18 Things People Do in the South That Northerners Won’t Understand

People north of the Mason-Dixon line may never understand some quintessentially southern traditions and sayings, but the South is proudly holding on strong. These are 18 things so intrinsically southern that northerners just don’t get.

Sweet Tea

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If you order iced tea in the North, they will ask if you need sugar with that. In the South, sugar is not optional, as it’s already brewed right into the tea. Maybe sweet tea is where they get their sweet southern dispositions.

College Football

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College football is popular in every college town and amongst alumni. But in the South, college football is almost a religion, whether you went to college or not. “On the East Coast, football is a cultural experience. In the Midwest, it’s a form of cannibalism. On the West Coast, it’s a tourist attraction. And in the South, football is a religion, and Saturday is the holy day,” says Hall of Famer Marino Casem.

Saying “Y’all”

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You guys, youse, and yinz are all common ways to say the plural of you in their regions, but none are as proudly boasted as the southern “y’all.” Every southerner says it; it’s even embroidered on pillows at Cracker Barrel.

Country Music

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Country music has grown in popularity around the country and the world. But country music is as much a part of southern culture as sweet tea and “y’all,” both of which have been known to make their way into country music.

BBQ Varieties

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In the North, when you say BBQ, it can mean anything from going to the neighbor’s for hot dogs and burgers to going to get what southerners know is true BBQ—smoked meats. The love of BBQ doesn’t end with the knowledge that it is a specific way of cooking meat. Each region of the South has its own version, and of course, it’s the best wherever they’re from.

Monogramming

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The South is just a little bit preppier than the rest of the world, and southerners love their monograms. From monogrammed bags and cuff links to monogrammed napkins, there’s nothing southerners won’t slap their initials on.

Fried Food

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Go to the county fair and you’ll see just about everything fried, from Twinkies to butter. In the South, the love of everything fried is a lifestyle, not just a carnival trick. Due South Media says, “The fact that this type of preservation also seasoned the food, making it delicious, was nothing more than a glorious and happy accident. The hallmarks of Southern cooking, as it turns out, were born from survival techniques—frying and salted meats kept people alive.”

“Bless Your Heart”

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Southerners are so polite that even their insults sound sugary sweet. “Bless your heart” may sound like something you would say to someone to convey sympathy, but often it’s an insult that conveys condescension, derision, or contempt.

Religion

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Difference Between states “During the revivalist movement, different religious denominations took hold in different regions. In the South and the West, [which may have seen] fewer opportunities for advancement, evangelical sects were more popular. In the North, those who were better off economically were more attracted to the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Unitarian denominations.”

Snow Days

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Schools will be 100% closed for snow, even if it’s less than an inch. Everything else will close too. Southerners aren’t as accustomed to snow as their northern counterparts. Send someone from Georgia to New England for a winter, and you may not see them until the spring.

Manners

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You weren’t raised in a barn, so make sure everyone knows your mama raised you right. Remember the golden phrases and rules: ‘yes, ma’am’; ‘no, ma’am’; ‘thank you, ma’am’; and ‘please.’ Take your hat off indoors, and always have food and beverages handy just in case a friend pops by.

Heirloom Furniture

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They hand down their mama’s maiden names as first and middle names, so it shouldn’t surprise you to find furniture in a southern home that has been passed down for generations. Family and tradition are the cornerstones of what it means to be southern.

Cast-Iron Skillet

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Every southern kitchen has to have a cast-iron skillet. “If you have a cast-iron skillet, you can make so many things in it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Virginia Willis, author of Basic to Brilliant, Y’all. “It’s a roasting pan. It’s a baking dish. It’s a skillet.” These no-fuss pieces of cookware are often passed down for generations—but don’t you dare put them in the dishwasher!

Cowboy Boots

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In the heart of the South, cowboy boots have sauntered in, kickin’ up a storm of southern charm and sassy style. From honky-tonk dance floors to tailgate parties and front porches, these boots capture the spirit of Dixie, adding a touch of country cool to every southern shuffle. So slip on those boots, darlin’, and let your southern soul shine!

Catching Lightning Bugs

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Southern children know the joy of taking a mason jar out, poking holes in the lid, and chasing lightning bugs/fireflies on a warm summer night. Fun facts about fireflies: they have distinct flash patterns that vary by species and region, and, according to Scientific American, they produce cold light, so they lose less heat.

Debutante Balls

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A debutante ball, sometimes called a coming-out party, is a formal ball that includes presenting debutantes during the social season, usually during the spring or summer. Debutante balls may require prior instruction in social etiquette and appropriate morals. Get ready for all the white dresses.

White Shoes Rule

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Gen Z will hate this one because white tennies are everywhere. In the South, you absolutely do not wear white tennies before Easter! We’d like to think it has something to do with winter and snow, but we already know the South doesn’t do snow.

Funeral Processions

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This is back to the respect and politeness of the South. If there is a funeral procession, you pull off to the side of the road. Northerners are used to their fast-paced lifestyles, which wouldn’t allow them to wait for a long line of mourners to pass.

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