Monday, August 11, 2008

The Southern States : A Survival Guide for Britons

Recently a friend of mine left England to move to the USA. Like me she moved to one of the Southern States.

So she doesn’t have to learn from my mistakes, I thought I’d write the following ‘survival guide’ and post it here for her, and all the other Britons out there who are thinking of moving to the Southern United States.

1) Do not venture outside between 11am and 4pm.

Heat? Pah! American puffs! Can’t take a little sunshine? You’ll show them, right?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. You may think you’ve experienced high temperatures on your last holiday to Spain, but the average midsummer temperature is enough to make the average Brit simply explode into a cloud of ash within seconds of setting foot outside.

2) When you finally realize just how hot it is, do not comment on this fact.

This is simply because what you’re likely to hear in return is: “Yeah, I suppose it’s a bit warm, just wait until we get into the dead of summer!”

The sudden realization that the blistering, sweltering, 140% humidity pressure cooker that you’re barely managing to tolerate is, in fact, the ‘mild’ bit before summer really starts has been known to kill.

3) Be prepared to psychically sense Shakespeare spinning in his grave on a daily basis.

The average southerner can literally butcher the English language using less than three syllables. Brace yourself for when they say you ‘talk funny’. The fact you’re from england and speak english doesn’t register. The only way to deal with this is to realize that while you speak English, southerners talk in a totally different language called ‘ayyyynglish’.

4) Brace yourself for the day you first realize you’re being linguistically corrupted.

There will come a day when you hear yourself say ‘Y’all’. Don’t panic. Simply lay down and wait to die.

If you hear yourself say ‘yewins’, don’t wait to die, but expedite the process with whatever’s close to hand. At this point, it’s too late and there’s no turning back.

5) Always make sure you understand everything that is said.

There are people in the southern states who have accents so thick, they sound like an aging basset-hound trying to eat a pillow. Your sense of British politeness and reserve will make you resist constantly asking people to repeat themselves, so you may find yourself going to the old standby, which is nodding and smiling.


I did this once and found out later that I’d agreed to watch cars drive in circles for five or six hours, in the hundred degree heat while breathing pure car exhaust. Apparently, this punishment is called ‘Nascar’, which is like racing, only they only ever turn left.

6) Never turn down food.

So you go to a new friend or relative’s house, and they offer you a local delicacy, but you’ve just had a very big lunch and couldn’t eat another bite.

Eat it anyway, even if it means you’ll throw up on the way home. Turning down food (especially home-cooked food) from a southerner, is the etiquette equivalent of taking a massive dump on their living room floor.

7) Accept America is a gun culture.

Basically, if you live out in the country, get used to the sound of gunfire. The urge to throw yourself on the ground and call the police every time your new neighbor decides to take some target practice mostly goes away after a few years.

8) Re-learn to drive.

Not only do all Americans drive on the wrong side of the road and have the steering wheel on the wrong side, there are plenty of new road-rules to learn.

For example, while in England there are signs and road markings to designate right of way, in the Southern states, right of way always goes to the guy in the oversized truck with the gun rack on the back of it.

9) Don’t criticize America, ever.

I mean this. Even if you’ve just listened to a Southerner take two hours to express jus how much they despise the American health-care system, do not say anything, even to agree with them. Even an answer as mild as “Yes, I agree that the American Health-care system is not perfect.” You will hear the following:

“Yeah? Well if you don’ like it, why don’t you just go back where you came from!”

Southerner’s only tolerate one type of immigrant, and that’s an immigrant that will categorically state that America is the world’s most perfect nation and is vastly superior to the immigrant’s country of origin.

10) Avoid social faux-pas.

Drinking in the southern states is viewed in one of two ways. Either it’s a religion in its own right, or it’s roughly on a par with raping a senior citizen while simultaneously mugging them and freebasing crack. There is no way to tell which type of personality you’re talking to…so it’s best not to mention it at all.

11) Get used to religion.

In most of the southern states, there are more churches per mile than there are people. Regardless of your own personal views, if asked if you have ‘been saved’, answer: “Yes, I have, Praise Jesus!” or risk being forcefully converted/stoned/burned at the stake/all of the above.

The only thing more plentiful in the southern states that churches are Walmarts.

12) Enjoy the wildlife, but do it carefully.

In other words, while you’re looking up, marveling at the eagle or hawk circling overhead, there’s probably a copperhead or cottonmouth near your feet.

Also, no matter how cute they look, no matter what you’ve seen in the cartoons, do not attempt to pet the raccoons. They only look cute. The average raccoon is, in fact, approximately seventy-three and a half insane serial-killer, rapist nazis in a snuggly-wuggly teddy-bear body.

Also ‘possums’ only sound cute. In reality, they look like a genetic experiment gone wrong and make the raccoons seem downright friendly.

13) Avoid sarcasm at all costs.

Americans simply do not understand sarcasm or irony and this is especially true in the Southern states. What is an obvious, playful joke in England is simply being incredibly rude in America.

For example, do not repeat my mistake of wishing my new inlaws a ‘Happy Colonial Ingrate Day’ on the fourth of July. I took almost six months to fully heal.

14) Food.

Food is incredibly strange in the Southern States. The call biscuits ‘cookies’, many eat ham instead of Turkey at Christmas…and they drink tea ice cold, without milk, and approximately twenty-five pounds of sugar per liter…which is just wrong.

Also, there’s the weird belief that it’s not really food unless it’s been breaded, deep fried and smothered in cheese. There is also not a single food item in the southern cookbook that does not contain bacon grease as a main ingredient. Most southerners have never even heard of curry and those who have consider it disgusting.

Do not get offended by this. Just remember that this is a culture that believes coffee mixed with (and I shit you not) bacon grease is a valid recipe for gravy.

15) Verse yourself in the Southern version of geography.

For example, many people will give you directions based on detailed knowledge of local folklore and where landmarks used to be. IE “Turn left where the gas station used to be, then hang a right at where ‘ole willie got attacked by the bear and if you pass a fence with a dog sitting next to it, you’ve gone too far.”

Also bear in mind that to most Southerners the terms ‘England’, ‘Europe’ and ‘London’ are interchangeable. They also believe that England consists of an area of only a few square miles. Prepare for questions like “Hey, I knew a guy from England! His name’s Steve. Do you know him?”


Sunny said...

One small mistake you made sweetie...........It's Black Coffee and HAM grease/juices to make Red-Eye Gravy. And it's called red-eye because it will both raise your blood pressure with the sodium from the ham goodie and keep you wide awake for hours from the caffeine from the black coffee.
Other than that small fact you're completely and utterly correct.

Evanesce In 2008 said...

Loved it!

Kelly said...

I laughed my ass off reading this - so did Toby. I think i'm lucky tat he finds that red eye cravy as repulsive as I do. I mean there is some seriously fucked up food stuffs around here! Whatever happened to a good ole bacon buttie??

Paulius said...

Sunny...yeah, because HAM grease mixed with coffee is MUCH better than nasty old bacon grease.

Kelly: Don't say 'buttie' in florida...also, don't say "Smoked a fag" means something totally different over here.

Woman atop her Soapbox said...

Absolutely hilarious!

The thing about the racoon, so true.

And I think in Texas, we only use 23 pounds per litre of sugar. :)

You forgot one... You ain't from around these parts, are'ya?


marie said...

I only have two things to say.
1) I have yet to see an example of "British politeness and reserve".
2)I got told today(from my Indian coworker,keep in mind) that I am not speaking English. That whatever language it is I need to quit refering to it as english b/c its very confusing.:)
You hit the nail on the head on all of it though,i had to laugh.
Pip Pip, Ciao, and top of the morning to ya(or is that irish?)JK