A curious foreigner asked about the differences between the United States’ Northern and Southern regions in an online forum. The result? Northerners and Southerners alike shed light on them.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: Southern Twang
A Tennessee resident lays out the difference between the North and the South with an analogy. “What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? A violin has strings; a fiddle has strangs.”
2: It’s Always Shorts Season
One commenter says people’s fashion choices vary according to whether they live in the North or South. “There’s always one guy in the North who still wears shorts in December. I sometimes do it when I’m running outside.” In contrast, Southerners often bundle up with temperatures that Northerners would consider warm.
3: Breakfast Bias
According to a Southerner, what one consumes for the most important meal of the day sets them apart as a Northerner or Southerner. “It’s biscuits and gravy vs. whatever northerners eat for breakfast.”
4: Talk That Talk
Accents are the most significant cultural difference between the North and South, according to a language enthusiast. “Strangely enough, many in both Boston (New England) and Biloxi (Deep South) speak with non-rhotic accents while most everyone in between is rhotic.”
5: Straight to the Point
One Northerner says you can tell the difference between a Northerner and a Southerner pretty quickly. “Northeasterners are pretty blunt overall. You’ll know where you stand with most people. Bluntness isn’t a thing as much in the South.”
6: It’s All Rural
A Virginia resident argues there aren’t as many cultural differences in the US as people may think. “Rural Virginia could easily be mistaken for rural Pennsylvania or rural California. Likewise, we all have soulless cookie-cutter suburbs strangling our cities.”
7: Hey Y’all
The debate on addressing groups of people varies from the North to the South. “Y’all” vs. “you all” vs. “you guys” caused a heated debate in the comments. “I prefer the rarer form – ‘yins,’ one person said. “Nice work, Pennsylvania.”
8: Sweet Tooth
A few commenters said that if you order a sweet tea and your server is confused, you’re definitely in the North. You’ll find sweet tea abundantly in the South, but Northerners will assume you’ll put the sweetener in yourself.
9: What’s Cookin’
One commenter says barbecue is an art involving smoked meats, and many will fight you over the best meat, sauce, and seasoning in the South. In the North? “Barbecue is an excuse to have an outdoor party with outdoor cooking.”
10: Goodie Two Shoes
One commenter says the Northeast is faster-paced, far more blunt, and generally cares less about what society around them thinks. “The South is more religious and far more steeped in a shame/honor culture where what matters is whether people think you are a good person, not if you ARE a good person,” they said.
11: What’s in a Name
A North Carolina native says that down south, anyone who isn’t a teenager or younger is addressed as “sir” or “ma’am” as the norm. “Up north, that’s mostly reserved for older or married people.”
12: Southern Hospitality
An American rented a car in London when their Southern tendencies got the best of them during the check-in process. “She [the rental assistant] stopped halfway through the list and said, ‘Why do you keep calling me ma’am? It’s like we’re in the military.’ I laughed and told her I’m a Southerner, and it’s hard to turn it off.” It’s safe to say Northerners wouldn’t have had the same exchange.
13: True Grits
Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s no secret that one of the most significant cultural staples of the South is grits. A few commenters mentioned the versatile grain as a defining food of the region.
14: Politically Correct
One commenter says a significant difference between the North and the South is that Southern states tend to be more conservative. “There is huge internal variation though, and much of it is more of an urban vs rural divide.”
15: Keep ‘Em Separated
One commenter thinks splitting things up as “North” and “South” is too broad. “There are some differences between regions — Northeast, Midwest, Mountain West, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Deep South, Texas, Florida.”
“I love that Texas and Florida are their own regions on your list,” responded a commenter to the suggestion of narrowing down regions of the North and South.
The Other Issue
Generally speaking, when Americans say “North” and “South,” they’re referring to Northeastern and Southeastern parts of the States. You’ll be hard-pressed to hear anyone from Washington State saying they’re from the North or Californians boasting about being from the South.
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