When we told friends and family of our plans to leave the Boston area to retire in Georgia, reactions ranged from congratulatory slaps on the back to heartfelt condolences. One skeptical friend went so far as to predict that “after six months in the land of Honey Boo Boo, you will be back.”
I must confess that even as we traded corn chowder for cornbread and the flat A’s and dropped R’s of New England for the slow drawl of the South, I was afraid he might be right.
After five months in our new home, I am happy to report my fears have been put to rest.
To our great pleasure, southern hospitality is real, alive and well in Georgia. Our new neighbors welcomed us warmly – even though we are Yankees – and were eager to help us get settled in the area. They dropped by with goodies the first week we arrived, invited us into their homes, directed us to the best places to shop and eat, and made sure we are included in community activities.
People we do not know wave at us on the street or make eye contact and wish us a good day. Store clerks are unfailingly polite and eager to help, walking us across an entire store to make sure we find what we are looking for.
The young people we’ve met have impeccable manners and address us as sir and ma’am. When we urge them to call us by our first names, Ms. and Mr. become instant prefixes because anything else is considered disrespectful.
I would be less than truthful, however, if I didn’t admit to moments of culture shock and some doubt as we adjusted to our new surroundings.
We quickly learned the preferred reference to the War Between the States is “that Northern Aggression.” As University of Florida alumni, my husband and I also recognized early on that wearing any Gator gear in Georgia Bull Dog territory was considered an act of civil disobedience. Red Sox and Patriot memorabilia have been met with similar disdain.
Southern cuisine has introduced our palates to a whole range of wonderful new foods. But while we have developed a real appreciation for barbeque and the country music that is played in almost all the restaurants serving it, we have yet to acquire a taste for grits.
We have also discovered that in addition to chicken and shrimp, you can fry just about anything, including turkey, steak, green tomatoes, okra, pickles, catfish, pumpkin chips, and pecan pie.
Perhaps the hardest adjustment for us has been to the well-regarded and highly touted slower pace of the South. As two epic Type-A personalities, we have had to learn to take deep breaths and remain calm as bank tellers, store clerks, waitpersons, check-out people and hairdressers inquire about our day or our family because they are genuinely interested, and then proceed to tell us all about theirs. We now add an extra 20 minutes to the time it takes to run any errand.
Do we regret our move? Absolutely not. We have made wonderful new friends. We are proud to be a part of such an open and friendly community. But most of all, we love the temperate weather that means a winter without extreme cold and snow.
As for our nay-saying friend, we waited until a December day when temperatures were in the 60s and he was enduring a snowstorm that dumped nearly a foot of the white stuff on his driveway to give him a call. I’m not so sure he appreciated our smug “y’all-come-on-down” invitation at the time.