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, some people in the South struggle to understand people in the North. Southerners have sweet tea and eat 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 Struggle To Greet Strangers In The North
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 Don’t Like Northern Cornbread
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”
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 Like College Football More Than Northerners
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
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!
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
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 Can’t Stand Northern Sweet Tea
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 Get Northern Coffee
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, people drink instant coffee 75% of the time.
Southerners Can’t Believe That Their Decor Is Copied Up North
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
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
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 Can’t Believe That People Toss Bacon Grease
In the North, many 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 Miss Some Restaurant Chains Up North
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.
“Dinner” Means Something Different In The North
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 Don’t Understand Northerners’ “Coke”
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
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
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!
Southerners Don’t Like People Mocking Their Accents
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 Think That Northerners Sound Brash
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 Tend To Wait “In Line” Instead Of “On Line”
What do you call it when you patiently stand in a queue? Turns out that there’s a regional difference in the way people describe this action, and people from the North tend to say that they’re waiting “on line.”
A lot of Southerners don’t get this, because they say they’re waiting “in line.” As Twitter user @catesish explains, “You wait in line, and you GO online on a computer!”
Southerners Want To Know Why Don’t Northerners Use Koozies
Southerners sure love their koozies. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a cushiony foam drink holder that keeps cans and bottles cold, even in the heat of a Southern summer.
People like koozies so much they even have them custom made as wedding favors. As Twitter user MustBeTheMeds posted, “House koozies at the bar? Yup im back in the south”.
Southerners Are Aghast That Northerners Don’t Know What Proper Potato Salad Is
Potato salad is one of those side dishes that has the power to polarize people. There are people who like a more vinegar-based potato salad and there are others who prefer theirs to have a creamy mayonnaise base.
Southerners especially love the latter, especially with lots of mustard in it. And many of them can’t stand the vinegar-soaked concoctions that pass as “potato salad” in the North. Then again, you have those people who enjoy potato salad either way, which is just as confusing.
Southerners Think People Up North Should Know What Okra Is
Up North, many people don’t even know what okra is. (Hint: it’s a vegetable). But in the South, it’s a staple of many meals. Southerners eat an abundance of the green plant and especially love it when it’s deep-fried, as shown here.
There’s even an annual “Okra Strut Festival” held in the town of Irmo, South Carolina, each year, to celebrate the pod-like veggie.
Southerners Have Fond Memories Of Cheerwine
It has a strange name, but that doesn’t stop Southerners from loving Cheerwine, a popular cherry-flavored soft drink from North Carolina. The beverage goes especially well with barbecue.
The reddish drink doesn’t contain any alcohol despite its name. “Cheerwine has the same relation to wine that ginger ale has to ale: that is, it’s roughly the same color,” says Amy Rogers, a food writer for the NPR station WFAE.
Southerners Think Northerners’ Fried Chicken Is Too Bland
How can fried chicken be different in various regions of the same country? Well, if you ask a Southerner, they’ll tell you. Traditionally, Southern fried chicken is made by soaking the chicken in buttermilk and coating it with seasoned flour.
In the North, people typically make it by dipping the chicken into eggs and coating with cracker crumbs and flour before frying and seasoning.
“Aren’t You Precious”
Another characteristic that’s prominent in the south is hospitality. Southerners love being polite and will disguise insults as compliments. Keep this in mind for whenever you hear “aren’t you precious,” because it could be loaded with sarcasm.
They’ll usually say it after a person has done something questionable or if they’ve been offended. You’ll rarely hear it relayed with the conventional connotation that people everywhere else are accustomed to. Did you just call someone dumb? Well, aren’t you precious?
We reckon it’s time to teach you about this word. If you’re having a conversation with someone and you give your thoughts and opinions, then chances are that other person will chime in.
That’s when they kick off their spiel with “I reckon.” In most cases, this southern word substitutes in place of I believe, imagine, suppose, and think. We reckon that these southern phrases aren’t too hard to understand, wouldn’t you agree? Reckon also becomes catchy once you start using it.
What’s that over there? Over where? Over yonder! If you’re visiting in the south and ask for directions, someone might use the phrase “over yonder.” The word yonder might be a phrase you aren’t used to, but used in the correct context and it isn’t tough to decipher.
Bottom line, it translates to over there. A friendly point might be attached to the phrase to aid in which direction “yonder” is, so don’t be too baffled if you hear this.
“See To Christmas”
You’d have to some type of supervision to be able to see to Christmas. Luckily, that’s not what this phrase means. If you’re a woman and you go to a family event wearing a skirt that might be a little short, then chances are you might hear this slang.
You think your outfit is perfectly fine until your grandmother sees it. That’s when she flares her nostrils, slightly offended at the length of your skirt, and says she can “see to Christmas!” All it means is that your garment might be a little too revealing.
Don’t worry, you’re not unattractive. Southerners just have a way with words and will tell you that you’re being ugly if you’re acting unacceptably. Similar to when you get hungry, and you start to have an attitude with people, that’s when you’re being ugly.
If you want to adopt this phrase, be careful who you use it with and around whom. Folks might start to think you’re calling people rough, when all you want them to do is switch up their attitude.
“Sweating More Than A Sinner In Church”
Sometimes, the sun can be rude to the inhabitants of Earth. We didn’t ask for it to feel like we’re slowly descending into the pit of an active volcano. Maybe the air conditioner just broke, and it’s the hottest day of the summer, and you’re stuck inside.
In any of those scenarios, you will be sweating more than a sinner in church. That’s a southern phrase that implies those who do no good feel the heat when they go to church.
“Pretty As A Peach”
Sometimes a woman might look dashing to the eye, and you wish to compliment her. Sure, a simple “you look nice” or “how beautiful” can suffice, but in the south, there’s a different phrase.
Southerners will tell her she looks pretty as a peach. It’s not to be taken in the literal sense, it’s just a short and sweet way of saying a girl how nice she looks. Ladies, next time you frequent the south, don’t be alarmed.
This phrase might be more on the universal side, but you hear it more in the south. If you’ve ever seen a young kid throw a temper tantrum after they’ve been denied that piece of candy, then you know how wild he or she can get.
That would be a prime example of a hissy fit. It’s a handy phrase, and as we said, it’s spread beyond the diction of southerners. Folks on the west, east and everywhere in between use it as well.
Has anyone ever told you to do something that you already planned on doing? It happens all the time, and southerners have a neat phrase to use a response. It’s simple and only two words: fixin’ to.
“Hey, what are you about to do?” “Well, I’m fixin’ to do the dishes then go for a six-mile run.” See, there’s nothing to it. Unless you’re really fixin’ to “fix” something, this usually just means you’re about to do something.
“Too Big For Your Britches”
Southerners typically call their undergarments and pants britches. If you hear the phrase, you’re too big for your britches, that doesn’t mean you’re overweight at all (unless the person is disrespectful). Instead, it means someone might be getting ahead of themselves.
Being too big for your britches indicates that you think too highly of yourself. For example, challenging what your parents say when you’re young will make you too big for your britches, and you might be disciplined.
“Full As A Tick”
We all know that feeling of getting too full after eating a delicious meal. You feel it even more if it’s a homecooked meal, because who cooks better than your parents? Your belly is on the verge of blowing up, so what do you say?
You utter the words “I’m full as a tick.” If you don’t live in tick county, after they enjoy a healthy dose of blood, they can quickly balloon up. It might not be the most inviting thing to visualize, but it’s accurate.
“Hold Your Horses”
Hold your horses! That doesn’t mean to go to your barn and grab hold of your precious animal. This is another common phrase that might not throw you off guard, and it simple to grasp.
If you ever hear this slang, someone is trying to tell you to simmer down and wait. Sometimes, people can get anxious and become impatient, simply ask them to hold their horses and hopefully, they’ll listen to your kind request.
“If The Creek Don’t Rise”
Having a busy life can put a damper on your social plans. People might invite you places, and no matter how badly you want to go, you can’t guarantee your appearance. Southerners have the perfect phrase for this situation.
Take these older gentlemen you see in the picture. Say they meet every Tuesday at the same time, but one of them wishes to do something else on the upcoming Thursday. The other might have plans that night with his nephew, but it isn’t in stone yet. That’s when he’ll say, “Well, Jim, if the creek don’t rise, I’ll be there.” It’s just slang for we’ll see what I can do, but no guarantees.
If you aren’t from the south, then there’s a chance someone from there might throw this term at you. You don’t have to enjoy baseball or even be a fan of the Yankee’s to earn this title.
If someone calls you a Yankee, it merely means they assume you’re from the north, or you act like it. Yankee became popular in the south during the Civil War as a means to refer to Union soldiers.
“Barking Up The Wrong Tree”
You’ve probably heard this phrase before but didn’t know it originates from the south. People put themselves in situations that have them barking up the wrong tree all the time. Most of the time, you don’t even recognize it until someone else tells you.
Generally, you’re barking up the wrong tree when you speak on a matter you’re not too versed in or if you assume the wrong thing. “If you think I’m going to give you $100, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
When you first read this word and hear it, you might be thinking it’s ridiculous. The more you say it, however, you’ll want to indulge it even more because it sounds so fun.
Cattywampus has nothing to do with cats. It means that something is sideways or out of sorts. If you have a painting in your living room and it tilts a little to the right, a southerner will say that it’s quite cattywampus and that you should straighten it.
“Till The Cows Come Home”
You might not own a farm, but the phrase till the cows come home can still apply to you. If someone you know who usually takes a long time tells you he or she will be right back, deep down, you know that’s not the case.
You’ll be waiting till the cows come home for that person. The southern phrase implies that your wait time won’t be short and that you should be prepared to do something else in the meantime.
“No Bigger Than A Minnow In A Fishing Pond”
Southerners like using their metaphors and euphemisms! This phrase is pretty straight forward but might cause some confusion. If you’re telling a story and you need to describe something small, what would you say?
If you’re from the south, then you’re going to say it was no bigger than a minnow in a fishing pond. The goal when fishing is to get something of decent size, but sometimes you reel in some of those minnows that pale in comparison to the bass.
“Three Sheets To The Wind”
If you’ve gotten drunk before, then more than likely this phrase could have been applied to you. When you’ve had one too many drinks, but you swear to your friends that you’ll be fine, they might not agree.
Ten minutes later and you’re standing on the bar asking for the bartender’s number. You’ve for sure had too much alcohol and the phrase three sheets to the wind certainly applies. This phrase has nautical roots but is used commonly in the south today. A “sheet” is a rope that’s unmoored and is flailing about wildly in the wind, just like a drunk person.
“Madder Than A Wet Hen”
We’ve never encountered a wet hen, but this slang term has nothing to do with them. If you hear that a woman is “madder than a wet hen,” you shouldn’t press any of her buttons. There’s no telling what she’s capable of doing when enraged.
Remember, “hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” If you can remember that, then you will be comfortable remembering what the southern phrase madder than a wet hen means.