Having lived in the Southern States for 1.5 years now while in grad school, I've picked up on some amazingly unusual tendencies these southerners have. To them, these things are just another part of life, par for the course and regular cultural norms.
For an outsider, these things are a little head-scratch-inducing and hilarious. I've adapted and quite enjoy these funny little tendencies as I run into them again and again now.
1. T-Shirts Are Worth Their Weight In Gold
You will find t-shirt sales in the most unusual of places. Gas stations, restaurants, and bars will all sell their own company t-shirts. Why would anyone want a t-shirt from a breakfast diner, or gas station, I don't really know. But I can promise you if you open up a southerners set of drawers, it's going to be stuffed full of cotton t-shirts from the most unusual of establishments.
Not only can you buy t-shirts in unusual places, people will do insane things for a t-shirt here. "Volunteer my time for 6 hours at the crack of dawn for a t-shirt? Where do I sign up?!" (Yes, that really did happen).
2. All Senior Girls Must Have A Photoshoot
I work for my university and as such I see the photos students have set as their ID card/online system pictures. When I browse through the images online, it would appear I have classes full of pageant girls and models. It seems every female student has had senior class portraits taken. I'm not just talking about a regular school headshot taken in front of a boring white background. I mean they've hired a professional photographer, walked out to a pretty field and took photos for hours. Granted, this could be an America thing, not just a southern thing, I'm not quite sure.
Related: Southern Winter Attire
3. If It Can't Fit 60,000, You're Doing It Wrong
My university town population: 20,000. Student population: 23,000. Football stadium seats: 60,000, only 7,500 of which are for students. Puzzling? Yep.
Football is a bit of a unique situation in that the giant stadium will be filled with people from all over the state every game. For most sports this isn't the case though, but the sports team will still have their own top notch facility with loads of seating, even if no one attends to watch.
Women's softball. "Yep, they'll need their own stadium for sure." The golf team? "Yeah, let' build a golf course in town for that. #NecessaryInvestment." Tennis team? "Well of course they can't use the regular tennis courts, we need to build a stadium for that too. Let's make it look like Wimbledon."
Fellow Canadians, you will be floored with these insane sporting facilities, they put our pro leagues to shame.
*Bumps into someone
*Forgets to hold the door and apologizes
*"I forgot to send you that email earlier, sorry"
Somehow "You're alright" replaces all of the following: "no problem" "It's okay" "don't worry" & "it's fine"
5. Leaving the frat/srat house? Don't forget your styrofoam cup!
Water bottles? "What's that?" Can of soda? "No thanks" Coffee cup? "Nah"
I notice people always walking around campus, large styrofoam cup in hand, no lid... After noticing this a zillion times I finally asked someone, what's with the cup? The fraternity and sorority houses stock styrofoam cups and everyone is too lazy to clean a reusable cup, or find a lid, so styrofoam cup, no lid is now a thing apparently.
6. Only shop at stores with free plastic cups
Similar to the cotton t-shirt craze, Southerners love plastic cups and their houses are full of them. Specifically, large ones with company logos on them. Where do they all come from? Well the southern shops of course, which give out free plastic cups with every purchase.
Kind of like McDonalds toys for adults.
7. "I'm hungry, let's go to chicken on a stick"
Eating at gas stations is normal here. In fact, gas stations come stocked with a warming section for hot foods like deep fried pizza rolls and chicken deep fried on a stick, aptly named 'Chicken on a stick.'
It's gotten to the point now that instead of saying you're going to head to the gas station you say you're going to head to chicken on a stick...
8. Grocery store? You mean Walmart, right?
Southerners shop at a Walmart like a regular grocery store. If you were to point this out to them, you'd be met with a blank stare. "Yeah, well where else would I grocery shop?" "The grocery store" "Well why would I go there when I can go to Walmart?" "Because it's Walmart"
It's a discussion I haven't ever really gotten to the bottom of with a southerner. To be continued.
9. Slap a sticker on it
Got a brand new top of the line truck or SUV? Perfect, slap a sticker on that thing! The more the better. "There really never was a car with too many bumper stickers of course."
Now don't you worry, I am completely capable of teasing my own country and it's people for our funny habits as much as I tease the Americans. Learn to partake in some thoroughly odd, yet deeply en-grained Canadian rituals in this post.
What is the most unexpected cultural norm you've noticed while traveling?