The American Transplantation

I am a Yankee--not the kind that plays baseball or fights against the Confederacy. Nope, I'm a Yankee whether I like it or not. Why? Because I have bought into the brainwashing that started shortly after my relocation to the "South". It didn't take long and people began referring to me as a Yankee. I actually hate the Yankees, for the record. Their scrupulous attempts to usurp the power balance in major league baseball with the sheer force of money makes me angry. As for the real Yankees that fought in the Civil War, they're all dead. So I began to wonder what type of Yankee I was. Since so many people seemed to think I was one, and that many people can't be wrong. Right? (This is where I would make a political comment, but I won't.) Let's back track a little.

Growing up in Minneapolis (for you Southerners, that's near Canada) was, well, cold. But I didn't write this post to talk about the weather, so let's stay on track. I lived in a quaint suburb called Richfield that has since become a booming little place thanks to Best Buy planting their corporate headquarters there. Summers were filled with baseball games, video games, biking, rollerblading, and playing with explosives--boy stuff. Summer was great. Then school started and the entire demeanor changed as we all braced for the invasion of Arctic air and the death of all plant life (except evergreens). The culture I remember was good. People were generally friendly and my friends and I were able to roam the neighborhoods safely. In the winters I went to school (we had recess OUTSIDE), played video games, shoveled snow, and waited for Christmas. All things considered, Minnesota was a great place to grow up, so long as you can tolerate average subzero temperatures for three months per year. And of course, as I kid I was not looking up Time magazine's 10 best cities to live in, so I was happy.

As I grew older I started to wonder if I could live somewhere else. Could I make it in another part of the country away from all that was familiar to me? It was a scary question. No bird likes to jump out of the nest the first time--sometimes they need a good shove. As many people do, I went to college in-state for the first two years--close enough to be home often but far enough away to get a taste of a new place, albeit 1 hour from the Twin Cities. I figured something out during those two years. I learned that I could develop new relationships with people from different places with different backgrounds, and I enjoyed it. It was nice to get new perspectives. Those two years gave me the confidence to take a bigger plunge...south. I transferred to a college in the panhandle of Florida and so began my transplantation.

At this point I still called Minnesota home. I was only in college, but it sure was enough to expose me to another part of the country--where I was now a Yankee. After graduating from college I had a big choice--go "home" or venture out. The kicker was that my then girlfriend (and now wife) lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama. That's right, I fell in love with a Dixie chick, a Southern Belle, a Confederate princess. I graduated in 2006 and we were married in 2007 (on 7/7/07 no less!). Now I said I didn't write this post to talk about weather, but my new wife and I had one major thing in common--we HATE to be cold. We also had a healthy distaste for rusting cars, slush (for you Southerners, that's snow mixed with dirt and salt; see image), frost bite, black ice, and permafrost. 

We opted out of the cold plan and moved to Fort Walton Beach, FL, home to some of the world's whitest, most beautiful beaches. Yep, that was cool. The water there was pristine and clear. Really though, Fort Walton was a military town full of non-natives, so my true Southern experience didn't blossom until I moved to Mobile, AL (pronounced "Mo-beel"). Now I was married to a Southerner (that lived in Minnesota for 6 years, for the record), living in a Southern state, and surrounded by mostly Southern people. I thought it was a good time to start adapting, learning, and embracing my new-found home. Here are some of the thing I learned.


#1 Grits, okra, and fried catfish are good food.

Or so I was told. In my opinion, grits taste like nothing. It's essentially overcooked rice. Mushy white paste. But if you put salt and butter and pepper and cheese on it, then it's good! Okra is okay if prepared properly, but I don't get excited about it. I think the catfish needs no explanation--gross.

#2 Bring an umbrella... every single day.

People told me the South doesn't have four seasons. I learned they were right. There are officially three: 1. Hot and rainy (summer) 2. Warm and rainy (spring and autumn) 3. Cold and rainy (winter)

#3 Not all Yankees wear pinstripes.

As I mentioned earlier, Yankees have nothing to do with baseball in the South. "If yer great granddaddy wasn't a Confederate, yer a Yankee." Most of this talk was a conversation piece to poke fun, but occasionally I would come across some folks that were dead serious about it. I mean, I was an out-si-der.

#4 Dixie is not just a brand of paper cups.

I still don't know what it is, but apparently it has something to do with the South.

#5 "Hush puppy" is not a statement telling your little dogs to be quiet.

So what is it? According to Wikipedia, it is "savory, starch-based food made from cornmeal batter that is deep fried or baked in small ball or sphere shapes, or occasionally oblong shapes. Hushpuppies are frequently served as a side dish, usually at seafood restaurants." With that information in hand, I decided to be adventurous and try the local cuisine. Again, not impressed.


#6 Park wherever you want.

Much to my surprise and eventual dismay, it is culturally acceptable in the South to park anywhere on your property. I guess I have mixed feelings about these types of things, because I really like the "hands-off" approach that local government takes in the South (more in #10 on that). On the other hand, I enjoy when people maintain their property in an attractive way so their neighbors don't have to look at all their eyesores (without having a law passed that forces them to do so). So people parked in their front yards...on the grass...sometimes multiple cars. If you live in podunk nowhere, that's fine. Park in your living room for all I care. But I'm not a fan of this habit, and never will be.

#7 "Honey" or "sweety" is your name when a woman you don't know talks to you.

It's a little awkward when you think you're being hit on by a 58-year old chubby customer service clerk at Wal-Mart with faded tatoos on her upper arm. You smile and walk away is what you do. It takes some getting used to, but eventually you adapt to this one just fine.

#8 "Bless their heart" has nothing to do with blessing someone's heart.

This is a clever introduction to a negative or distasteful statement about someone. Watch out, here it comes. It will then be sandwiched together by another "bless their heart". Usually the recipient of the blessing is about to be painted as quite the idiot. In the South, you try not to get your heart blessed too much.

#9 What's a basement?

Why on earth would you live underground? I grew up with a basement, and I'm pretty sure every single house in Minnesota has a basement. Apparently it's too hot to dig a hole. I'm sure there's some better reason that I don't know about.

#10 Maintain a healthy disregard for the US government (aka "The Occupiers")

Mixed feelings here. I have a healthy distaste for the US government as well, but I promised myself this blog would not be about politics. So let's focus. In the South, the Confederacy still exists and is being occupied by the USA--forced to be subject to its tyranny. I am in no way a historical scholar. I know the Civil War was in the late 1800s. I cannot comment either way about whether these people are right or wrong, insane or highly intelligent rebels (keep in mind, the USA was founded by highly intelligent rebels). 

As I mentioned earlier (#6), this anti-government attitude among Southern people has given them an edge over their elected officials. It seems as though the people are telling the government what to do instead of the reverse, and that is exactly how it should be (according to the Constitution, not my political opinion). So I reckon (yep, I said it) many of these insubordinate folks are very intelligent and on point; and I'm sure there are others that are a few sandwiches short of a full picnic basket. However you see it, there is a clear difference between the North and the South in how the people view government. I like the way the South leans.

#11 Anywhere is a good place to stop and have a 30 minute conversation.

Mixed feelings again. Southern people are very friendly. The culture is clearly different from the hustling culture of the North. If you walk around most places in Minnesota, strangers don't even make eye contact with you unless you approach them for some reason. In the South, people just walk up to you and start talking. It's nice. It can be annoying if you're in a hurry and trying to be somewhere, but I'll take the humanity over the productivity. We lived next door to an older lady while we were in Mobile, and she would trap us in our back yard and tell us every story she could think of. She is a sweet lady, and a true neighbor--always willing to help when she could. She made us pound cake and cookies all the time! 


#12 Plants (besides evergreens) can grow 12 months a year!

I became a gardener in the South because it was worth it. So many plants will grow in the sub-tropical climate! The plants were beautiful and you could enjoy them most of the year instead of watching them bloom and then get frozen to death two months later. We had flower beds, Azalea bushes, blueberries, lilies, and so much more. 

#13 Hurricanes

I was in Pensacola for Hurricane Ivan. If you don't know about that hurricane, Google it. Thankfully I was in college at the time and didn't lose any personal property. These storms can be scary, but at least you know about them long in advance. We were lucky and no bad hurricanes hit Mobile in the four years we lived there.

#14 Some people have not touched snow.

They talk about it like it's legendary. It made me laugh when I moved down there. It's like snow was part of a fairy wonder land. I used to play king-of-the-mountain on five foot piles of snow, build giant snow forts, and have my entire driveway get blocked by walls of snow. The fact that some people had only seen it on TV makes me chuckle.

Image credits: 
US map and snow/slush images from www.wikipedia.org

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