A More Genteel Culture

You might recall a post from several weeks back about how people are generally nicer in the South.  However the topic deserves more exploration.  As I noted mannerisms are different and there is more of an emphasis on politeness. For example it is considered polite to look at strangers passing by and smile.  In New York most would find that a bit weird.  At a party, you are expected to talk to everyone in a room instead of ignoring that one person you can’t stand.  Oh and cursing is not considered polite.  I haven’t heard that since elementary school.

Southern culture places an emphasis on being courteous and genteel.  You are expected to be nice to people and welcome newcomers.   That is one of the things that makes this part of the country unique.   For the folks down here, politeness is more than just something you pay lip service to it’s a way of life.  It’s refreshing in many ways.

Yet not everyone follows it.  Of course Southerners are human too and so it is to be expected that not everyone will follow the rules of Southern Hospitality to the same degree.  Culture is not a computer program.  But what is the point of politeness without friendliness?  Once again I am not accusing Southerners of being unfriendly, but the two are not the same.   In my experience some people are truly warm and hospitable and other are phony.  That is not unique to the South, but perhaps the latter is more pronounced around here.  Or maybe not.  The fact is most of the people I’ve made friends with aren’t from this regrion so it’s hard for me to tell for certain.

Ultimately we are all Americans united by a common culture.   Certain aspects, gentility for example, are more accentuated in the South.  But the folks here aren’t from another planet.   They are capable of the same range of attitudes, both positive and negative, that everyone else is. 

Article by Mike

Mike is the Head of Discovery Services for the Delta State University Library. He has lived in Cleveland since May 2013.

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