Southern hospitality: My life in North Carolina

Living and studying in North Carolina for four months opened my eyes to a completely different culture I only had experience with in films and television shows.

Living and studying in North Carolina for four months opened my eyes to a completely different culture I only had experience with in films and television shows. People still ask me a year on: ‘Is it just like it is in the movies?’ and I truthfully answer: ‘Yes, it is!’

From the friendly people to the different food and drink, I loved every single minute of immersing myself in this way of life. Many people would agree that the American culture is somewhat desirable to the English, from the red cups to the baseball games and the accents to the road trips, but I soon found out that the south also has a unique subculture of its own.

One of the well-known characteristics of this region of America is the different food. One of my favourite southern delicacies was buttermilk biscuits with gravy. These can only be described as what we know as scones, with a sausage flavoured gravy, which is light in colour and not dark like we’d expect! These are traditionally served as part of a breakfast and were very popular in the university’s dining hall at the weekends.

Another breakfast food typical in the south is ‘grits.’ Very similar to porridge, it’s made with ground corn but comes in many variations. I was even brave enough to try cheesy grits as a side dish with dinner once! But you can’t visit the south and not try a barbecue pulled pork sandwich. Although these are available in England in some places, nothing can beat the real deal from a southern restaurant!

Different than the rest of America

Typically the south is more pro-gun than many other regions of America and this was very noticeable. I met lots of people whose parents owned and kept guns in their houses and garages and others who visited shooting ranges often. The different attitudes towards guns was the most clear when driving through rural North Carolina, and seeing billboards all the way down the highways advertising the local gun shows. 

Studying at a southern university I met so many lovely people. You hear people talk about ‘southern hospitality’ and it’s most definitely true. Just little things like people going out of their way to say hello when walking to class, and always be willing to help you with directions and questions, made my time living away so much more pleasant. The other students were the most approachable and friendliest group of people I’ve ever met.

But my favourite thing about the south was the country music. Every Tuesday night, students and locals alike took to the basement of one of Chapel Hill’s bars for a night of country music, 25 cent beers and on occasion: line dancing. The resident DJs would play everything from Taylor Swift’s ’22,’ to Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’ while people either danced, hung out at the bar or played beer pong on the tables in the back.

Not what an English girl would normally expect from an average night at the bars, but despite the initial culture shock, the international students became regulars at country night.

I loved every minute of engaging in this culture and way of life. And after four months, the southern lifestyle truly stole my heart.

Have you been to North Carolina or the southern United States? Have your say in the comments section below.