I gripped my silver fork and the side of my plate, walking toward a table in Lenoir Dining Hall with my new friend, Mikayla. We met a few weeks ago in a journalism course and immediately hit it off. We had many things in common; she is like the Southern version of me.
After I sat down and we started eating, she asked a question I did not understand: “How do you like your grits?”
One of my eyebrows raised, being clearly confused. “My what?”
“Your grits,” Mikayla repeated.
“My grits?” I replied, slightly laughing. “What are grits?”
“Grits,” she reiterated. “You’ve never had them?”
This is one of the first times I realized there are significant differences in culture between Southern and Northern states. I’m still kind of confused about what grits actually are.
I grew up riding the commuter rail into Boston, being a Patriots fan and walking to school wearing a huge coat with the snow up to my waist. In other words, I grew up in Massachusetts and New England for my entire life until transferring to UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall of 2019.
One of the first things I noticed when I visited Carolina was how nice everyone was, also known as southern hospitality.
Whether that be the person taking my coffee order or checking out my groceries at Walmart, everyone just seemed genuinely nice. Not that people from New England aren’t nice – it seemed as though people were sincere and kind, and not just out of politeness.
A cashier actually spent 15 minutes talking with me even after I bought my items.
Another thing I noticed was the warm weather. This was a problem because at the time — I only had maybe four pairs of shorts, respectively, and the rest of my wardrobe was built for 30-degree weather.
I don’t even think I wore my winter jacket for more than a day last year. Then again, the university closed everything down for only two inches of snow. Just two.
I remember walking out of my dorm once to meet my friend, Bethany, wearing jean shorts and a gray long sleeve from Brandy Melville. It was roughly 60 degrees out.
I immediately noticed Bethany wearing jeans and a sweater. “How are you wearing pants? It’s so warm out.”
She replied, “Not everyone is from Boston where it is cold every day.” I died laughing.
A third thing I noticed was how people talk, whether that be different dialects or slang words. Aside from the obvious accent difference, one specific New England slang term comes to mind.
We use the word “nip” to describe a tiny bottle of alcohol, which is known as “an airplane bottle” everywhere else in the United States. I didn’t know this, so when I asked my friends if they wanted to get some on a Friday night, they looked at me like I had three heads.
“What did you just say?”
I, then, had to show them on my iPhone what I exactly was referring to, which was a small alcohol bottle. I really wish someone told me they had a different name outside of Massachusetts.
We still talk about it today.
The fourth thing I noticed is the South has better food. Just going to put it out there.
I had never tried Cook Out, Bojangles or Krispy Kreme before coming to school in North Carolina. Not only is it cheaper, but my taste buds just agree with sweet potatoes, biscuits and sweet tea.
Those are probably stereotypical Southern foods, but overall, I love Southern cuisine.
The last significant thing I noticed is how pretty the Southern landscape is.
Terms like “pretty” or “beautiful” are relative. But, since it is warmer, flowers are more often than not blooming, the grass is greener and the trees look healthy for the majority of the year.
I love Boston and the urban lifestyle, but suburban and rural neighborhoods are gorgeous. I always feel peaceful when walking down the sidewalk and seeing mountains behind houses.
There is one thing I will always identify with though. No matter where I move or where I end up living after I graduate, I will always be a Patriots fan.
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