utensils side by side on the plate.
8 Greet People In Passing
Folk in the South are known for being super friendly. It’s common to greet people that you pass on the street with a simple hello or even a nod of the head. Travel Etiquette points out that you might also like to greet shop assistants in the same way. This will usually encourage them to give you even better service.
Depending on where you’re from, you might be used to looking at the ground when you pass strangers on the street. This could be considered rude in some destinations throughout the South—it’s better to be warm and friendly.
7 Always RSVP Promptly
They take their RSVPs seriously in the South. If you receive an invitation to an event, respond as soon as you can. This makes things as easy as possible for the host. Knowing whether you’ll be there or not will help them to organize catering, party favors, seating charts, and many other details in advance.
You should always RSVP by the date given on the invitation, but if you can, you should respond even earlier. If you have dietary requirements or special needs, give them as much notice as possible.
6 Stay Calm And Collected
Because manners are so prized in the South, it’s common for people to stay as calm and collected as possible when in public. Losing your cool and having a tantrum is the opposite of remembering your manners and is likely to be frowned upon in many states.
Cursing usually isn’t well received in the South, even if you’re really ticked off about something. Trip Savvy recommends keeping a lid on your emotions rather than causing a stir in public when something has ruffled your feathers. Anger management is a must!
5 No PDAs If You Can Help It
Part of controlling yourself in public also extends to another kind of passion—the romantic kind. The landscapes in the South can be so beautiful that you might not be able to resist smooching your partner. But try to do it in private rather than public.
Many of the Southern states tend to be more conservative than the rest of the country. They value modesty in all things, so anything beyond kissing would probably be seen as hugely inappropriate. Keep the PDAs for behind closed doors to avoid offending locals.
4 Chivalry Is Alive In The South
Being more conservative than the average American state, the South also tends to uphold traditional chivalrous ideals. You’ll often notice that men open doors for ladies or stand when ladies enter the room. They might also help ladies with their coats and walk on the street side of the sidewalk so the lady can walk on the safer side.
Chivalrous acts like this can be seen as patronizing for some women, depending on the culture they come from. Other women may find it flattering. In any case, this kind of behavior is still quite common in the South.
3 Never Be Late
Southerners show respect for others and expect the same kind of treatment back in return. This means that they always try to be punctual and anticipate that other people will be too. In general, you should not only aim to arrive on time in the South but even to arrive a few minutes early.
It’s not considered polite to arrive early to a party because this can cause stress for the host who may not be ready. But otherwise, arriving early is always preferable to arriving late.
2 Go For Modesty Over Arrogance
Modesty is heavily woven into Southern ideals and this extends to all areas of life. This is especially true when it comes to displaying signs of wealth, accomplishments, and possessions. Of course, you will find Southerners that brag about what they own and have achieved, but that doesn’t mean it’s considered polite or good etiquette.
Instead, modesty is always valued over arrogance. You don’t have to downplay your achievements, but try to stay humble. Allowing your head to swell will leave a bad taste in the mouths of locals you talk to.
1 Be Respectful Around State And Country Flags
Americans, in general, tend to be quite patriotic and feel passionate about their country flag. In the South, this patriotic attitude is usually amplified. Southerners are very loyal people and often display their state flags with pride. So you’ll want to avoid being disrespectful around State and country flags.
This means never vandalizing a flag or stepping on it. It’s also a good idea to avoid making negative comments about the flag in public. You should also only wear clothes brandishing the American/State flag if there’s no controversial or offensive message behind the image.