17 Things People Do in the South That Northerners Won’t Understand

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By Jonathan Trent

The US is known for its rich cultural diversity, and there are some major differences between Northern and Southern states. Here are 17 Southern practices that might leave Northerners scratching their heads in confusion.

Sweet Tea

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Southerners are serious about sweet tea. It’s not just a beverage to them—it’s a way of life. Sweet tea is commonly offered as a warming beverage at family gatherings and roadside diners, and most Southern homes have a recipe tucked away, ready to come out on a hot summer day.

Fried Food

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Southerners have a habit of frying anything and everything, from chicken to Oreos. According to Taste Atlas, some of the most popular fried foods in the South include fried chicken, corn dogs, fried tomatoes, and even fried catfish! You’ll find a huge selection of fried foods at any Southern restaurant.

Bless Your Heart

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In Southern states, the phrase “bless your heart” is used frequently and in a range of contexts. It might convey sympathy, condescension, or even criticism. Northerners may struggle to understand its true meaning, leading to potential misunderstandings.

Football Obsession

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Football is far more popular in the South than it is in the North – people are borderline obsessed with it. Between Friday night lights and college game days, Southerners live and breathe football season. Tailgating, team loyalties, and spirited rivalries are all part of the Southern football experience.

Southern Hospitality

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Northerners might find it surprising that Southerners will happily welcome strangers with open arms and regularly host large gatherings. They pride themselves on their warm hospitality, while Northerners often have a more reserved attitude.

All-Day Breakfast

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In the South, breakfast is an all-day affair. Biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, and sausage casserole are all big hits for morning, noon, and night. Northerners might be more accustomed to strict breakfast times, so they might find it strange to see pancakes on the evening menu at a local Southern restaurant.

Drive-Thru Liquor

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Drive-thru liquor stores are a great way to stock up on alcohol without leaving your car. Mashed says that these stores are legal in 30 states and offer a convenient way to pick up spirits on your way home. This might seem foreign to Northerners, who are used to buying alcohol in-store.

Mardi Gras

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Mardi Gras is a cultural extravaganza in the South. With elaborate parades and lavish costumes, Southerners go all out to celebrate Mardi Gras in style. The sheer scale and spectacle of Mardi Gras festivities might be a shock to visiting Northerners.

Southern Drawl

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The Southern drawl is an accident with a slow, melodic cadence. It’s been passed down through many generations and is traditional in many Southern states. Some Northerners might find it difficult to understand the unique vocabulary and pronunciation of the southern drawl.

Porch Socials

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In the South, the front porch isn’t just a place to sit—it’s a social hub where neighbors can tell stories and share a jug of sweet tea. Northerners tend to have more private living spaces and may be surprised by the communal atmosphere of Southern porches.

Strong Patriotism

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Southerners are incredibly patriotic—whether flying flags or singing the national anthem, they have a strong collective feeling of attachment and commitment to their country. The South is centered around national tradition and is very interested in preserving it. 

Southern Fixins

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Southern fixins are delicious side dishes that complement every meal – examples include collard greens and cornbread. Southerners are serious about good food, and they know that the real magic happens on the plate next to the main course.

Southern Charm

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Southern charm is characterized by politeness, grace, and hospitality. Southerners take pride in their manners, and the concept of the Southern belle is still alive and well in many parts of the South. Northerners might find themselves captivated by the old-world charm of Southern states.

Firefly Appreciation

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There’s something magical about summer evenings in the South when fireflies fill the night sky. Southerners are fascinated by these luminescent insects, which symbolize the simple pleasures of life in the South.

Church on Sundays

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Sunday mornings in the South are reserved for church. According to Southern Spaces, churches have shaped the institutional and personal development of the South and its people. Attending church services is a longstanding tradition because religion plays a central role in community life.

Overcoming Adversity

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Southerners have a long history of resilience, overcoming adversity with strength, courage, and Southern grit. From natural disasters to economic hardships, Southerners have weathered their fair share of challenges, emerging stronger and more resilient each time. 

Front Yard Decor

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In the South, the front yard is a canvas for self-expression. People use colorful lawn ornaments, decorated gardens, and welcoming porch swings to create a beautiful and welcoming environment. Southern Living provides Southerners with ideas for flower arrangements, seating areas, and hanging gardens for their front yards.

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