Seaton: Local Tips For Country Living

Yesterday my mean-ass editor reflected on the conditions causing his friend Daniel to flee city life for the joys of the country. Apparently Daniel’s not the only one, and it’s not just Northerners fleeing for the country life. The West Coast is apparently driving former residents to the heart of America.

I can’t say I’m thrilled at this development, personally. Part of the joy in country living is there’s not as many people. Still, as the day progressed, it dawned on me I might be able to help a few of you coming this way to learn the ropes. After all, we’re going to be living near each other, so we might as well be civil.

Consider the following some helpful hints from a local on how to really enjoy country life. Keep in mind that what I’m outlining assumes you’re moving to the South. There’s country life everywhere, and these tips might not work as well in other rural locales.

Oh and before anyone gets started: Florida isn’t part of the South. We got together in a meeting after the “Florida Man” stuff got out of hand and mutually agreed Florida was better off doing its own thing.

  1. “Sir” and “Ma’am” are regularly used, especially when we’re addressing people in the service industry. Your refusal or negligence regarding these terms is a dead giveaway you’re not from around here.
  2. One thing we don’t expect you to adopt is the term “y’all.” It really only sounds right when Southerners say it.
  3. Cultivate attitudes of minding your manners and your business. It goes a long way.
  4. Church invitations are like dinner invitations. Don’t take them personally, and if it really bothers you just smile, politely decline, and say you’ve got other plans. You might want to consider taking them up on the offer even if you aren’t religious so you’ve got an excuse to partake in the lunch after services held in the Fellowship Hall. Some of the best food you’ll ever taste in your life resides in church Fellowship Halls.
  5. The term “bless your heart” conveys deep empathy and is a dreadful, fight-provoking insult. The tone of the person uttering the phrase determines which. You’ll know.
  6. As a reader mentioned yesterday, we really would prefer if you kept your opinions about how things were better “back there” to yourself. You came here for a reason. Enjoy what you’ve got.
  7. We aren’t really as obsessed with the Civil War, the Confederate Flag, or monuments as you’d think. We discovered hobbies while y’all were looking elsewhere. We just prefer if you left shit nice and clean while you’re around and we don’t like it when people just break shit for no reason.
  8. Read the room when attempting to discuss sports with locals. As an example, asking someone in East Tennessee if they’re planning on watching the football game this week means you’re asking about how the Vols will fare on Saturday. As far as the NFL, not everyone in Tennessee cares for the Titans.
  9. The only electric car exempt from ridicule is a Tesla. Gas is cheap enough around here for you to purchase and use a proper car.
  10. We’re generally the welcoming sort. We’ll try hard to overlook how you sound or where you came from. Y’know, unlike how y’all do us every time we travel.
  11. If you’re the sort that insists on being called they/them or ze/zir, we’ll oblige you because we don’t want to insult you. We may not talk much with you after that, but still.
  12. A note on food: we fry everything. Roll with it.
  13. “We’re having BBQ” “We’re having a BBQ” are two different methods of articulating gaining access to a certain type of smoky, savory meat. That meat doesn’t involve burgers or hot dogs. Grilling those is called a “Cook-Out.”
  14. A surefire way to break the ice with locals and get them on your good side is to ask for their favorite place to eat no one knows about. Even if it’s the hottest spot in town, we’ve all got our picks and are happy to share.
  15. If you’re invited fishing, bring beer. Preferably a case. It’s not always about what you catch.

Hope this helps if you’re considering a move, already moved, or moving. We’ll be seeing you. To everyone: Happy Friday! We’ll see you back next week, y’hear?

53 thoughts on “Seaton: Local Tips For Country Living

  1. John S.

    16. “Hey, y’all. Watch this!” Should be taken as a cautionary statement that something stupid and/or dangerous is about to happen. Keep your distance and be prepared.

      1. John S.

        “Hold my beer” is a phrase from the outlying states. A true Southerner commits acts of stupidity with beer firmly in hand.

        1. CLS

          All of these statements are true. Especially Southerners holding on to their beers while engaging in acts of rank stupidity.

  2. John Burger

    Man, I wish I had read this in 1985, before I moved to Texas from Ohio. It would have my life so much easier. I thought people were praying for me and my heart. Nope.


    PS:, “Damn Yankee” or “damned yankee” are bloid-curtling pejoratives. A”yankee” is a Northerner. A “damn yankee” is a Northerner who comes to the South and stays.

  3. Random Wine Geek

    Number 2 on your list reminds me of an account from a friend from my freshman year of college in Virginia. When she returned home to Long Island for Christmas break, she discovered that she had unconsciously added “y’all” to her everyday vocabulary after being mocked by her friends after using it in a conversation. It took her a moment to process that “y’all” now seemed to come naturally to her, but very much to her credit, she accepted that her semester in the South had changed her for the better and vociferously defended “y’all”’s utility as the distinct second person plural that English is lacking. I don’t think I’d ever been so proud of a Yankee, though it still was a bit strange to hear “y’all” in a Long Island accent.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Y’all may have sounded especially odd on The Island because neighboring Brooklyn had already produced its own second person plural “youse”.

  4. Richard Kopf


    In the South, and particularly in Tennessee, when is it appropriate for an old man to refer to a young woman as “Suga?”

    All the best.


    1. jay-w

      Much as I enjoy it when the young waitresses call me “Honey,” I always remain scrupulous about calling them “Ma’am” (even when they are young enough to be my grand-daughters).

  5. Gretz

    Make friends with someone who owns a pickup truck. Find out what beer he drinks, and have your wife make friends with his. All this will come in handy.

    If there is one, join the local volunteer fire department. If it is for no other reason than to get to ride in a fire truck (or even drive it), it’s still time well spent, but the house you save from a grass fire getting out of control might be yours. You’ll meet the best people, ones you can rely on, and they’ll learn you ain’t so bad for a damn yankee.

    1. Kathleen Casey

      After sitting around the firehouse talking and conjecturing about you multiple times before you join and you haven’t a clue what they yapped about you. Everywhere.

  6. Erik H

    Having spent some months in the South, I can attest to the wisdom of #14. It did make me gain a few pounds, though I was OK with it given the wonderful cause.

    1. CLS

      Check out Sweet P’s BBQ and Downtown Dive next time you come to Knoxville. Their brisket could bring peace to the Middle East.

            1. LocoYokel

              Brisket or pastrami, make up your mind. Pastrami is already in so that’s what your getting this time. We can talk ribs or pulled pork also.

      1. LocoYokel

        Blacks, Kreuz, or Smitty’s in Lockhart all have them beat. Snow’s in Lexington is good also. Blacks and Kruez deliver.

        I’m reasonably proud of mine also.

          1. LocoYokel

            BBQ braggin rights are worth going to war over, even more so than chili rights.

            While I think my brisket is pretty good, I don’t personally claim to have the best but the three in Lockhart are definitely in the running. Next time you’re in the area drop in and try them. But, IIRC, I sent you some Blacks a while back, it’s even better fresh off the smoker.

          1. LocoYokel

            I’ve been known to ship a pastrami or two from time to time. Was interesting last time I took a smoked brisket through TSA going to visit my wife’s cousin in VA back when we still lived in TX.

            1. Kathleen Casey

              A pox on TSA I suppose they thought it was a human body part.

              I’ll keep trying here at home. I can get good local brisket but I’m still an amateur.

            2. LocoYokel

              If you’re interested, get my email from Scott and lets talk offline for the sake of his bandwidth and sanity.

  7. Mario Machado

    When I went to Augusta to play tennis, the club janitor was this old-school dude who would often shoot animals from his backyard, and then give the players he liked a piece of whatever luckless creature was the shoot of the week. I always thought that was as country as it gets.

    I remember leaving practice with a bag containing a frozen-but-almost-thawed-and-thus-bleeding piece of venison. His offering was not always my favorite type of meat, but I never considered turning it down. That would’ve been horrible manners, and the South frowns upon that. Plus it turns out that venison bolognese is not bad at all.

  8. L. Phillips

    Not sure about the South, but this applies out west:
    14(a). If you are not comfortable talking to strangers but want good food drive around until you find that one restaurant with the most in-state pickup trucks parked in the lot. Go inside, order your food, enjoy it, keep your opinions about everything to yourself, be polite and leave a 20% tip in cash on the table. Repeat regularly and you will be a “local” within a generation or two. What to do about the excess weight without being labeled a “furriner” is a comment for another day.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: #9, in Oregon even Teslas are subject to ridicule if they have out of state license plates and especially if they have California HOV lane stickers. This is doubly true of any car that has a California HOV lane sticker and Oregon plates because the owner kept the stickers as a status symbol.

    2. Joe Bob

      What was fun in Texas was to stop at places old men gather to drink coffee and talk and ask if this is the Hillary for President Committee meeting. Some of them got pretty riled up, but others saw the grin.

  9. Hunting Guy

    If I could add some more things.

    Consider getting a pickup. They are really useful. Think about it – how much firewood could you carry in the trunk of a Prius?

    Guns are tools and most people own a couple or more. Don’t badmouth them. Your children will be perfectly safe in a home with firearms. Most children will own a gun or two and know how to safely use them.

    Sheriff Roy is real. I have met several of him. Yes, some of them do what you might consider over-the-top policing but they keep getting elected. They deal with their own versions of Florida Man.

    #13. It’s real. BBQ is a religion. I can’t emphasize that enough. Fist fights have broken out over sauces. Or not to sauce.

    Farmers and ranchers are not dumb hayseeds. Most of them have degrees in agriculture that included calculus, physics, and several years of chemistry and hard core biology. Plus, many of them live on land their families have owned that predates the founding of the U.S.

    Don’t say anything negative about the military. Most country people were either in the military or have family and friends in it. The exception is if you served. Then you can badmouth other branches.

    Take your hat off and put it over your heart for the National Anthem.

    1. CLS

      Excellent additions indeed. We’ll put them in the welcome flyers distributed to folks with NY or CA license plates.

    2. burban

      If the ‘Q needs sauce, then it isn’t good ‘Q. Sauce is an adjunct. And no beans in chili EVER. Beans are a side. “Anybody that puts beans in chili flunked chemistry”–Frank X Tolbert

  10. Kathryn M Kase

    A coupla addenda about Texas:

    16. Friday night football is not complete without Frito Pie made by the parents’ Booster Club, which slices a small bag of Fritos down the middle and ladles in a scoop of chili (without beans) and covers that with shredded yellow cheese and onions.

    17. If you’re yappin’ about barbecue sauce in Texas, rather than about the quality of the brisket or the ribs, you will be escorted to the closest state line. If you’re in a Gulf Coast county, best hope you can swim. To Louisiana.

    18. If you don’t know the difference between barbecue and barbacoa in Texas, you will be required to devour an eyeball taco (which is a sacrifice in those families who say it’s the best part of la cabeza de vaca).

    19. If you don’t know the difference between la cabeza de vaca and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, we cannot help you.

    1. Hunting Guy

      And Rocky Mountain Oysters are good. Also called calf fries. Served at Texas wedding receptions.

      It’s considered very bad form to throw up when told what they are.

  11. El_Suerte

    Is it rude to go to the fellowship if you don’t attend the service? I really like a lot of the church people I know and wouldn’t mind hanging out with them, and I’m really missing a sense of community. I just don’t share all their religious particulars and feel like it be disrespectful to attend the service.

Comments are closed.