Are Southerners losing their charm?

I had left a place which claims “Smiling faces. Beautiful places.” to go to the “Land of Smiles.” Thailand lived up to their name but upon returning to the south I have found people aren’t as friendly as I remember. At the same time I am not sure if this lack of friendliness and helpfulness is a southern problem or a societal problem.

I thought I remembered before leaving everyone said hello, waved or nodded their head, smiled, held the door open for each other, and said ma’am and sir. Now it just seems so unfriendly. In Trader Joe’s the other day, a little old lady in our checkout line behind us had dropped her change purse and change went everywhere. I looked as it happened and everyone around her is looking at her trying to bend down to get to the change but no one was jumping to help her. We were already at the checkout bagging our goods up and there are people all around who are available to help her as they wait in their line. I go to her and ask if I can help her and get down on the floor and grab it all up. (This is not me tooting my own horn.) I was so discouraged to see this beautiful southern place I left wasn’t the same. She was grateful for the help and the little old man ringing me up gave me a free bag because “one good deed deserves another.”

My next disturbing encounter made me feel so awkward and now that I think of it I shouldn’t have been made to feel that way. During our house hunt, we visited Chick-fil-a for Killi to play for a while. He had a great time with a little girl for about an hour. As we were leaving, we walked by the little girl and Killi said “BYE!” The mom was walking with her and with a big smile I said “They had so much fun playing together.” She looked at me like I had 5 heads and spoke to me as if I were a crazy person “oooo ok…. That’s nice…” I walked away feeling awful. Was I not supposed to say hello? Was I not supposed to smile? Was I not performing socially acceptable norms?

Yesterday, (don’t judge) we went to Chick-fil-a to play on the playground. We walk in and I guess I have arrived on a mommy day/some sort of event. Every table was full of moms and kids. I walk in and again I get looked at like I have three heads. Their eyes are saying “Who is that? Do we know her?” Not one person said hello in response to my “Hey!” I figure if they are going to give me the up and down I should at least make it uncomfortable for them and say hi! These moms have taken over every table in the restaurant with their belonging but aren’t actually sitting at the tables. Instead they are all hanging out and talking at one table as their children run wild and hit on other kids in the play area. The adults then proceed to scream throughout the restaurant like it was their home. I see why their children were acting like heathens now… I tried to say hello and make a friend but again all of those people were already friends and not one person was going to be kind or polite- I just kept getting the stink eye. Part of me wonders if I did myself a disservice by getting dressed and ready that morning. Had I looked frumpy and disheveled maybe they would have welcomed me into the fold.

In Bangkok, it was so easy to make friends. You heard someone speak English and almost instantly you had a connection and didn’t feel so alone. I thought here it wouldn’t be too difficult to make new friends since the south is supposed to be a charming place with lots of lovely, friendly people but when everyone already has a friend there is no reason for them to add anyone to their group…

If you are reading this, next time you see someone totally alone (or with kids) try and be friendly and say hello. It goes a long way.

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6 comments

  1. It amazes me as well girl! I’m so glad you took a huge leap of faith and went on your adventure. It is always a challenge moving back. It’s never as you remembered and yes it seems like many have lost their manners! Hugs and hope tansey you soon.

  2. It’s all the northerners (especially NJ/NY) moving down there. We’re rubbing off on the southerners! Last time we were down for a visit, I kept running into fellow Jerseyans. Love you and hope it gets better.

  3. Cant wait to see your smiling face. Bruce told me yesterday that I should see you soon. Yahoo. Please do come down stairs and visit me when you do come in. have a safe and blessed afternoon. Gail Few, Pickens Police Department

  4. I’m totally there with you. Three months in and the only friends I’ve made are the out-of-towners 😦 Kiwi’s are friendly, yeah right!! I’m giving it 9 months and I’m out of here. Might need to mention that to the husband I guess, ha ha.
    Really missing that smiling face of yours 🙂

  5. The South just ain’t what it used to be. Civility and Southern Grace isn’t taught anymore. My Dad always told me to “mind my manners”…open the door for ladies, be polite, be a Gentleman at all times (and I DO mean “Old School”), speak to people whether you know them or not, be helpful, etc…I was taught to say “yes mam and yes sir. If I didn’t there was hell to pay. He taught me these things for a reason…we are all in the same boat on this planet. Money and importance doesn’t change the fact that you have to eat and have shelter and need love and fulfillment. Everybody pulls their pants on one leg at a time. And to get along, to advance the Human Race, to be better than our forefathers, we have to live and work and be as one. We can’t do that if we’re divisive and crude and cruel to each other…that causes polarization of races and genders and classes and ethnocentrism raises it’s ugly head. Being polite is a good start…I’ve NEVER had someone get angry at me for holding the door for them…men or women. But our children have to be taught these things. They don’t learn them on their own unless they see someone that they love and respect doing it. It’s sad…I’ve heard it said that technology is to blame. We’re so caught up in our cell phones and video games that we don’t even notice the people around us. When I was a kid in the 50’s we had a front porch with a swing. We’d sit out there on warm summer nights and the neighbors would stroll by and stop to talk. We knew everybody in our neighborhood. Then we started getting air conditioning and no one came out anymore. I barely know my neighbors in my neighborhood now. So, maybe to a certain extent technology plays a part. But I think maybe a lack of respect is the real culprit…


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