Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Why I Love Living in the South

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The other night at the grocery store, I saw a man give his shopping cart to a young woman. It was an important moment for me, reminding me why I moved here over five years ago.

Southern Banjo Player

Photo credit: Steve Punter (Creative Commons)

She was walking around Kroger with her arms full of food, ready to drop everything. The man looked at her and without hesitating, said, “Miss, please take my cart.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, fully aware of the fact that she hadn’t planned accordingly. Adding one more thing to the pile in her arms would have caused her to drop everything. He didn’t hesitate. Without another word, he turned the cart over to her and walked away. Again, I was reminded:

This is why I love living in the South.

I wasn’t always from the South. In fact, I spent the first 22 years of my life in the North, as a Yankee. I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, then moved to central Illinois for college. I spent the following year on the road, traveling all over the U.S. with a music group.

It wasn’t until I was 23 that I made the move to Tennessee. My girlfriend wanted to get into the music industry, and I wanted to marry her. So she moved to Nashville, and I followed her.

At first, I thought southern culture was kind of ridiculous. Sweet tea. Lots of churches. Religious attitudes out the wazoo. Bleh.

It just seemed so phony. Every corner I turned, there was an voluptuous woman in a spring, floral-print dress with too much makeup, telling me, “Bless yer heart.”

But over time, I’ve grown to love southern culture. I’ve realized there is more than meets the eye to the Confederate states.

There is rich history and a hard work ethic. There is humility and faith. There is a strong loyalty to family and town. And an appreciation for what we have and where we come from.

I can’t think of a better place to raise my kids than a region in which a man gives up his cart (or “buggy” as they’re sometimes called) for a young lady in the grocery store.

Why is the South an ideal place for someone to live? I have a few reasons for crossing the Mason-Dixon line:

1. The Weather

The weather here is warm and mostly pleasant.

I’m naturally cold-blooded, so the year I spent in Minnesota was practically torture. I remember during the month of January, I would hear warnings of going outside for more than 15 minutes, because you could freeze to death. That is not my kind of weather.

Living in Tennessee, I get the opportunity to experience all four seasons without freezing to death. I’d rather be sweating than shaking from the cold, and the hot summers here allow me to do just that.

Fortunately, there is enough sweet tea to help me keep cool.

2. Southern Hospitality

At first it seemed phony, and certainly there is some pretense at times, but the reality is people are generally nicer in the South. They really are hospitable.

My friend Bob used to sell encyclopedias in college and often tells me it was common for families to invite him — a traveling salesman — in for lunch. During this period in his life when he went door-to-door, he never missed a meal.

If you live in the South, you will hear your fair share of “sirs” and “ma’ams,” and in a culture where civility and chivalry are becoming all but extinct, this is refreshing.

3. Faith and culture

As with hospitality, the influence of religion on southern culture sometimes feels fake. It’s sometimes hard to see past the veneer of the Bible Belt to what people really believe. 

Moreover, it’s not uncommon to hear people use words like “God” “blessing” and “Jesus” in a conversation about politics, culture, or the news. If you didn’t grow up with this, it can be overwhelming.

But there is a strand of faith found in the South that is, indeed, authentic. I love that you hear people on the evening news or morning talk show freely talk about their faith in God or that you may encounter a stranger who offers to pray for you.

While Christianity isn’t forced here, it’s not apologized for, either. As a person of faith myself, I love that.

The South may not be for everyone, but I honestly can’t see myself moving back north any time soon; I’m a self-made Southerner, through and through.

Why do you love where you live?

*Photo credit: Steve Punter (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://eileenknowles.blogspot.com eileen

    I’m a southern transplant too.  Well, unless you consider the southern portion of AZ to be the South :)    I had to get used to people always waving at me here when they drive by.  Everybody waves at everybody.  I also love when I see family run businesses quoting scripture on the signs outside their place of business.  Don’t usually see that in other places.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks for sharing, Eileen!

  • sam452

     As a native-born Georgian, I’ve seen that “Nawtherners” are pretty cool people, too. With values similar to mine. But the easiness, and sincerity, of our faith that comes out in our interactions is part of the stuff under the skin is what makes it home for me.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yeah, I love that, Sam.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a native NC gal who lived in TN for 7 years, and while it may be south of the M/D line, it’s a “different kind” of South from NC south. In fact, each Southern state has it’s own flavor. VA, where I was born, has a certain sophistication about it. I can ALWAYS tell when I’ve crossed the border into SC just by the roads and the overall “look”. Huge difference. Then in GA, I can hardly understand a word people are saying!  Then you have the “deep” south…no comment, lol! I have mixed feelings about living here, but the sweet tea and the weather are enough to convince me to stick around for awhile. If I ever do move out of the South, I think I’ll move west!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re absolutely right. My family lives in AL, only two hours away from us, but it’s way different from Nashville.

      • Anonymous

        Oh, one more awesome thing about  NC is the BBQ (which is a noun, not a verb). Yum!!! There’s no other BBQ like it anywhere else! I remember in East TN, if you cut folks they would bleed UT orange. There was that whole “mountain culture” there too. The ATL…that’s like, THE place to be if you are African-American. Very fascinating to see all the different expressions of “southern-ness” isn’t it?

        Great post! :)

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          Yeah, NC BBQ is great!

  • http://hopefulleigh.blogspot.com/ HopefulLeigh

    Jeff, maybe I should have realized this about you but I’m originally from  the Chicago suburbs too!  This weekend marks 1 year living in Nashville and I wholeheartedly agree with your reasoning.  I’m definitely still getting used to the South but I love it here.  If I could transport all my friends and family here, it would be perfect.  I did manage to inspire one friend to move here last month so it seems like my campaigning will ultimately be successful.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Well done! Let’s get more transplants!

  • http://about.me/jonfulk Jon Fulk

    I think we’re heading opposite directions on the same path! I’m from central IL, went to college in TN (and grad school in MO), and now I live in Minneapolis. I miss the South, but mostly just in Feb. And March. I love living in the Mini-Apple because everyone tries to be active all year here, and that is motivating. People are really smart, hip, and creative here. I also love water, so the lakes help too. MN isn’t that bad ;) We’re just a bunch of survivors!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I’ve lived in MN! Beautiful summers.

  • http://dianerivers.wordpress.com Diane Rivers

    I can trace my Southern roots back to the Revolutionary Way but somehow ended up in the North for the last umpteen years.  You make me homesick.  But what I really want to know is:  Did you get the girl by moving to Nashville????

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Heck yes!

    • Marissa June Goins

      yes! they’ve been married for 3 years. 

  • george spaulding

     Hey, jeff-
    loved your latest blog “Why i love…” actually, i missed being a “southerner” when i was about seven years old. i was born in the state of Maine( yes, Red Sox and Moxie all the way!), and my dad moved us all to Florida, thinking to start a wood working business near Orlando. the job didn’t work out, and we moved back to Maine after school ended. i’ve been living in nova scotia for a good part of my life now, but am still a Maine boy at heart, and love to hear and speak a good old fashioned Maine accent! it is said that “one can take the boy out of Maine, but not Maine out of the boy!” how true!
    i agree too, that much of  what we see in religion today is superficial, but true religion is a “heart thing” (Ezekiel 36:26-27), and manifests itself in “…visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, keeping himself unspotted from the world…and (offering a shopping cart to a weary, grocery laden woman)” (james 1:27)! thanks for sharing!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, george

  • http://twitter.com/kpnashville Kevin Pellatiro

    Couldn’t agree more Jeff. Shannon and I remember laughing about some of the initial colloquialisms and just learning how to actually be *friendly* in everyday public interactions. How strange it is that we often had to adapt to this at all. You know, remembering to actually make eye contact, or even wave, at total strangers. Life is just better where sweet tea is found :-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      indeed!

  • http://www.suttonparks.com Sutton Parks

    I moved to Franklin, Tn from Buffalo,Ny in 1995. Although I loved the culture, water, and three months of summer in Buffalo, the long winters were tough. I moved here for music but I stay because I love it here. I lime the small town square in Franklin, the hiking trails and the mild winters. It is also a creative area to live in that embraces artists, writers and musicians. Franklin is this Yankees home.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My wife and I are moving to Franklin proper in a month! We can’t wait.

    • http://twitter.com/BradBlackman Brad Blackman

      You traded three months of summer in Buffalo for seven months of summer in Franklin! ;-) 

  • http://thewholedangthing.wordpress.com Ben Emerson

    Corvallis, Oregon is THE safest place in the country if you want to avoid natural disasters. So that’s pretty awesome.

    Also, I am two hours or less away from any type of place I would want to be: major city, small town, river, mountains, snow, beach, camping, desert, lake, you name it.

    It does rain a lot but that makes me appreciate the sunshine more. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I have family that lived in Corvalis. I hear it’s beautiful.

  • Patricia Hunter

    I’m a girl (or I *was* a girl) born and raised on sweet tea and grits, and y’all’s post answers the question for me…but, bless their hearts, I still love my friends from other countries – like New York and Oregon. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hah!

  • http://twitter.com/RenaissanceEgg Tom Eggebrecht

    I was raised in the north, and live in the north how.  However, for a time we lived in North Carolina and Virginia, and absolutely loved living in the south. What you say is so true. I’m longing for it again, and would move to the Nashville/Franklin area in a heartbeat if the opportunity would arise! I’ve been thinking about it a great deal lately, and your post reaffirms all the things I love about it. I love this post, and am glad you took a break from your “regularly scheduled programing.” 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Tom!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jen.schwab Jen Gabler Schwab

    I’m glad that you like the South, Jeff – and I leave it entirely to you.  After last summer living in Virginia, I’ve decided that I’m a hardcore Yankee.  I like the challenge of 120″ of snow in a winter, I like all 8 weeks of summer before it gets back to reasonable temperatures, I love my lobster, and I enjoy the directness of communication that comes with being flipped off by drivers. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hah!

  • Anonymous

    I miss the mountain mornings and the goodle mountain dew in Hendersonville, but I do not miss East Nashville, Greenwood, or Inglewood.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yeah. I’m liking Franklin.

  • http://plct.blogspot.com keturah

    You  just made me want to move back to Nashville. Not that I hadn’t already been thinking about it….. When I came back from my visit, I tried waving to my neighbor and got a strange look in return. Had to remind myself people don’t do that in California.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You need to!

  • Olsonjerene

    Love it.  Seems like every morning the news will have a “survey” on the saddest state, the fattest state, state that gets the least amount of sleep, etc.  It seems that TN is always at the top.  It can get so discouraging.  Thanks for the encouragement.
      

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      We may be fat, but we’re awesome. I love it here.

  • http://peterpaluska.com Peter Paluska

    Jeff,

    I think it is nice that you’ve taken some time to write a note of appreciation for your adopted homeland, and wouldn’t it be nice if more people did just that!

    I am up here in the Northeast, Maine to be exact. It suits me fine. I don’t mind cold winters and unpredictable weather and it is nice to be on the coast. I have lived in Massachusetts, France, and Japan (almost eight years), and all these places had something different and unique to offer. I like to think in the home is wherever I hang my hat mode for the most part.

    I is an Earthling! and proud of it.. yeah.

    Peter 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Totally agree. I’ve also felt at home in Texas and Spain.

  • Anonymous

    I adore the South for its food, music, and weather (albeit the humidity will steal your joy and your blowout). I like that your introductory story in Kroger was probably a transplant too since he used the term “shopping cart.” All buggy, all the time. :-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Well that was me. ;)

  • http://www.marianneworley.com Marianne Worley

    OK, I can’t stop myself from jumping in… I’m from California, I was born here and I’ve never lived anywhere else. I’ve been fortunate to travel throughout the US at various points in my career. I’ve actually been to Franklin twice, to meet with Dave Ramsey. And yes, I agree, it’s wonderful. I’ve spent weeks in many Southern states and always enjoyed the people (and the sweet tea!). But still, I love coming home to California.

    You really can’t beat the weather here in San Diego. No raging humidity during the summer, heck, you can go through an entire Winter without wearing a jacket! You can go to the beach and take a 2-hour drive to the snow or the desert. I know, we can be a little quirky and have a lot of problems, but we still love our state. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      San Diego is beautiful. Love it there.

  • http://www.storywrought.wordpress.com Lizzie

     Reading this post was torture!  I had to move north to Philadelphia this past year for work, and I already miss my hometown.  That and I’ve gotten tired of people telling me that I talk oddly.  I miss my uncle playing the banjo and catching crabs off the dock and drinking sweet tea on the porch.  There’s nothing like it.  Needless to say, I’m looking to move down south as soon as possible.  Great post!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Yeah, get back here!

  • http://www.thedailywalk.net Adam

    I love living in the south for all of the reasons you mentioned above, and to me the pace just seems a lot slower and that is the way I like it. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Agreed. Easy-going, some might say.

  • http://twitter.com/BradBlackman Brad Blackman

     I love how at the Starbucks in Mount Juliet (a suburb of Nashville) there is almost always someone with a Bible, either reading on their own or doing a study with someone else. In fact, that’s common at just about every Starbucks in Nashville.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Right. I’ve seen that, too.

  • alexis

    We just got back from New Orleans and the Southern hospitality was obvious after we got on a taxi cab from the airport to head out to the city. Every one seems to talk with a humble tone, and they had an aura that said, “You can count on me.” It was an amazing experience that hardly anyone from the west coast really talks about.

    http://worldtag.us

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks for sharing, Alexis.

  • http://twitter.com/kayling05 Kaylin S

    I’m actually originally from the South (particularly rural part of Alabama… not that any of it is really urban) and I couldn’t wait to get out of there! While I miss certain things about it (mainly the food! and sweet tea) as a fairly liberal and non-religious person it was absolutely stifling to me and I couldn’t wait to leave.  Maybe they don’t force religion on you in Nashville but it’s a whole different ballpark in Alabama. I’ve been “witnessed” to more times than I can count in entirely inappropriate venues… like while I was at work! (at two different jobs actually) To those people, I say leave me alone and let me do my job!
    I will say though that I never lived anywhere larger than about 60,000-70,000 people (and that was only for college; my hometown is much smaller with less than 10,000 people) so maybe in the cities, like Atlanta or Nashville, it’s different. I quite like the vibe in Atlanta the few times I’ve visited and if I ever had to move back “home” to the deep south that’s probably where I would go.

  • TayFo

    I currently live in Cheonan, South Korea.  I am originally from California but spent most of my crucial growing up years in Iowa.  Yes, that’s right, little-ole-Iowa! It was a great place to grow up and most of my family lives there.  I’ve lived in SoKo for about a year and a half now and love it.  I’m from the country and here I live in the city.  I’m from a pretty flat place with rolling hills and here I can see a mountain out my window.  Both places have four seasons, though which I am grateful for.  But I love the delicate cherry blossoms of the spring and the brilliant colors across the mountains in the fall.  I love being close to the ocean and close to one of the most populated cities in the world, Seoul.  I love being able to see and touch history…I just recently visited the DMZ and technically walked into North Korea.  AND I was able to visit all of these places car-less and relatively cheaply.  I am one blessed girl.  And most importantly, I have learned that people are people no matter where you live.  They all have needs and all can use a smile and encouraging word every now and then.  That’s why I love my job, teaching English to middle schoolers where despite the language barrier, I can make a difference.  Actually, I shared this with one of my students who will be living in Alabama for his high school career.  This will give him a little more info in a more personal way about living in the south.  Thanks! :)

  • Jmendoza

    i can’t believe I found this. I am mexican and was born in California and lived there for 18 years before I moved to college on the Ohio/West Virginia boarder. I fell in love with middle america, gravy, sweet tea and freedom. Upon finishing I was offered a job in Berkeley Calif with an office view of the entire SF bay, and it was the hardest 6 months of my life. People were evil mean and violent. I said F it and moved to South Texas and decided to do a huge life change and started school again outside New Orleans. i love the Stars and bars, I love Dixie, I love the southern accident, I love hunting, I love Country music, I love fried food, and I love this great country. 

    The South Will RISE AGAIN!

  • Ben

    I was born and raised in NJ and moved to SC when I was 15, I’m now 27. I have absolutely NO plans on ever moving back up north. My question (weird it may be) is, will I always be considered a Yankee, or will I eventually be considered Southern? Just curious…

    • Bill Lamoreaux

      You’re a Yankee. I moved from Ohio to the South when I was 14. I lived there until I was 40. Married a southern woman, whose friends all referred to me as her Yankee husband.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        shoot.

        • ggggg

          I don’t know if it’s just me, and I am not a racist, but anywhere blacks live in the South it is really poor, versus the places where white people live. Plus, in small towns it is super shitty, unless it’s a white town. From being in TN, I noticed that people in small towns talk to you with a tone of suspiciousness, like they don’t trust you, especially if they notice you sounding like you are from Cali. Also, I saw the South as very poor with huge class contrasts (rich vs poor). In the West this difference is not as pronounced. The religious thing isn’t that bad and people are more open and less sly. One thing I hate about NV is that employers can ask you to come to an interview even though they already know who they are going to hire. They waste your time and lead on. In the South it seem more fair in this department. I like how the people there are open, although at times kind of blunt. Over all, the south remind me of my home country (Ukraine) more than the West or the East, but still a bit different. Also, I have never heard anyone call me sir unless I am at Bank of America, which for some weird reason was freaking hard to find (I was in Memphis). But overall, Memphis is a depressing city though, which left me with a bad impression of TN (maybe other cities are better). I didn’t really think they had a huge accent there, at least not in the city. Arkansas had a pronounced accent though, and I was ask where I am from, which never happens in NV because I’ve lived here since I was a kid and had a western accent. 

  • http://twitter.com/musicbizcoach14 Mark Ericson

    Jeff, I am with you, moved South 18 years ago from New York.  I don’t ever want to go back!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      awesome!

  • Russell

    I grew up in Georgia and have always wanted to move back.  I have found plenty of nice people up here in Illinois but there just always seems to be something missing.  For me, those days I spent in the South were a true dream.

  • Bearis09

    I have lived in the south my whole life and I love it. I go and visit my grandparents in Wisconsin every summer for 5 or so weeks and everyone thinks that I’m weird because I am generally nice to people because that is how I was raised. I have a strong southern accent, so no matter where I go people can tell I am from the south. I live in a little town In Tennessee called White House and we all know everyone and we are all very nice to people. I recently went to Pennsylvania for my great grandmother’s 90th birthday and after ingot home I told my mom “I never want to leave Tennessee”, because the people up north are very rude and don’t care about other people. I was born in the south and I will never leave the south.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3LVCAZPFC74MDZYYI6FFV5QXPQ Jennifer H

    I very much enjoyed reading this and thank you for sharing. I’ve lived away from my home state of Mississippi for the past 10 years or so over in England and Scotland. I’ve lived an amazing and wonderful life  in these 10 years- visiting so many cool European cities whilst living my childhood travel dreams. I also met and married the love of my life 3 years ago and am delighted to say that happiness and peace arrived at once!

    My thoughts have recently been of the South. For all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had, there is still something missing. Every time I visit my parents, I am overwhelmed with how genuinely kind everyone is. I love calling up my local bank just to get that great southern customer service. 

    When I think of dying or being buried, there is no place I can think of being other than under a magnificent magnolia tree beside my beloved in the warm southern sun. I hope to move back one day soon….for now, I keep reading Southern Living and reading wonderful posts such as this :)

  • okiedado

    Oh man, I was born and raised in eastern Oklahoma and my ancestors came directly from Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Yeah, I love the South. Southern people are charming and have a wonderful culture, one that is full of comfort food (biscuits and gravy), an unmatched humbleness, and a down-home-laid-back attitude toward life.
    I have lived in So. California and No. New York state…people outside of the South are different. The way they talk to one another, the way they look at you, even the way they talk to each other on the phone. Culture is just a reflection of attitudes of a particular group. People from up North are just different, as different as we are from them. For example; while living up North, I opened the door for a woman I worked with (just like I always would for any woman), and she stopped at the opened door, turned to me and said “I don’t need a man to open the door for me.” I really was shocked. I told her that she could blame it on my Southern upbringing and that I was just doing what daddy taught me to do. I still don’t understood the hard-ass attitude of Northerners. It really is kinda’ strange.

  • Bostonia 1630

    I love The South, too! You asked why we loved living where we do. Well, I live in New England, Boston specifically. I love the hustle and bustle of rickshaws, taxis, trolleys, street cars, all manner of odd and small sized vehicles, like half police cars. I love that we New Englanders preserve our environment and bicker for months over whaty design lampposts go here or there. And the food is amazing, The South and New England really having their own food cultures–but also the endless ethnic varieties. I’ve got over 100 Italian restaurants in my neighborhood, and they are almost all different. I love seasons, New England beaches and the coastal vistas, as well as the quaint beauty found in town after town. When you leave the biggest cities here, you find awesome towns right away, one after other. So I love the options. And the people are surly and speak funny. But when you show respect to the neighborhood or twon, you are treated like gold. Here in Boston, we finalized what is known as the Internet, with MIT being a driving force in its invention. Beyond the artificial heart, genome project and being a research capital, we have countless technological and scientific achievements under our belt. I love the sense of community and the colorful characters. As for The South, for me, it is all about the food, most of the people, the music of course and the topographical beauty. I wouldn’t live anywhere but New England or Down South as we call it. Thanks for the nice piece.

  • steven

    Man, I loved reading this post and I fell upon it my accident. I lived in the South for a real long time. When the economy fell and I moved to the north near a few family members, I never realized just what I left behind. I have never quite adjusted to the culture shock of living amongst so many liberals who only care about self and prestige. Life is worth living and the hustle and bustle the Yanks force themselves to be a part of truly demeans the whole value of life. I truly wish I could be back but finances have me stuck up here…I will say that if the South ever did stand up for their rights to be constitutionally independent again, I would not even think twice, even if I had to grab my dog, my bible, and the clothes on my back and drive down…again, thanks for the post…

  • meghan

    The south is by far the best place to live i just wish people would really get to know the place and how wonderful it is! living in the north now feels so different and i just dont feel at home by any means. i dont fit in i dont like the cold at all and yes i miss the southern food! everything seems so expensive up north and people are def not as friendly. it seems so awkward to walk by somebody and not even acknowledge them, i was not raised that way people are so different. Nobody retires and moves up north, thats just a fact! lol

  • Elaine

    Exactly why I want to be in TN now that I have retired. I love the south!

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