5 things I learned about living in the south from a foreigner’s perspective

Since moving to Tennessee from South Africa there are many things I have learned. I still have a long way to go, but I have definitely also come a long way since moving here ten years ago. The south is a place like no other, and there are many things that the people here do that are very unique. Let’s just say culture shock is a real thing, and I definitely felt it when I moved here. Here are my top five things I learned from living in the south.


Butter is a staple

One thing that I learned really quickly was that you can use butter with everything. And I don’t mean just a little bit of butter I mean a big chunk of it. I have even heard that fried butter sticks are real. Butter is something that many southerners cannot go without.


“Y’all” can be used in any type of conversation

It took me awhile to figure out what this word meant when I first moved to America and the south. I heard it all around me but had never heard a word that even resembled it. Once I started school, I soon realized it was another way of saying “you all” and that this word was being used everywhere. It doesn’t matter what type of conversation I was apart of, the chances of someone saying “y’all” was almost guaranteed. I have still to this day never said “y’all” in any conversation and have lived here for ten years now.


Fried frog legs and squirrel is not abnormal to eat

I was shocked to hear that in the south frogs and squirrels were animals that were being eaten like chicken. In South Africa we never saw squirrels, so when I moved her, I was very entertained by these little creatures and never even thought about the fact that they are being eaten. Now I will say frogs are not my favorite and their croaking kept me up for many nights in South Africa, so I was not opposed to getting rid of them, but again never thought about eating them or frying their legs and eating them. I also heard that when you fry their legs in the pan they move?


Southerners have a lot of little sayings that make no sense to outsiders but perfect sense to everyone else (snug as a bug in a rug, quit your bellyaching, over yonder.)

Not going to lie, I didn’t realize this until coming to university and rooming with a girl who at the time I didn’t know. She was the most southern person I had met and threw in these little saying daily. At first, I just went along with what she said really not understanding her, but as we got to be closer friends, I would ask her what these things meant because I was utterly confused half the time she spoke. Sometimes her and my boyfriend would talk with these little sayings and to me it was like a completely different language. Needless to say, they are still teaching me some.


Bless your heart

Now saving the best for last, “bless your heart” was a phrase I have heard over and over. I thought I was being smart and using context clues and knew what exactly it meant but as I continued living here, I found that not to be true. Saying “bless your heart” could mean anything from “I don’t care” to “you’re pitiful and don’t know it” or it can be out of kindness, empathy, love, or compassion. Learning that it all depends on the tone of how someone says this phrase saved my life in many conversations. I’m pretty sure at one point I tried to be all southern and said it, but it was definitely the wrong time and I may or may not have used it right.


Next time you’re around someone from a different culture or different country, pay attention to what they do because it opens up a whole new world to you, and who knows you may get a new favorite saying or snack.