I Used to Think I Was Southern

I used to think I was southern, and then I moved to Georgia.

As a Floridian, I always felt an association with the south. Even my family was from the south. My mom’s side of the family is from rural Georgia, but my great grandparents relocated to Florida in the state’s post-war boom.

Florida has all the trappings of the south — you can find plenty of sweet tea, soul food, country music, and friendly locals. We eat grits, know what collard greens are, and politely smile at everyone. But, as any Floridian will tell you, Florida is a strange amalgamation of cultures. So, alongside that sweet tea you will also find guava pastries, Cuban sandwiches, and lots of geriatric Canadians lol. We also have a huge population of transplants from the northeast, which might explain my Dunkin Donuts coffee obsession. Many joke that the further south you get in Florida the more north you actually are.

While this blending of people and cultures is awesome, it also means that most Floridians (besides the panhandle and north Florida) are not very southern at all. Honestly, Florida is a weird place, and for those of us who were born and raised there (only 1 in 3 people in Florida are actually from Florida), we don’t really have a larger cultural identity (unless “Florida Man” counts). Perhaps that is why I just always assumed the “south” was my closest cultural association.

Boy was I wrong. Living in a small town in Georgia has been a major culture shock. The only options on the radio are literally country or christian music. That is it. I guess I better develop a taste for country music (I have always enjoyed the sound of country music, but I struggle with the misogynistic and patriarchal undertones).

Obviously, I am missing the creature comforts of city life — no grocery deliver service, a severe lack of cuisine options (why is everything fried and what is with pimento cheese?), no cute coffee shops, and no Nordstrom or Trader Joe’s. I also always feel overdressed since no body here seems to wear anything other than shorts, jeans, and t-shirts (of course that feeling changed a bit when I started working on campus). And I am pretty sure my “wild feminist” t-shirt is not going to go over as well here. Oh, and downtown has not one, but two Confederate memorials. I have also been a little shocked by the number of abandon and run-down buildings and historic homes.

I almost forgot about the accents! Wow. Just, wow. At first I kind of chuckled when people spoke. I was not making fun, it just seemed so unreal, like an actor trying too hard to sound southern. It felt like a parody. But nope, that is really how people speak here. I am starting to get used to it though, and honestly I like it. I wonder what I sound like to them? Northern? Do Floridians have an accent?

But I don’t want to paint the picture that it is all bad. People are insanely nice here… like crazy nice. When everyone lost power thanks to Irma, I had more offers that I could count for a place to stay and a warm meal. People genuinely want to know about you. They don’t ask out of politeness, they really listen and engage with you. And there is no getting away with not telling someone your life story. I have also not had to open my own door or carry anything heavy since moving here. Not one person in Tampa offered to help when I spent 2 days struggling down my 3 flights of stairs and out to my car (then again, I didn’t expect anyone to). And while there are a lot of historic homes in shambles, there are also many that have been carefully and lovingly restored (there does seem to be a lot of wealth inequality here).

Apologies that this post is a collection of random thoughts, but I always find it interesting what we learn about ourselves and our worldview when we are placed in a different environment, out of our comfort zone.

While my move has been overwhelming and exhausting (as all moves are), I have tried to embrace my new home and look for the positives… and drive to Atlanta whenever possible. I would love to hear any Atlanta recommendations you have!

Have you ever moved somewhere completely different? What did you struggle with?

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  1. BarksandBaking

    I moved to DC from Iowa for law school several years ago, and while the city itself was an easy adjustment for me, I still get caught offguard by people sometimes. "Well-off" people in Iowa generally have a few hundred thousand dollars net worth at most. In DC, I have run into a surprising number of people my age who don't understand what it's like to live without a trust fund or parents who can pay for everything. I worked several jobs (usually 2-3 at the same time) all through undergrad and law school and would never have been able to do any of it without governments backed student loans.

    Most of my classmates also had parents who were educators or professionals of some kind, and my family is all very blue-collar (mechanics, farmers, factory workers) so I wasn't able to go home and ask for advice or connections the way a lot of them were. Since finishing law school, I'm now in what I would consider the upper-middle class, and I still find it odd! The wealth disparity around here is huge, too. I try to give back where I can (volunteering, pro bono legal work) but there's a lot of need out there.

  2. MushroomStew

    This post stole my heart. My father was a native-Floridian raised there in rural central Florida his whole life before moving to Chicago and meeting my Mom. I just about cried at this very earnest, very truthful commentary on Florida's "southernness"!

    Xoxo,

    Ashley || Sed Bona

  3. #unmatched

    My first job out of grad school was in South Carolina. To say that was a huge adjustment for a native New Englander is an understatement. People were nice, if not too nosy for my liking, I received a ton of questions regarding which church I attended (answer: none of your business). I moved to Charlottesville, VA after a year which was much better fit personally and personally.

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