The Southern Way: A Yankee Perspective
Nine hours, 500 miles, and a totally new perspective. A Northerner from Reading, Pennsylvania, I grew up in an environment very different from the one I’ve been thrust into as a student at Catawba College. Some things aren’t so different from North to South, but overall, it is a very different experience.
A major difference that stood out to me the moment I stepped out of my car in North Carolina for the Catawba freshman retreat was the accents. Nothing is sweeter than a Southern drawl, and that’s exactly what I got. Not everyone has one, and they aren’t all the same, but they are still a very prominent characteristic of the South.
As a NASCAR fan, I was an outlier in my high school and had very few people I could relate to as a fan of this traditionally Southern sport. Don’t get me wrong, there are still skeptics of this bootlegging tradition in the South, but no longer are fans of the sport hard to come by. It seems that everywhere I turn, somebody knows somebody who works in the racing industry or loves the sport.
When I first stepped on to Catawba’s campus, I was terrified of being the outcast. Terrified of being the Yankee that everyone hated. I was relieved when the entire Catawba community embraced me during my first semester.
I had always heard of the southern hospitality that the South is so famous for, but I didn’t truly experience it until I was five hundred miles away from home and thrown into a new environment with new people. Suddenly, every new friend I made was offering to take me home with them. “You’re always welcome to come to my house.” “If you ever want a home cooked meal, you can always come home with me.” Phrase after phrase of welcoming. They didn’t have to offer their home to the stranded Pennsylvanian, but person after person did. Catawba College sophomore Patrick Karriker, who has lived in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina for extended periods of time, put it best, saying “I noticed that most people in the North are not as friendly to new people as people in the South are. While Northerners are still great people, they usually take a little longer to warm up to those that they do not know.”
Every place differs—the New York experience is not the same the Reading, Pennsylvania experience and the Salisbury, North Carolina experience is probably not the same as the Macon, Georgia experience, but generally I find these differences and Southern experiences to hold true. I may be a Yankee gone South, but I’ll never get sick of the sweet Southern drawl, the good ol’ North Carolina barbeque, and the never-ending Southern hospitality. There’s just something about the South.