Things That American Southerners Find Strange About Northerners

The United States is so big that people from different parts of the country have unique cultures. For instance, people in the South struggle to understand people in the North. Southerners have iced tea, Waffle House, and dinner at noon. Meanwhile, Northerners have iced tea with sugar (not the same thing) and dinner at night. Here are many more things that Southerners find weird about Northerners.

Southerners Can’t Stand Northern Sweet Tea

A person pours sugar into iced tea.
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In the South, sweet tea is a staple. You brew the tea, pour in sugar while it’s still hot, and then serve it over ice. In the North, it’s the opposite. People will ice their tea first and then put sugar in it.

Iced tea with sugar is not the same as sweet tea. For one, the sugar will not dissolve in cold water; it’ll just sink to the bottom. Two, Northern tea is not usually sweet enough for Southerners. Anyone who travels up north might be disappointed by their tea.

Southerners Don’t Like People Mocking Their Accents

A woman appears concerned and confused while speaking to another woman.

In 2020, a Quora user asked, “What about northerners in the USA do southerners find the most disagreeable?” One person from southern Virginia said that people from the North–even the northern part of the state–tend to make fun of their accent.

“I have never had a fellow southerner make fun of my accent,” they wrote. “I have been to cities up north and had some horrible treatment from the locals because of my accent.” That said, they also mentioned that many Northerners are still kind regardless of how they speak.

Southerners Can’t Believe That People Toss Bacon Grease

A person cooks bacon in a pan and moves the pieces with a fork.
Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images
Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images

In the North, people try to limit fat consumption by getting rid of grease. But in the South, people save it, especially if it’s bacon grease. They use it for flavor and to clean the pan. Donald Tomlin of Garden & Gun called bacon grease “Southern olive oil.”

Since bacon grease holds all the flavor, Southerners will repurpose it for eggs, cornbread, black-eyed peas, biscuits, green beans–everything. If a Southerner visits a Northern restaurant, these foods might taste different. This is because Northerners will toss the grease instead of repurposing it.

Southerners Struggle To Greet Strangers In The North

A woman waves to someone at a marina.
Martin Birchall/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Martin Birchall/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Life in the South tends to be slower and more relaxed. As a result, Southerners will often talk to each other while going to the store or out on a walk, even speaking to strangers. But people in the North avoid speaking to strangers.

Southerners find their avoidance rude, while Northerners find Southern conversations “nosy.” One Redditor explained the Northern attitude: “It’s not that we don’t like strangers, it’s just that ‘mind your own business’ is culture trait #1 for us.” For Southerners, that’s bizarre.

Southerners Think That Northerners Sound Brash

A model appears offended when she talks on the phone.
Michael Brennan/Getty Images
Michael Brennan/Getty Images

In 2018, a Redditor asked Americans, “Southerners,what grumps you about Northerners?” One user responded, “Northerners tend to be a bit more brash in social interactions than I am expecting.” Does that mean they are rude? No! It’s just that Northern manners differ from Southern ones.

One Northerner provided an example. When they visited a Charleston restaurant, they ordered by saying, “Lemme get….” Although the Northerner meant nothing by it, it still did not go over well with the waiter. Southerners who visit the North might feel surprised by this.

Southerners Don’t Like Northern Cornbread

Squares of cornbread are cut out of a pan.
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

If Southerners taste Northern cornbread, they might not like it. Traditional cornbread is made with cornmeal, butter or bacon grease, and buttermilk. But most importantly, southern cornbread does not have sugar.

Northerners often put sugar in their cornbread, while Southerners do not. Depending on where you order cornbread in the U.S., it might taste different! “Proper tea should be sweet. Proper cornbread should not,” one Southerner told Southern Living. “Sweet cornbread is called ‘cake.'” If you tell Northerners that, they might get a confused look on their face.

Southerners Want Northerners To Say “Ma’am” And “Sir”

A woman speaks with hand gestures at a table.
Jessica Da Rosa/Unsplash
Jessica Da Rosa/Unsplash

In the South, it is common to answer people with “no ma’am,” “yes ma’am,” “no sir,” and “yes sir.” It’s good manners. But in the North, people don’t say that. They might even find it weird when a Southerner is just being polite.

In the “Ask an American” subreddit, a Southerner asked if Northerners think that using these phrases is rude. Most answered that it’s not rude, but strange. “My girlfriend finds it weird when I say “yes ma’am,” “thank you sir,” etc.,” one user wrote. “She is from Boston, I am from south Louisiana.”

Southerners Miss Some Restaurant Chains Up North

Fried chicken is placed on a Bojangle's placemat.
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In 2019, a Redditor recalled how they felt moving from Tuscaloosa to New York City. “I remember being legitimately horrified when I found out that Zaxby’s wasn’t a thing there,” they wrote. Yep, most Northerners have not tasted Zaxby’s chicken, along with a bunch of other Southern chains.

Waffle House, Bojangle’s, Whataburger, Cook Out–all of these delicious chains do not exist in the North. If Southerners visit the North, they might have a hard time finding a decent chicken or BBQ restaurant. On the bright side, Northerners make fantastic pizza.

The Southern Meaning Of “Dinner” Differs From The North

A woman eats at a restaurant with friends.
Alex Haney/Unsplash
Alex Haney/Unsplash

Depending on where you are in the U.S., the word “dinner” might have a different meaning. In the South, dinner is served in the afternoon. Evening or nighttime meals are called supper. In the North, the midday meal is lunch, and the evening or nighttime meal is dinner.

If a Southerner talks to a Northerner about “supper,” the Northerner might not know what they’re talking about. And if a Southerner and Northern plan for dinner together–well, they might arrive at the restaurant at different times.

Southerners Like College Football More Than Northerners

People cheer during a football game.
Joe Raedle/Newsmakers
Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

It’s no secret that Southerners love college football. But Northerners do not seem to share that love. Some Northerners like it, but few are attending their state college’s games like many Southerners do.

“That was the biggest disappointment of moving to New England,” said one Redditor, who moved from the South to the North. “College football is not big here.” Even in the West, college sports tend to be a bigger deal than in the North. Many Southerners wonder why, and what Northerners do with their time while not watching games.

Southerners Don’t Get Why “Honey” Sounds Rude

Two men talk to each other at a table, but one looks unimpressed.
LinkedIn Sales Solutions/Unsplash
LinkedIn Sales Solutions/Unsplash

In the South, people are more likely to call others “sweetie,” “sugar,” or “honey.” These are terms of endearment in many states. But in the North, few people call each other that. They might even think that a Southerner is being condescending.

Depending on the context, using those terms might even be illegal. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Civil Rights, calling someone “sweetie,” “honey,” or “dear” are unprofessional in the workplace. Even if someone means no harm by those terms, they can still bother coworkers.

Southerners Call It A Buggy, Not A Shopping Cart!

Shopping carts are stacked in front of a Target.
Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Pop quiz: what is the metal cart that you wheel into grocery stores? If you answered “shopping cart,” then you likely live in the Northern or Western United States. If you replied “buggy,” then you probably live in the South (with the exception of Florida).

If a Southerner moves to the North, they might get confused when someone mentions a shopping cart. Likewise, Northerners do not know what buggies are. But if any American heads to England, they will have to call it a “shopping trolley!”

Southerners Miss Fried Food In The North

Fried clams and hush puppies are portrayed next to sauce in a North Carolina restaurant.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The American South is known for its delicious fried foods. But in the North, people offer fewer fried foods, and they are not made as well. According to a user on Quora, most Northerners have no idea what hush puppies are.

If you want to find these fried foods in the North, you’ll have to find “novelty items on a hipster menu,” according to the user. Fried catfish, okra, and pickles practically don’t exist there. As a result, a lot of northern food seems bland to a Southerner.

Southerners Don’t Get Northern Coffee

A waiter pours hot coffee into a mug at a restaurant.

If a Southerner visits a Northern friend, they might make coffee differently. Instead of home brewing it, many Northerners use instant coffee–which Southerners do not understand. They also make a lot more iced coffee than Southerners have ever seen.

In the South, pots of coffee are home-brewed, and instant or iced coffees are rare. But they might be surprised to learn that half of the world prefers instant coffee. In Australia and New Zealand, Southerners will receive instant coffee 75% of the time.

Southerners Can’t Believe That Their Decor Is Up North

A farmhouse has rural decor, like a fireplace, painting of a farmhouse, bull statue, and red coffee table.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Distressed wood, chicken-shaped vases, milk crates–all of these make up an interior design style called farmhouse. It was inspired by the American South and remains there to this day. But according to Deep South Magazine, farmhouse design is becoming popular in the North.

Part of it has to do with the popularity of the show Fixer Upper, where designer Joanna Gaines focuses on a “modern farmhouse” look. To Southerners, this might seem weird. Why would Northerners like a farmhouse style when many don’t live on a farm?

Southerners Can’t Find Good Mexican Or BBQ Up North

A man eats kabobs from a barbecue.
Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Because the South is so close to the Mexican border, it has fantastic Mexican food. They also have a long tradition of barbecue. But in the North, you’ll be hard-pressed to find BBQ or Mexican even close to that quality.

According to a Quora user, who moved from the North to the South, BBQ is different in certain regions. In the South, BBQ is “almost certainly pork.” In the North, people might grill multiple meats instead of slow-roasting them. Even the sauce might taste different to a Southerner.

Southerners Believe Northerners Talk Too Fast

Two women talk to each other at a cafe.

Just like Northerners drive quickly, walk quickly, and order quickly–they speak quickly. Southerners might need to ask people to repeat what they said because they were talking too quickly. Meanwhile, Northerners get frustrated because Southerners speak “too slow.” This can lead to an irritating conversation between the two.

The difference stems from linguistics. Because Southern accents have drawn-out vowels and twangs, they talk more slowly than people with Northern and Western accents. Southerners find it weird that Northerners want to speak quickly; what’s the rush?

Southerners Don’t Understand Northerner’s “Coke”

A woman drinks from a Coca-Cola can.
NUTAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
NUTAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Depending on where you are in the U.S., you’ll receive a different response when you say “Coke.” In the South, “Coke” is a general term for any soda. If you ask for a “Coke” at a restaurant, the waiter will ask which specific type of soda you’d like.

But in the North, “Coke” is only Coca-Cola. Other types of soda are called “pop.” Southerners find this weird because when they order a Coke at a Northern restaurant, they really mean a Sprite. That’s a culture shock!

Southerners Think Northerners Are Always In A Hurry

A man hurries while riding his bike and talking on the phone.
Braxton Apana/Unsplash
Braxton Apana/Unsplash

To a Southerner, Northerners act like they are always in a hurry. Since their lives are busy, and everything is close by, they want traffic, stores, and restaurants to move quickly and efficiently. But Southerners think that Northerners are hurrying for no reason.

On the flip side, Northerners often get frustrated by how slowly life moves in the South. Many believe that Southerners “move too slowly,” even in major cities like Atlanta. At best, Southerners think that hurrying is weird, and at worst, it’s annoying and stressful.

Southerners Wish That Northerners Would Try Catfish

A man and his friend eat fried catfish at a restaurant.
Mark Gail/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Mark Gail/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Catfish is an incredibly popular food dish in the South. Fried “chuckleheads” or “mudcats” “polliwogs” remind many Southerners of their childhood. But in the North, most people have never tried catfish. To many of them, the thought of eating catfish is gross!

In the North, most catfish species cannot be eaten. Meanwhile, the largest producers of U.S. catfish are Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Southerners cannot comprehend why Northerners have not tried it and why many refuse to. They are missing out on a childhood delight!