Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Southern Manners

One of the things I notice most often when traveling out of state is the difference in how people treat each other.

I am in Chicago on business this week, and as I headed out the front door of my hotel this morning, I noticed the doorman was busy bustling another patron and at least a month's worth of luggage into a taxi. So without thinking about it I stopped to hold the door open for the two ladies walking behind me. I smiled and offered a friendly "good morning" to the pair, who completely ignored me as they stalked past without a break in their conversation.

Another fellow (I'm guessing from one of the burroughs of New York, from the accent) rushed forward to get through the door while I still held it, so I smiled and offered another, "'Morning!" as he passed. In return I got a snarl and a barely decipherable "Wha, yew wanna TIP oar sumphin?" by way of thanks. (If you've never been to New York, that's Bronxian for, "Why thank you, kind sir. And a good morning to you as well!")

Anyway, as I arrived at the office building where I'm working this week, I again stopped to open the door for a lady. By the startled look I received, you would think I had just stepped off a space ship from Mars!

It always amazes (and to a certain extent entertains) me to realize that what to me and to most Texans is an everyday, accepted practice (drilled into me over the years of growing up by my Pops, I might add) is something strange, wondrous or even offensive when you get outside of the southern states. I have actually, in the past, been accused of insulting and disrespecting a woman for trying to open the door for her; apparently I was making some sort of statement that she was somehow inferior and incapable of taking care of herself. On the other extreme, I was once told by a fellow black man, "You don't have to do that, you know. Lincoln freed the slaves!"

Two more days until I get back home to Texas. I can't wait!


Blogger bean and sprout's rep. said...

stuff like that makes me so glad that my daddy taught me to thank polite people like you. men rarely hold the door for a woman anymore and i think it's sad. when a gentleman does that for me (especially if i'm hauling my 1 year old, a diaper bag, and a stroller) i make it a point to make eye contact and say a heartfelt thanks. people like you are rare gifts and i wish more people appreciated the lost art of courtesy. i'd take a dose of your southern upbringing here in the cold northwest.

11/09/2005 11:02 AM  

Blogger Pops said...

Since my boy is out all week, I don't know when he'll get a chance to see your comments, so I'll be glad to answer for him.

Ms. Peil, you are welcome any time for a good helping of Texas hospitality. And some nice, unseasonably warm weather to sweeten the deal!

By the way, I jumped over to your website using the link on your comment name. Your daughter is absolutely adorable. Gives me a mighty strong urge to drop in on my sweet daughter-in-law and the grandkids tonight.

I hope you have a wonderful day, and thanks for visiting the Songbird page. Please drop in any time you like!


11/10/2005 8:27 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was very interested in your site and how your talking about southern respect. I'm actualy trying to write a paper on southern respect for elders, and since i'm not from the south myself i was wondering if you could give me some more examples of how it is common for youth to respect their elders in the south. But only do it if it doesn't take up too much of your time.
Thanks ever so much!

10/10/2006 4:29 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes I agree. We were raised with manners and respect for folks. Yankees were not!

4/16/2007 9:01 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say that Northerners doesn't have manners. What's considered courteous is totally subjective to one's culture, and opening doors for others is simply strange in NYC. Most people who open doors here are either doormen or homeless people asking for money, and usually when you're in a rush you wouldn't bother opening the door, wait for someone else to get in before you, and then get in yourself. It's just plain odd and a waste of time. I guess it's just the pace of the city: once you're used to rushing, you stopped bothering with little rituals that seems unnecessary or time consuming. A friendly "hello" or "how are you?" to a stranger is an invitation to small talk, which is a waste of time in a frantic city where everyone is rushing to get somewhere and minding their own business. Northerners are not impolite, we just have different standards for what's considered polite.

9/21/2007 2:33 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, Oh Please, do not lump all Northerners in with the denizens of NYC. There are many of us whose manners are much like your own.
Our Momma's raised us right.

2/13/2008 6:36 PM  

Blogger Mena said...

Thank you for holding doors for the ladies of the North that don't realize that they are ladies. I adore gentlemen! Thank you for persisting in proving good ol' manners!

4/16/2009 4:43 AM  

Blogger Shawn Evans said...

To the person that tried so hard to excuse big city rudeness, and at the same time re-categorize it into being nothing more than a cultural difference. I really got a laugh at the attempt. It was actually a bit of a sad attempt though. I am from Louisville (a very southern town) but have been living in California for 11 years. It actually goes beyond a lack of politeness and manners.........people outside of the south and some mid-western towns go beyond being void of manners and politeness, they actually do not have care for their fellow human beings. They literally have no interest in affairs or well being of other humans outside of those that can bring some benefit to them. Every thing said by the person defending a lack of manners had a strong ring of self centeredness. Ok, maybe it was a bit more than a strong ring. He is apparently eaten up with self centeredness. One disclaimer, not everyone in the north or west is like that. But by far, it is the majority. I love an appreciate the rare touch that most good southerners put into life and relationships. There is nothing like it. And, in raising my 5 year old daughter in a place where it is missing, I effort to make sure she is taught those ways of the south.

6/10/2009 9:03 AM  

Blogger Shawn Evans said...

Posted for my father, George Evans:

My father was stationed (air force) in boston in the early 60's and called the wrong number by accident, the person that answered said: "you sound Southern and proceeded to tell me that there are only 7 lousy states in the U.S. and they were all Southern"......and he didn't know me from Adam.

Back the original post: I know there are great people all over the country, but when it comes to manners and generally being kind and good to your fellow man/woman, it seems like the south, by their nature, lead the way. And those that dont understand what manners, hospitality and politeness are, usually try to make some excuse for it their lack of it...............and the excuse never really sounds right, because it all boils down to the finer attributes in living and adding something good to the lives of others.

6/12/2009 10:02 AM  

Anonymous Eddie said...

Being raised in the North as a conservative Catholic, in Catholic schools, I was taught to put others before myself. Once I got to public schools, the work world, and encounters with strangers I was always shocked by their "cold" nature.

I have since realized that this IS widespread behavior in the north, particularly northern Cities. My in law's are from a small town, Green Bay, and people are friendlier and polite to strangers there but they are NO Southerners.

I now live in Central Tennessee and won't trade the manners down here for anything up north. As one reader said, "it's an overall lack of concern for humanity." I know these northerners personally, they ARE self centered, in spite of their excuses for not having manners, they ONLY care about themselves. Trust me, I was raised North of Chicago in Milwaukee.

6/29/2009 5:04 PM  

Anonymous Kiwi Lass said...

I have really enjoyed reading this blog, as I spent my early childhood in Charleston, SC and I remember well the gentle and very natural good manners of all those around us. I am very much looking forward to my first visit to the great state of Texas with my 10 year old son, so he can see for himself what I mean by "old-fashioned good manners". I know that as we get older we all say that children are not as courteous as they once were, but with the kids here in NZ following the gangsta culture and the lack of Christian values, I wonder what it will be like 30 years from now?

11/15/2009 12:36 AM  

Blogger Judy said...

I was born in North Carolina to Southern parents, but grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I find that the manners of my Southern kith and kin to be quite like that of the people of the lovely little northern town I lived in. However, I later moved to New York City and then Chicago, where I have encountered rather rude, brisk, and cold people on a regular basis. The stereotype of New York tells you to expect it, but all the Chicagoans I know tell me how warm and friendly everyone in their city is, and they can't understand how I could think any of them to be the slightest bit rude. I believe that good manners can and do exist in all regions, but the quick pace of city life makes people put good behavior on the back burner, sadly.

1/04/2010 9:22 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know, I grew up in Texas my whole life. The farthest north I went was to Kansas, where my mother's parents live. The entire rest of my family is southern. This year, I've been in school in New York, and I'm appalled by how people act here. It's not just the rushed manner, push and shove attitudinize, or not holding the door for people (I can sympathize with the author, when I hold the door for someone, they stop in shock, especially if I don't know them. Once I held an elevator door for someone, and they didn't stop thanking me and telling me how they would've pushed the door close button if they were me).The most disturbing thing I've found is how folks refuse to do favors for others, will be extremely difficult, and demand excessively from others, expecting you to be equally rude and pushy, refusing half of what they ask of you. If your like me - well bred and wanting to be helpful, you end up just running around doing other folks favors, while they make you feel an idiot for simply asking permission for something as simple as using the office copy machine at work for materials needed at work. oh well. guess that's how the yankees want it (thats another peculiarity about NY. If you say the word yankee, they think you are referring to a baseball team.)

5/05/2010 6:42 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...


5/25/2010 6:26 PM  

Anonymous Miss Jonnie said...

I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived there for over 35 years. I moved to San Diego, CA and have been here for almost 20 years. I've just embarked on my own independent etiquette consultant business with emphasis on teaching southern-style manners. Nothing compares to the gracious, kind, and thoughtful comportment of the well-bred, well-mannered, or well-intended from the Deep South.

6/20/2010 2:10 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm from CA living in TX. A couple of observations. I say ma'am and sir, please and thank you, hopd doors for others and speak directly to people when I have aproblem with them. While that is true for some, there are many here who are sweet to peoples face, and then stab them the minute their back is turned. That is also poor manners

8/07/2010 5:46 PM  

Blogger Shawn said...

To Anonymous: I have lived in California for 10 years. Born and raised in Louisville Kentucky. I have traveled much of the country on business. The only area of the country that I have not been to is the pacific northwest. I have never been to a place as void of manners and warmth as California. When I travel back to Kentucky, or elsewhere in the south, southerners do speak of run ins with people from California, and talk about their shallowness of spirit and lack of genuiness etc etc. The south is not engaging of poeple that lack these things. Sure, they will smile at you and be polite, but they dont like false or fake people. I am sure this is what is happening to you inspite of your claims that you use manners etc. Californias dont know what manners, warmth and politeness are, it is not part of the culture here, and one rarely gets an arguement form anyone that has spent time in California. Southerners have a "genuiness" radar, and being from California, you come up on this radar. Sorry, been here too long, met too many Californians, and know too many southerners to put it any other way. There are good poeple in California, no arguement there. But manners and politeness, warmth, down home care etc......NOT HERE>>>>>>>IN THE SOUTH!

Shawn Evans

8/07/2010 6:52 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shawn,
I was raised in a small town in CA. By the time I left there were nearly no native Californians left and I didn't recognize the state I resided in.

When I say they are stabbing others in the back it is an observation, although I too experienced some feelings of being an outsider when I moved here, they were generally surprised that I was from CA. And given the attitude you are exhibiting I suppose I was right to feel honored that they were surprised by my Cali roots.

Of note, perhaps there are cultural differences between the states, and perhaps the kindest thing would be to get to know people and help them to adjust to this way of life if they genuinely want to learn. Ignorance isn't the same as bad manners. And what is considered good manners in one part of the world (or country)may be rude somewhere else.

8/07/2010 7:27 PM  

Blogger Shawn said...

Anonymous Californian,

In your first post, you went from saying there are many backstabbers in your experience in the south (your very words)to I am not sure what you are trying to say in the second. You softened your tone though. I did get your characterization of my attitude. Glad you picked it up, I layed it on pretty thick so you wouldnt miss it.

Like you say, its all in the perspective. I think the general one on this blog is of support for and an appreciation for the southern culture. You went in stark contrast to that. I would think that you would understand a southerner not taking kindly to your characterization of "many southerners being backstabbers". Nor would I expect you to have a problem with someone being direct with you........since you pointed that out as one of your qualities in your original post.

Perhaps you were actually looking for a blog on southern backstabbing. Bet you would get more agreement if you searched for, and posted on, that one.

8/07/2010 8:45 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To quote your post-
"Californians don't know what manners, warmth and politeness are, it is not part of the culture here, and one rarely gets an argument from anyone that has spent time in California. Southerners have a "genuineness" radar, and being from California, you come up on this radar. Sorry, been here too long, met too many Californians, and know too many southerners to put it any other way. There are good people in California, no argument there. But manners and politeness, warmth, down home care etc......NOT HERE"
Perhaps your attitude towards the people there has something to do with your attitude towards them? it does go both ways.
I love where I live, but it is not the same as CA. That doesn't make one bad or the other good, just different.
However, I still believe that if one genuinely wants to learn to fit in where they live, and genuinely has a good heart, the friendliest way to deal with them would be to gently point out the accepted methods of communication and the expected behavior rather than deciding, based on their previous state of residence, that they are unworthy. As I said earlier, both at work, and in many public places I have watched women greet each other as if they are the best of friends, then when one leaves the other says ugly things. Perhaps I have run into a few bad apples? All the same I love it here and I avoid the ones who seem fake, and appreciate the vast majority who have made a difficult transition much easier. By the way, I see imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, isn't it wonderful that most folks who move to the South wish to fit in and live our lifestyle? It does speak well of the majority of southerners that others want to be southern, if not by birth then by choice. Granted, I wasn't lucky enough to be born here, just smart enough to get here as fast as I could.

8/08/2010 10:20 AM  

Blogger Shawn said...

your babbling. I couldnt read past "its your attitude about Californians that effects your attitude???? HUH?? Go to another blog, your on the wrong one. Stop spreading your unhappiness and negativity on a blog that was doing just fine on its own....with nearly everyone coming from the same place. Your like a kid on a playground that runs up on 10-15 kids all getting along, having fun playing together, and you inject negativity and try to change the course of things. Its not a blog about trying to be right, its about southern manners. Read the title, thats what it says. If it makes you happy, your right, southerners are back stabbers, Californians are the best people on the planet.

Southern manners and all that is talked about on this more than words or going through the you said in your first do all the right things, but still dont get the result. Its the genuiness and spirit behind the words that people react to, not the words themselves.... and that genuiness is only gained by being raised in the south and being part of the community and culture. And when your not part of it, and you try to be, your spotted / taggeed as being a fake. Fakes dont fare too well in the south, then can find a happy home in California. Why is it that that vast majority of the United States catagorizes Californians as superficial? Here is my personal email address: If you want to banter, I would be happy to accomodate you without filling up space on this blog with negativity that wasnt welcomed or wanted in the first place.

8/08/2010 4:32 PM  

Blogger Shawn said...

Ok, I brought myself to read your post all the way through.....
COME ON, your first post called called many southerners backstabbers, and you back peddled from there. You end with" "Granted, I wasn't lucky enough to be born here, just smart enough to get here as fast as I could",.....I am sorry, I cant follow you. That just doesnt make sense. You attacked southerners by calling many in your experience about the worse thing you can call someone, then you end saying your smart enough to find the south as fast as you could? You have made my point, and the point of many bloggers on this site, better than I ever could.

8/08/2010 4:48 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Shawn,

For someone who is so polite and well- mannered, your comments on this blog have been awfully rude.

Your replies to Anonymous no matter whether you disagree with him or not, were less polite than his own.

I am from Canada, and everyone I know makes a point to open doors for others, and to be very polite, welcoming and hospitable. Many places in the world are filled with warm, hospitable people; Southerners don't have the market on that.

And to Songbird, lovely post :)

Good afternoon.


2/22/2011 8:07 AM  

Blogger Songbird said...

I hate to admit that I had not seen all the "recent" comments on this post until just this morning, and really do not know what to say. For a mostly political blog, I find it quite interesting to see that the post with the most comments (not to mention the most contentious comments) is a simple one about manners.

8/25/2011 10:33 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a young woman from the south who, since being in school with several northerners, has come to realize that they do not and most likely never will understand or appreciate southern hospitality and general respect for others. I tried to befriend a man who is originally from New York but has lived in Georgia for the past 10 years. He has proven to me that it is not worth the effort. After almost a year of trying to teach him the difference in what it means to be " southern", "country", "redneck", or a "hick". He still stereotypes all southerners as ignorant hillbillies, something I find extremely offensive. Being born and raised in the south and now seeing those who were raised in the north or by northern families, I am so thankful to be from a place where respect is given to those around us, at least until they prove that they are undeserving of respect.

3/10/2012 9:10 PM  

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