August 4, 2009

  • Three Years in the South.


    Wow. Three years.

    … since we sold our city row home, packed all our earthly belongings, and moved south. Moved into a house I had never seen before, on a dirt road, and back in the trees so far we can’t see our neighbors. That was quite an adjustment from living in the city and having our front yard be the sidewalk, where hundreds of people walk just inches from our front windows every day.

    …since I left the rolling farm land of Lancaster County and moved to the flatlands of Georgia, where the only thing that grows is pine trees (just kidding. Well, sort of. J )

    …since I left the tame farmyard animals of cows and horses to go to the native animals of armadillos, alligators, wild pigs, and snakes.

    … since I moved away from everyone I had known and moved to a place where I knew Ben’s family and that was it.




    We live only about 10 miles from the nearest town, which is about 30 miles away from the next-nearest town, which is… J So Walmart is nearby, and Kmart, and well, a few little shops in the one-block downtown area and a few more scattered around town, but that’s about it. I was used to having any kind of shopping desirable within 15 miles.

    I felt c.u.l.t.u.r.e. s.h.o.c.k. the first few months that I lived here. That was something I was not expecting. I mean, this is still the United States, right?

    I remember one of the first times I was running errands in town. I went into the bank to make a transaction, and the teller found out who I was. “Ooooh, ah know Bee-yun!” she gushed, because Ben had worked at his dad’s car wash in town several years before we got married, and learned to know quite a few local people through that. We talked for a bit, and before I left I asked her name. “Tay-nuh” she told me. “Okay, nice to meet you, Tayna!” I said. “No, it’s TAY-nuh,” she said. “Okay, Tayna!” I happened to glance at the name tag that was sitting at her desk. Too late I realized I didn’t even understand when someone told me that her name was Tina. I remember wondering if I have to learn a new language to live here!!

    The drawl was only one of the new things about living in the south. Everywhere I went, I felt like I was in another country and totally didn’t fit in! That is probably why I learned to pick up the drawl, if I need to, just so I didn’t feel like such an odd ball every time I went into town! And I used to make such fun of people that move to the south and start talking like that… J

    It’s been quite an adventure living here. It’s funny, because now, as I write this, I have to really think about what is so different. I’m much more adjusted to it than I realized I was! I’ve been thinking about this 3 Year Anniversary for a little while though, and thought of a few highlights/experiences/new things about living in the Deep South.




    - For a true Southerner, most everything is fried. Fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried chicken… And smothered in butter. Paula Deen is the epitome of true Southern soul food – I‘ve never eaten at her restaurant but from looking at pictures and her recipes I know that! I can’t say that I’ve adopted this style of cooking, although I enjoy eating it once in a great while!

    - For excitement if you’re a teenager: there is “The Strip” [a particular section of a particular road on a particular side of town] where you drive your car, I mean truck, and wave at all the cute girls also riding their cars, I mean trucks. Really!! This actually happened in Ben’s day! I will not say whether or not her participated… J

    - Other areas of excitement: mud-bogging, tractor and truck pulls, beauty pageants. I must say something about beauty pageants. I have never, never in all my life, seen so many pageants! There is at least one contest for every age girl from very newborn to Miss America age. Honestly!! The majority of Southern women care very much about their appearance, and the appearance of their too-little-to-care daughters.

    - The local newspaper has mainly two sections: news and sports. And no news outside of the county. Read that: county, not country. Oh, except an entire page dedicated to Nascar! Go figure!

    - There are Rednecks that are proud as can be about being redneck. Even will differentiate between themselves [who they call classy Redneck] and other “lower-class” redneck. I was wide-eyed when I first heard this from a proud Redneck himself! These Rednecks do not say their “TH’s” and thus words become “dis, der,” and “dat” [this, there, and that].

    - Men do not drive cars here. Rarely, rarely, will you see a man behind the wheel of a car. It is just not cool to drive a car! A truck. Yes, a very very big truck. The bigger, the better. And the hugest tires you ever, ever have seen. Some of them look like you need a ladder to climb up into them. Seriously!!



    - I think it is safe to say that the majority of people in this town have not traveled south farther than Florida, and north farther than one or two states (this is what Ben tells me). They simply have no reason to travel, because all or most of their family and friends are within several miles of them, right here. Thus, they think they are in Paradise, not realizing there is a whole world to be seen that is not one bit like their town!

    - It is very, very rude to answer/address  a person without saying, “Ma’am” or “Sir.” This is something children are taught from the time they start talking. And last names are not used when addressing someone. Instead of “Mrs Yoder” I am “Ms. Clarita” and my husband is “Mr. Ben.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone being called by their last name.

    - I learned to water ski in a lake known to have gators in it! No, I did not see any while we were there, but I know people that have. I was semi-okay being in the water as long as I was rapidly moving. But very very nervous when I was down in the water waiting for the boat to pick me up!!!

    - There are two seasons: Summer, and January/February/March. J No, not really. But summertime comes early and lasts late; normally, May through October are really hot months. In the intense heat of June/July/August/September, it’s gets up to 90-100 almost daily, with high humidity. So much humidity that you’ll start sweating at 7:30 in the morning, just from stepping outside the house.

    - Most of the local radio stations are Country. There is no classical station to be found. Only one Christian station accessible here. But many Country. Did I mention there are a lot of Country stations here?

    -Gardening is very difficult. We have to plan 4 times the amount of fertile northern gardens to get barely a quarter of what they do… So much sand where we’re at. Our driveway is natural sand.

    - “Proper” takes on a whole new meaning here. I was in a local salon one day, talking somewhat but mostly listening, very fascinated, to the locals talk. One of the very preppy ladies suddenly announced to everyone there that she “had to tinkle!” Ohhhh, I could just see my mother blush had she been there!!


    - Everybody is a friend. Some you’re met, some you haven’t! When I go back north I wonder what everyone’s problem is – they’re just not friendly! Of course the people you know up north are friendly, but here the general public is just nice to each other. Here, there is a lot of “shmooze” – not all of which is sincere I’ve found – but the general idea is to make everyone feel as good as you can! It’s like there is an invisible contest to see who can make each other feel the best about themselves. J It’s quite interesting! Here, if you meet someone’s eye, they will at least acknowledge you with a smile or nod, and it’s not uncommon to chit-chat with a total stranger you meet on the street or in the grocery isle.

    But sometimes it’s not as nice as you might hope. I had an experience a little while ago at a shop in town where I was looking at a go-away bag for Zoe. The lady gave me a price about something, all the while gushing and calling me “sweetie” and “darlin’” and all sorts of things, and told me that she is waaayyyy cheaper than another store where she buys them from (and named that store in TN). Little did she know I was going to that very area of TN the next weekend, and that was why I needed a bag! I ended up buying the bag simply because I needed one, but checked out that store when I was in TN. I was chagrined to see a much cheaper price than what I had bought for! And very chagrined to realized she had straight-out lied to me! In the north, there is not so much gush and goo, but my experiences there were that people were at least honest and straight-forward.

    - These Southern women can. gush. over. babies like you have never seen! In the north, you’ll often be met by a friendly, “Ohhhh, how sweet!” Down here, it’s a, “Looooook at the baybay! Her is sooooo precious! Yes, her is! Her is so SWATE!! [sweet]” and on and on, using terrible grammar reserved only for talking to babies. J Oh, and after being indignant several times over my baby being called this particular thing, I learned that it is actually a compliment (!!) for a baby to be called a “buggar”. Yes, really!

    - I think the Civil War is still going on down here. I don’t like to tell people I’m a Yankee. J Confederate flags still fly freely, and there is still a a lot of racism going on…

    -There is some Southern lingo that I had to learn when I first met Ben. I remember once when he was visiting when we were dating, and my whole family was seated at the dinner table. Ben was talking and started with, “One time when I was coming up…” and proceeded to tell the story. My whole family, including me, was lost. “Coming up where??” someone finally asked, because he never said his destination. Ben burst out laughing, and said that “coming up” is a term used in the south meaning, “growing up.” It doesn’t mean you’re going north somewhere!

    Another time I heard someone describe a person as a “sorry man.” I thought that meant the man was apologetic. I learned later that really means that a man is a pathetic case, or without much character to show for!

    Another term used frequently is “along and along.” Up north we would say “little by little” or “as we can.” Example: Mr. Smith is fixing up his house along and along.

    Your ego could grow pretty fast here! Everyone calls each other “sweetheart” and “darling” and “baby” and “doll” – even if you don’t know each other. The cashier at the grocery store will call an old gentleman “sweetheart” and he’ll respond back by calling her “baby” or some such thing. This was a NEW thing for me down here, and I was not sure how to respond to all these gushy people! Older men in particular can be very “sweet on you”.


    Sooo, three years later, I find myself feeling rather at home in the midst of all this! Yes, it’s taken a while, and Pennsylvania still feels like home to me too. But this has been quite an adventure, a rich experience to live here. I feel that I am bettered for it, and I am privileged to call many people true friends… I can laugh at some of my experiences rather than feel frustrated and out of place. I feel that I am still learning, because there are still some things that amaze me, but I think (most times!) I can take it with humor now instead of a bug-eyed where-am-I feeling!

    How to end a post like this? Not sure. Except to say that no matter where life takes me, I will be grateful for this experience…

     Y’all!  have a great day J



Comments (26)

  • Oh Clarita, you had me laughing out loud!!!  Reading this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling of sorts…because it’s close to where I grew up…and, I just plum still have a special place in my heart for the south! 

    You have done such a beautiful job of adapting to the huge differences of the North and South.  This is a *g*r*e*a*t* post!!!  Have a splendid afternoon….

  • This was SUCH a fun post! I love hearing about the cultural differences you have experienced; actually, some of them sound quite appealing! In my mind, I always associate the south with mansions, big dresses, and friendly, very polite people; maybe with too much of a ‘Gone with the Wind’ mindset! :) But, really, you described a place that sounds most fascinating and I love that you say you are a better person for having moved there. That is such a great way to become in the place that the Lord has called us to!!

    have a lovely day!

  • so much has happened since that hot summer afternoon when we said good bye on the sidewalk in front of your house in Lancaster. WOW! the south IS a funny place. it would take me quite a while to get used to it, i think.

  • @WasabiBek - no kidding, a lot has happened!! i never would have guessed that three years later we’d have 5 babies between the two of us, among other things!!

  • Oh yes the South….Yes,ma’am, Ms. …., etc..I’ve been down here two years now in Alabama and some of the stuff I can totally identify with…not all of it, as Montomery,AL is only  a half hour from us, and mom and dad live in a subdivision(big change from growing up in the country of upstate NY), but the seasons….oh, it gets HOT, the ma’am and sir(its so polite)…def Southern!!!  And you mentioned the racism issure, yea…youu see it down South more!!Its interesting how even in the US, different regions have their own culture!!!

  • I had to laugh!!!!  There are confederate flags, big trucks with big tires, and “proud to be rednecks”  here in Knox County Ohio.  Not sure if they are southern transplants or what!

  • Brings back memories of growing up in the South. Thanks for the fun post! Sounds like you’ve done a great job of adjusting. I hope I can do the same to this northern culture. :S

  • loved your post!

  • Thanks for the cultural experience from my kitchen table before seven am on a Wednesday morning :)    I wonder what someone from outside Lancaster County would say about all of us!

  • good post Clarita! I had to smile many times through it.  I could relate in a lot of ways, but probably because I was the one coming from the back woods, redneckish land and moving to PA.  I think it was somewhat of a culture shock to move to Lancaster for me.  Its been a good change and I would call PA home now, but its taken awhile too.  What we do for the men we love!!! =)

  • @rachi882 - are there really?? that tickles me! maybe they are transplants! ha!

    @Jabber_wock - I’m still giving myself time to adjust! And do the same for yourself! The differences are much bigger than I would have imagined!I still have bad days here, I will say!  I’d like to read a post from you on the differences you see up north. :)

    @mel5680 - before 7am?? Wow! :) I know, I see Lancaster County in a different light already! I still love it, but I am amazed by some things when I go back!

    @chuckschic - what we do for the man we love is right! :) I never would have imagined myself here! And you probably wouldn’t have thought you’d end up in Lancaster! God sure likes to surprise us, huh?

  • What a wonderful post – I read it all the way through & so identify with it.  I came from Michigan many years ago – and remember the first time I heard an ‘African American’ speak – I had to ask several times what they said & finally someone had to interpret for me!    But you’re right – its a rich experirence & one I wouldn’t take anything for!  I’ve now lived longer in Alabama than in Michigan & am proud to call AL my home!  Thanks for sharing!  Now, I’m ‘fixing’ to go back to work!  LOL

  • Very well said, Clarita.  We’ve been experiencing all these “strange” things since moving too and we considered ourselves “southern” before moving here.  A few things I will never say are “fixin to” and calling shopping carts “buggies”.  I could really start a list of all the things we’ve found different but I’ll refrain on here.  I’m glad you made the move 3 years ago, otherwise, we probably would have never met!

  • Oh, that’s great, Clarita!  I actually feel that I live “too far” South and among “too many” Mennonites to truely experience Southern living.  Sarasota is a lot like Lancaster, only without horse & buggies (and the droppings) and hills.  Knowing that this is where my husband was called & I am called to follow him, usually makes everything a lot easier!

  • Clarita…You make me want to cry..I miss my Southern Home so much. I feel so out of place way up here in canada too..Everyone ask”So what Southern state are you from? We’re sure its as south as you can go!” Ugh…you have two more years to go until you will be considered a TRUE SOUTHERNER! they say 5 years of it and your in.I miss you guys

  • You are such a sweetheart! I’m not on Xanga near as much as I used to be, in fact I think it’s been months since I posted anything. I still pop on here every now and again, mostly to read your stuff. I like your creative writing… it’s like I can hear you talk. Anyway – keep writing, you really have a talent for it. =]

  • awww– your post sure made me MISS my southern home– my southern people!!!!  I’d give up ALOT  to be back down there again!!! I’m glad you are starting to like it now!!:)

  • Clarita, had to chuckle at your post! Great descriptions!! It’s interesting hearing it from your (and other’s) perspectives. About the redneck thing… just Tuesday as we were in Ohio, a man walked past us to go into Bob Evans and I said to myself: Not all rednecks live in the south! :)

  • @Yoderfamilyof5 - you mentioned some things I plumb forgot about! I still don’t say “fixing to” either! But I’ve found myself saying “buggies” a few times – and Ben always laughs because it just sounds funny coming from a northerner! And I’m glad too that we moved – just for all the great people I’ve met through it!

    @SherriMonCheri - good reminder for me about “this is where my husband is called, and I am called to follow.” Sometimes I get discouraged because I don’t feel a personal calling for everything my husband does/is called to. But I think you’re right on….

    @Mid_Night_Gurl89 - Is is really 5 years?? I’ve heard something along those lines, like that it often took people about 5 years to really adjust (and I think I’m still adjusting!). Hmm, two more years, huh. I hope it doesn’t take that long for you way up north!

    @jesupinmyheart - yeah, I’ve had my rough times. :) And still do sometimes, but it’s mostly good now! :)

    @justcallmeM - I’ve heard other people say the same thing about Ohio! So funny, but I have relatives in the boondocks of Ohio, and while they’re not rednecks, they definitely have redneck/gun-carrying neighbors all around them! :)

  • Smiling…..laughing……and somewhat sheepishly,longing…for that of which you write!!!  : ) As I’m sure Lancaster is for you….there is something about home,and for me its Jesup!  6 years later. But God is good and has given me the grace to see Indiana with different eyes than before. I HATED it here!!! I thought people were rude and unfriendly. I thought everywhere I went there were people and people and more people! And I missed all the hugs and endearments and longed to be called ‘sugar’ again!!! I found myself being PROUD of the fact that I said things differently than others…..and I made it hard for myself to relax and enjoy IN for what it is and the great things about it. It has become home to me now…along with the buggies(the kind hooked to horses) and horse doo-doo,the outrageous cold and gorgeous summers. But there will always be a smidgeon of red-neck in my blood! And I choose to embrace that as part of who I am….but also embrace the fact that I LOVE all the coffee shops here and the fact that there is any sort of shopping available nearby!!! I still haven’t broken myself of saying the very things that ANdrea said she will never say! Old habits die hard!! And now so much for this epistle…….Have a great week!

  • What a heartwarming, honest picture of a northerner acclimating to the south!
    I went from being very charmed at first, to realizing the charm isn’t always genuine and it takes awhile to be accepted as “one of us”. I’ve discovered that where i grew up will always be a part of me, but there are so many things here to enjoy and love as well. When we moved into our little house in our little southern town(Westminster, SC) we experienced the fabled southern hospitality–our neighbors on each side of us brought us sweet potato pie and a box of apples. Something I need to work on with my kids is the “yes,ma’am, no ma’am thing” because i do want to respect the culture i am a part of now.

  • oh this made me laugh! we just moved to PA about a yr ago from Maryland and even though it was only a 3 hr move it was total culture shock to me. the biggest things is how “stiff” everyone seemed to me. few words. few smiles. and few “gushes”. and they never eat collard greens! how can a whole state survive with out an essential like collard greens!? and nobody knows what an avacado is. seriously. I made greens and guacamole for a few get togethers to be met with “oh my that looks…. interesting…”. seriously. weird to me.

    in Maryland i felt like a northerner. in PA I feel a southerner. I guess Maryland just doesn’t fit in anywhere! ;)

    I’m getting used to it. I realized people are more reserved and not just rude as I presumed. they are less friendly, but not for the purpose of being hurtful… they just seems more shy here in PA.

  • @sandramiller - I loved what you wrote!! I like hearing an honest perspective on someone moving to the north, because I know it has many idiosyncrasies as well… I’m glad you’re feeling more adjusted, but I’m glad you still keep alive who you are, in just some of the southern lingo and stuff! I like that!

    @HennyPenne - that is interesting that you felt a cultural difference between those two states – that was something you probably did NOT expect!! I can’t say that I eat collard greens yet. :) I hope the adjustment goes well for you in the future too. I’m learning I just have to give myself TIME, and somehow that helps me…

  • oh, this post made me laugh and sigh…i could so relate ~ except for me it was moving to the great white north in Canada!!

    thanks for sharing so candidly!

    blessings to you on this Monday.


  • Three years? Really, has it been three years? Goodness gracious, and to think I still miss you as much today as I did at first! The only good thing about it is that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder and every time we’re together is so much more fabulous. Can’t wait till you move back to Lancaster and say “it’s been three years since we lived in Georgia.” Hah. It never hurts to dream… :)

  • @dreamstillcometrue - now wouldn’t that be amazing?? :) and yes, absense DOES make the heart grow fonder. one thing for sure, i don’t think i will ever take my family for granted again!

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