My Top 10 Culture Shocks of Living in the South

In my first week in Tennessee, I saw the total eclipse, went to a county fair, attended city meetings, watched my first polo match, whiskey-tasted, visited a bar that’s a Nashville institution, and much much more. Here’s a slideshow with some of the highlights:

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When I decided to move to Tennessee, I figured I’d more or less fit in. And I was right, in the sense that I have blonde hair and blue eyes, as it seems 90 percent of people here do. But after a week here, I’m discovering just how different the South is from the Western lifestyle that I’ve grown accustomed to. I thought I’d list some of the things I have learned about life in Tennessee:

  1. There are dead skunks everywhere. In Vegas, it seemed like I couldn’t drive anywhere without seeing the remnants of a car accident. Here, I can’t drive anywhere without seeing roadkill. More specifically, since I usually drive with my windows down, skunks.
  2. The liquor laws. When I went into the Publix by my house, I wanted to pick up some Tennessee whiskey (you know, to cement my newfound state pride). To my dismay, the store only sold beer and wine. Which is apparently a new development. Strange for a county and state with a long history of bootlegging. I guess liquor doesn’t flow as freely in Tennessee as it does in Vegas!
  3. The demographics of my county. Vegas very much felt like a melting pot of a town. We had poverty and homelessness on a level others don’t often experience, but also a community with a heart of gold and a penchant for coming together to solve problems. When I moved to Williamson County, I was aware I’d be well in the majority in terms of race. But it really has been astonishing to see how little racial diversity there is here. It makes an impression on me when I see a person of color, because it’s not a common occurrence here. I also feel like I’m in a minority in terms of age: I haven’t really met anyone between the ages of 21 and 35 here. There are lots of older folks, and lots of younger couples with babies. Single twenty-somethings? Not so much.
  4. The unsavory history of the south isn’t discussed. I was curious, moving to a southern state at a time when the ugly history of the south is being dredged up, what the conversation would be like here. So far, I haven’t heard much. In the Franklin town square, there’s a statue of “Chip,” a generic Confederate soldier. A recent vigil held in town square for the Charlottesville victims saw a local pastor calling for removal of the statue, but it seems unlikely that would actually occur in this town. There are many organizations committed to preserving history in town, but it seems to be the antebellum South history narrative of brave soldiers fighting for God and country, not the history of slavery and brutality. Frederick Douglass’ great-great grandson will be speaking in my town on Friday, so I’m excited to go and interested to hear what he has to say.
  5. Yes, everyone has a southern accent. I went to the neighboring county’s fair last weekend (a great way to learn about a new state after moving, by the way). I was at a children’s beauty pageant with my roommate, and a man started talking to me. “You’re not from here,” he said. “You don’t have a southern accent.” I chuckled, then let him guess where I’m from. “Ohio,” was his answer.
  6. The sheer amount of land and space there is out here. In Brentwood, the town just north of mine, single family homes must be built on a minimum lot size of one acre. And many are larger than that. I was at a polo match this weekend on a lot that was probably 40 or more acres. When I leave my house and drive through town, I pass farms on each side of the highway. There’s so much greenery out here, too: forests, rivers, grassy open spaces. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.
  7. The roads are called pikes and the traffic is terrible. A pike, as I found out while I was taking a walk down one just after dusk, is a highway. There aren’t a lot of sidewalks here, except in downtown. We have a few main pikes, and the construction on them is one of the perennially debated issues, as one of the main pikes, Mack Hatcher, has been under construction for years. Due to the explosive growth in the area, traffic has become congested along these one lane highways. It took me 30 minutes to go 5 miles one morning, as I traveled along a main highway during peak morning traffic hours.
  8. The citizens are civically engaged. Since Franklin is the county seat of Williamson County, I’ll be covering a lot of city meetings. In my first week, I covered four. I found them all pretty interesting, but what I noticed most was this: people here truly care about their neighbors and their community, and are actively engaged with city politics. In a meeting to discuss the city’s proposed annexation of a road in an unincorporated area of the county, folks showed up en masse to protest. It’s in the city’s best interest to grow the community, but for those who have lived in Franklin for decades, the fear of disturbance of their utopia is an ever-growing concern. “It’s a special community,” Doris McMillan, a seamstress who has lived in Franklin for 27 years, told me at another meeting.
  9. There’s no shortage of talented musicians. From live music at events to the worship team at church to live performers downtown: this city truly has amazing musicians with a soul to their music. I think my favorite was when folks danced to spirited covers of “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Purple Rain” from a live band after a whiskey tasting event.
  10. Life truly moves slower here. I don’t know if this is true in Nashville, but it seems to be the case in Williamson County. From the receipt-checking line to get out the door at Costco, to meetings, traffic and even church services, things move slowly. I’m accustomed to living in a fast-paced environment, so this is a tough one for me. But it makes me think: this could be God trying to teach me some patience!

There is much for me to adjust to, but I’m enjoying my new life, and can’t wait to learn more.




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