10 Things I Learned When I Moved to the South


10 Things I Learned When I Moved to the South | Columbia SC Moms Blog

I was born and raised in Western NY. When it was time to head off to college, I chose a place in Pennsylvania and after graduating I lived in Illinois for 11 years. I’ve been a Yankee my entire life.

But four years ago my family picked up and moved to the south. I love living in the south but it sure was an … interesting transition, to say the least. In some ways I’m still adjusting to certain aspects of southern living (poisonous snakes in my backyard … need I say more?), but in other ways I’ve most definitely adjusted. 

I had to learn a lot when I moved to South Carolina though. While I knew to expect hot weather, fried chicken, and that good ‘ol southern hospitality, there were most definitely things I discovered that I had not been expecting. 

1. Yes Ma’am

Rule number one down here, you better say “Yes/No Ma’am” and “Yes/No Sir.” My parents raised me to be polite, but saying “ma’am” and “sir” were not part of my every day vocabulary up north. Here in the south, it’s quite the opposite. Those words are a part of every day vernacular and no matter who you are speaking to, you say “yes, ma’am” or “yes, sir.” It felt so strange saying those words when I would have a conversation with someone because I just wasn’t used to it. But if you want to be polite in the south, you learn to incorporate those phrases into your vocabulary very quickly. 

2. A Buggy Is Not What You Think It Is

During one of my first trips to the grocery store when we moved here, I observed a woman tell her daughter to “grab a buggy” while walking into the store. Upon hearing that I looked around for a baby stroller or something similar, but I didn’t see anything. I was very confused. Then I saw her daughter grab a grocery cart and wheel it to her mother. The light bulb in my head went off. At that moment, I knew I was going to be adding a lot more words to my vocabulary living here. 

3. Put That Up

On one of my son’s very first preschool play dates here, we were at his friends house and his mother told him to make sure he “put his toys up.” I immediately looked up in the closet at the shelf and thought there’s no way he can reach up there. He’s four. What is she thinking? I observed as her son put toys into the closet (on the floor) and decided to let it go. Well, it wasn’t long before I kept hearing that phrase. One day I finally realized it didn’t literally mean to put something up high, it means to put something away. Yeah … that one took a while to sink in.

4. Bless Your Heart

Speaking of things people say … if you’re in the south and someone ever says to you, “Well, bless your heart,” they aren’t being sweet. They’re essentially insulting you and calling you a stupid idiot. They’re just doing it in a nice way. And there’s the difference between a Yankee and someone from the south. If a northerner thinks you’re stupid, they’ll just tell you that out right. But southerners are at least a bit more polite about it.  

5. Sweet Tea Is Life

You don’t go a day without sweet tea in the south. And, I don’t mean sweet tea that comes from a dry mix you buy in the store. Oh, no! I’m talking, tea bags soaking in water then add lots of sugar, sweet tea. And don’t even think about mentioning unsweetened tea. It just doesn’t exist down here.

6. Nature Is … Different

Up north we have bugs and all kinds of critters, of course, just like anywhere else. But they are in a whole different category than the type you find down here. One of the first things I noticed when we moved here is there are a million different types of bugs I have never seen before, and they are a lot BIGGER. I don’t know why, they just are. And cockroaches are ALL OVER! And no matter what you try, you can’t get rid of those suckers. They always find their way into your house somehow.

We also quickly discovered we’d be sharing our backyard with multiple types of lizards. Not to mention the (huge) spiders and snakes, including some poisonous ones. I have to do a quick check in my backyard before I let the boys out just to make sure there isn’t a copperhead waiting to slither up and take a bite out of their ankles.

Turkey vultures are EVERYWHERE. If there’s a dead animal on the side of the road, you’re sure to see the turkey vultures flying around. Oh, and speaking of turkeys … I’ve seen wild turkeys just walking down the road. Yep. Just moseying along like it’s perfectly normal for them to be on the side of a very busy road. And, while we’re on the subject of animals just making themselves at home wherever, our first week here there was a random turtle that wandered into our front yard and had a snack from the bushes in front of our house. Definitely don’t see that in New York! 

7. Air Conditioning Is Your Best Friend

If you’re gonna live in the south, you better make sure you have central air. Those little window units won’t cut it when it’s 100+ degrees outside and humid. I’m talking you walk outside and are dripping with sweat in two minutes kind of humid. Sticky, sweaty, hot humidity. Gotta love it! HA! But, truth be told, I LOVE the weather! I’ll take heat and humidity over cold and snow any day.

8. Everyone Owns Chickens

So, one thing I discovered within a few months of moving to South Carolina was that everyone here owns chickens. EVERYONE. (OK, maybe not everyone, but A LOT of people.) I still haven’t really figured this one out though. I mean, yeah, you can get your own eggs and such, but some people just have them to have them. My husband tells me one day we’ll have chickens. OK. Whatever you say, honey. 

9. The Food

Ummmm … the food down here is AMAZING! I mean you can’t go wrong with fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, pulled pork, shrimp boils, cornbread, brisket … my mouth is watering just typing this. I had never had chicken and waffles before moving here and now I can’t go without it. It is pure heaven! But what’s even more awesome is that mac-n-cheese is life. And I’m not talking about Kraft. I mean homemade, dripping with butter and four types of cheese, mac-n-cheese. Aww, yeah!

10. Slower Pace Of Life

Things definitely move at a slower pace down here than up north. But, it’s a refreshing change. Everything isn’t just go-go-go. If you’re out for a walk, people will stop and chat with you. Even when you’re grocery shopping or spending time at Target buying all the things you don’t need, complete strangers will just start a conversation with you. No one is in a hurry and rushing around. People take time to sit on their front porch and relax. Life just moves at a slower pace down here and it’s wonderful. 

Are you a Yankee like me? If so, what did you learn when you moved south?


  1. Yes to all of the above! Though the bugs in Florida are even bigger 😉 Ma’am and sir were hard for me to adjust to—one morning dropping off my kiddo at preschool a classmate did something to my son that got a correction from the teacher. Then the teacher asked if my son was okay and he replied, “yeah.” In a corrective tone she replied, “yes, ma’am.” I was so taken aback. For some reason the phrase makes me uncomfortable. After a few days of thinking it over I decided it was simply something we needed to adjust to. We chose to live here and decided we needed to honor the cultural norms. I’ve worked to teach my son to use ma’am and sir, just not with his northern and Floridian grandparents 😉

    • Remind me to stay away from Florida with those big bugs!! Ha ha! The “yes, ma’am” and “sir” were hard for us to. We just were not used to that so it took a while to adjust to saying it. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Your not supposed to walk up the escalators at the Mall. Your actually supposed to stand in one place and wait 🤷🏻‍♀️Who knew that was a thing 🤣


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