So it’s official. I live in The South. Some might consider southern Illinois the Midwest, but having driven through Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to get here, I can tell you…I’m still in The South.
One of the most stark differences I have noticed since my arrival has been southern hospitality. It’s hard to explain just how jarring these experiences have been for a Californian like me (read: person who wears headphones with no music while riding the train just to prevent anyone from talking to me) so I’ll just recount a couple:
This happened while getting out of my car at Bed Bath and Beyond. A woman parked next to me was getting in her car at the same time.
Woman: wow you’ve traveled a long way…all the way from California!
W: I could tell from your license plate
M: oh yeah we actually just moved here
W: oh really? Wow congratulations! I hope your move is going well I know those can be stressful.
M: yeah they sure can
W: well, just know that we are so happy and consider ourselves lucky to have you here with us. Have a great day and hope to see you around.
I was totally floored. It seriously made my whole day. But then there are other times where the hospitality has rubbed me the wrong way. For example this time while checking in to a hotel late at night in Arkansas:
Me: Yeah we have a reservation
Concierge: okay. Where y’all moving to? (We had a moving truck)
C: okay and where y’all from?
C: Oh wow! Why are you moving all the way out there???
M: wife got into med school
C: oh that’s a good reason. You know I once dated a girl and moved out here for her, and then [insert complicated story about how she left him] and so I’m still out here.
M: mhm. So…
C: Hey I see you have a guitar…you know I’m an artist myself. I majored in film. Did you know that California isn’t the film hub that it has always been? Things are changing…[insert LONG explanation about how Hollywood isn’t the only major city for film any more]
M: [in my head] LET ME SLEEP! GIMME MY ROOMKEY GIMME IT!
This place is so strange to me. I’ve gotten into relatively lengthy conversations with almost every stranger I’ve interacted with: cashiers, store clerks, waiters, restaurant owners, a car detailer, etc. It’s nice to know that it’s so easy to talk to folks though. Makes you feel a bit more connected.