Moving From The South To The City: The Things You’ll Lose

Like many Southerners growing up in America, you always dreamed of fleeing your hick suburban/ rural/ hellhole of a town and moving across the Mason-Dixon Line into Yankee country to become one of the infamous city folk that you grew up watching on MTV. The urban jungle called to you with its promises of better shopping, real clubs, and brunch the day after. And upon moving, the city welcomed you with its urban sensibility, and forced you to assimilate into one of the numerous boxes you’re allotted as an urban dweller. However, over time – and between the trips to the Vineyard and exhibits at the MoMA – your Southern Roots begin to tug at you, and you grow to miss the culture and places that you hated so much as a teen. You’ve developed into a southern transplant with a complicated love/ hate relationship with your new home. Here’s a list of a few of your cultural mannerisms that are likely to go missing soon after you’ve made the move to the big city.

1. Your accent

Until about the age of 15, I used phrases like “all y’all” and “fixin” like it was my job, but that all stopped when I started dreaming of the urban life and decided I was moving to Chicago. I immediately started to develop a stronger tongue and the ability to enunciate.

When I got to Chicago, I remember meeting someone at my university. Before I could answer where I was from, my new friend blurted out “New York?” I was so excited – my Southern accent was completely gone. I reveled in saying, “Why, no! I am from Tennessee! I don’t have an accent.”

This was cute and all until recently. While reflecting on my old Southern life with a friend, I was asked to “talk Southern.” I couldn’t even form the words “all y’all” without sounding like a condescending Yankee, which immediately was followed by a huge wave of shame.

2.”Bless your heart!”

In the South, we say “Bless your heart!” in a passive attempt at being a bitch. It has a few translations: “I am so glad I am not you!” “Please walk away, I am done talking to you,” and “I hope you know you’re driving the bus to hell.” For some reason, as a Southerner, you don’t mind when people say this – it’s actually seen as polite. But after you’re in the city for awhile, you almost forget the expression entirely.

3. The stars

This one took me a few months to figure out. One of the things I knew when moving to a big city was not to look up at the buildings, because it’d make you look like a tourist. So, during all my time staring at the ground, I never looked up to see the stars. Once I finally did, I felt my heart sink. The fact that all these Yankee cities are able to erase the heavens is reason enough to know why crime is so bad in the major cities. Come home, stars.

4. Boot cut denim

Yes, I said it. I know “skinny” or “slim-cut” jeans are in right now, and yes, I do look skinny/ taller/ like I belong in the city when I’m wearing them, but who doesn’t like a good pair of worn-in boot cut denim? They’re slim in the thighs and flare out at the bottom in that perfect way that covers your boot like a glove. Try looking like an urban cowboy with your gator boots and those Helmut Lang skinny jeans – not going to happen.

5. Politeness/ manners

Yankees, say it with me: “Hello… how are you?” Was that hard? Did you break a nail? NO! Say it, it will make you feel better. And how about, when getting on an elevator – don’t press the “Close Door” button when I’m a foot away. Or that whole cutting the line at the market when a new line opens – it’s not cute. I’m all about survival of the fittest, but your obsession to beat me to the cashier register to buy doughnuts and a Starbucks bottled frappuccino (which isn’t real) will only make this a survival of the fattest contest, and you will win… fatty. Above all else, try to smile. As a Southerner, I take pride in being “nice,” even if it is in that Clairee Belcher (see Steel Magnolias) kind of way that’s similar to a “bless your heart.” Being fake-polite – along with denial – is a skill that Southerners have cultivated for years. Resist the tendency to forget this skill; it may just turn out to be your bread and butter. TC mark

image – funky footage


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  • Amber Evans

    I read this with a southern accent

  • Tom Lewis

    “Bless your heart” also means “You’re of substandard intelligence, aren’t you?” 

  • Jade Mitchell

    Good read, but I kept thinking “Sandy Cheeks” from Spongebob Squarepants the whole way through.

  • KindNewYorker

    I have to say, as a “Yankee,” I hate being called one. And while I agree that some (not all) Northerners are self-important and always in a rush, some (not all) Southerners are hay-chewing rednecks. It’s the balance that is important. Also…Steel Magnolias is my favorite movie of all time. 

  • Wdeanis

    All true, but truest was the statement “Starbucks bottled frapuccino (which isn’t real)”. Personally, I think I love my hometown so much right now because I’m in my twenties and live in uptown Charlotte, still in the Bible belt (Book of Revelations if you want the specifics), so we get the manners an hospitality while maintaining a metropolitan life of getting wasted and still having open restaurants at 3am over the wknd

    • noda

      charlotte goes hard

    • Guest

      If you want to be specific – there is no “s” on the end of Revelation.  You don’t need to live in the Bible Belt to know that.

  • Phoebe

    I couldn’t be more happy getting away from my southern hell-hole. NY is paradise for me. I love the assholes, the borough accents, the rush and stress the subways and people give me, the lack of stars, the light pollution, the good and bad smells, the convenience of walking from A to B to Z and using a cab if I REALLY need to, the 90 sq ft of my apartment room, and so much more. The south is where liberalism goes to die. Though, I’ll admit I still say y’all– but ONLY because it’s more convenient in conversation.

  • Asdf

    Hillbillies, say it with me: “You all.”

  • EP

    I loved this! I lost my accent at around age 10. Politeness and manners are two things that people from EVERYWHERE need to learn. Apparently it’s impossible to say please or thank you, and we, as humans, are too busy to open doors for one another.

  • Angie

    I have to admit, number 5 just got my blood boiling.

    I am from the midwest- Illinois, even. While I’m not particularly fond of Chicago, I can help but feel bad for your experience.

    Moving to the south has made me 1,000 times more appreciative that I grew up in the midwest; #2 is part of it. The people here are condescending and it seems like their duty to prove to everyone around them that they know more and are most capable of just about everything. It is rude and obnoxious. I have YET (after a year of living here) to meet a genuine person who doesnt have about 3 faces to them. At least when you’re in the midwest, what you see is what you get (well, generally speaking. I wont say that 100% are like this). .

  • Guesty

    Oh, come on.  It’s not that fucking different.

  • douchegirl

    “I saw Drum Eatenton this morning at the Piggly Wiggly, and I smiled at the son of a bitch ‘fore I could help myself.”

    Ouiser FTW!

  • Trebuchet

    I am from the rural south but now live in Atlanta. Some issues:

    1. Not necessarily. Few people in Atlanta have a thick southern accent, but I’ve retained mine, and have met many people from all over the country who have lived in Atlanta for 10+ years yet retained their brooklyn/chicago/canadian/whatever accent. I really think a person has to actively try to ditch an accent for it to become so diluted as to be unrecognizable. Which you said you did, before you tried to move?
    2. Maybe, unless you use the phrase anyway and introduce folks to its meaning. Maybe they’ll think it’s interesting and pick it up themselves. No need to shed Southernness and be a pure sponge to Make It Big in the City. 
    3. Not unique to the non-South, nor big cities. You can’t even see the stars very well in Athens.
    4. Dude just wear the jeans. Why are you so self conscious? Can be a weird character quirk. Standing out like this can be an asset.
    5. I think the Midwest is more well known for sincere politeness than the South is.  So, hmm.

  • Uhnonnymus

    Most native city-dwellers are actually polite, it’s the kids from the midwest who feel they need to become jaded assholes just to fit in.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a NYC transplant from Georgia and none of this applies at all, especially not #5, which really pissed me off to read. I have never felt like New Yorkers are impolite, whereas I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had a Georgian act rudely and/or say some sort of faux-polite-but-really-insulting thing to my face – in fact, your point #2 fits this exactly!

  • Ryan Culliver

    So….I live in Georgia & I am compelled to dispel some of the things that seem to be presented as facts in this article. First, everyone in the South doesn’t speak like “To Kill A Mockingbird” or Matthew Mcconaughey. So, if you move, you’re probably good the way you speak now. Second…like I know 3 people that say “Bless your heart” and they’re all over 60. Must be a Southwest thing.  Third, stars are overrated. The sky is overrated. You hardly ever look at it & realize what you’re looking at. If it’s not raining or blistering hot, you ignore it. Fourth, Jesus, bootcut denim. Let’s not pretend like Levi’s don’t make 13 different types of bootcut jeans & def. sells atleast 3 of those types in every store-even the ones north of the Mason-Dixon. Finally, people are definately probably more rude up north…but…people can be a dick, no matter what their location.

  • Anonymous

    Forget bootcuts and bless your heart.  I am a born NYer and just returned from a trip to Nashville.  Everyone there was so polite and helpful that it has made me realize just how rude, noncommuicative, mono-syllabic and unintelligible NYers are in their replies to questions in service positions.  I suddenly realized that part of eating out in NY is praying that your waitron is not in a bad mood, that the person behind the counter will make eye contact, that  you will be able to understand any mumbled and unwilling reply.  Hooray for the south, their accents, which I new find very pleasant, their politeness and helpfulness.   By the way, I am married to a southerner and never understood her “excessive” politeness.
    Now I know it’s not excessive.  

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