15 Things Northerners Don’t Understand About The South

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The United States is a diverse nation with a rich range of cultures. One of the most distinct cultural differences is how people live in the northern and southern parts of the country.

Southerners have very different traditions from those practiced by Northerners, and it’s fascinating to learn about them. There are variations in food, activities, and even language.

These unique traditions are a part of being from the Southern states. If you’re unfamiliar with some aspects of Southern culture, now is a perfect opportunity to learn more about it.

1. Fried Foods

Fried chicken in plate
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Southerners are known for their love of fried foods. Fried chicken, pork chops, chicken livers, fish, and chicken-fried steak are regular items on a Southern menu.

Northerners may not understand the fascination with fried foods, but they’re missing out on something delicious. Give these fried foods a chance, and it’s easy to see why Southerners love them.

2. Y’all

Talking to friends
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We grew up learning the plural of the word you is you. That doesn’t stop Northerners from saying “you guys” or “youse” when talking to more than one person or a group of people.

When Southerners want to use the plural form of you, they say “y’all,” which is short for “you all.” It may not be grammatically correct, but it does make a lot of sense in the way it’s used.

3. Peanuts in Coke

shelled peanuts
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One of the most southern of southern traditions is putting shelled peanuts in a glass bottle of Coca-Cola. It’s a tasty combination of salty and sweet flavors contained in a single beverage.

The tradition of putting peanuts in Coca-Cola started in the 1920s. Once the soda is gone, you can eat the Coke-soaked peanuts. A hundred years later, it’s still a “thing” — especially in more rural areas.

4. Cowboy Boots

Woman wearing Cowboy Boots
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If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Texas, you’ll find that its citizens wear cowboy boots with pretty much everything in their wardrobe. From jeans to business suits and formal gowns, cowboy boots are the norm.

In Texas, cowboy boots are the equivalent of sneakers and flip-flops in the North. They can be dressed up or dressed down and are perfect for all occasions.

5. Seersucker Clothing

Woman wearing light clothing
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Unofficially speaking, summer in the South lasts nine months, from March through November. This means wearing fabrics that keep the wearer cool at all times.

Seersucker is the ideal fabric to wear during those blazing-hot months. It’s a lightweight, comfortable material that can be made into anything from shorts and dresses to shirts and suits.

6. Sweet Tea

Iced tea with lemon slices
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In the North, sweet tea is iced tea with a lot of extra sugar added to it. In the South, sweet tea is much more than that, and true Southerners are more than happy to show you the distinction between the beverages.

The brewing process and the type of sugar added to it differentiate extra-sweetened iced tea from sweet tea. One sip, and you’ll know that iced tea and sweet tea are nothing alike.

7. Homecoming Mums

corsage flowers
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Homecoming is a much-anticipated annual event. High school and college students and their families look forward to it every year. It celebrates alumni coming back to their alma maters. Wearing homecoming mums is an integral part of the celebration in the American South.

If you’re wondering what a homecoming mum is, it’s a large chrysanthemum decorated with ribbons, usually in the school colors and worn as a corsage. It’s also called a “football mum” because ladies wear it for the Homecoming football game. The more decorations it has, the better. Football mums are never “too big.”

8. Grilling Outdoors

Grilling outdoor
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The South typically doesn’t experience the freezing temperatures the North does during the winter months. While some Northerners grill in the winter, the milder Southern weather makes outdoor grilling optimal year-round.

Living in the South means being able to grill meat and veggies outside 12 months a year without bundling up in winter gear before starting to cook. How awesome is that?

9. Bacon Grease

Bacon Grease
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When visiting a kitchen in a Southern home, you’re likely to see a shortening or mason jar filled to the brim with bacon grease. Why? Because it has many purposes in cooking.

Bacon grease is an excellent base for homemade gravy or to make biscuits. It can be used for pan-frying vegetables like potatoes, okra, and corn. It can even be used to cook rice.

10. Year-Round Air Conditioning

Air Conditioner
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In the North, air conditioning may be necessary from mid-May to mid-September. In the South, it is usually needed from March through November and possibly into December.

If you’ve never traveled in the South, the year-round heat may surprise you. Be prepared for air-conditioned indoor air with a light jacket or sweater.

11. Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy

Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy
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One of the best dishes from the South is homemade buttermilk biscuits and gravy. They’re not only easy to make, they’re a filling meal that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

While it’s easy to buy premade biscuits and jarred gravy from the grocery store, they’ll never taste anywhere near as good as the homemade ones. The taste alone is worth the extra effort.

12. Calling Sodas “Coke”

Mountain Dew soda
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In other parts of the country, when people talk about soda, “Coke” is short for Coca-Cola. They refer to other sodas by their actual name, like Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew. That’s not the case in the South.

No matter what kind or flavor of soda, it’s always called Coke, full stop. Whether it’s 7-Up, root beer, or orange soda, it’s all called “Coke” in the South. The question is, how does anyone make the distinction between Coca-Cola and other sodas? When the server asks you what kind of “Coke” you want, you say, “I’d like a Dr. Pepper, please.”

13. Hot Sauce

Homemade Hot Sauce
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Whether it’s Frank’s RedHot, Louisiana Hot Sauce, or Texas Pete’s, people from the South love to add a little heat to their food. Hot sauce is a condiment as common as salt and pepper. At local restaurants, it’s not uncommon to see a bottle of hot sauce on the table.

What’s the fascination with putting hot sauce on breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates? Hot sauce brings out the flavor of food while adding an extra kick that black pepper lacks.

14. Grits

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Some Northerners are fond of grits, but many are like Joe Pesci’s character in the film My Cousin Vinnie and ask, “What’s a grit?” Simply put, grits are made from ground corn and are cooked by boiling them in water.

Plain-cooked grits don’t have much flavor until salt and butter are added. People also eat fish and shrimp with grits, making them a terrific morning or evening meal.

15. Voodoo, Root, and Hoodoo

Voodoo artifacts
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While Northerners have probably heard of Voodoo, they probably aren’t familiar with the terms “root” and “hoodoo.” Voodoo is a religion believed to have started in Haiti and can be traced back to African nations.

Hoodoo and root are also based on African practices but aren’t a formal religion. Both are used to cast spells for protection and other purposes, like putting curses on one’s enemies. If you hear a Southerner say, “I haven’t had anything but bad luck for a month. I wonder if somebody put a root on me,” they’re wondering if someone put a curse on them.


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