Things Southerners Do That Confuse the Rest Of The World

Things Southerners Do That Confuse the Rest Of The World Shutterstock

Bless their hearts, Southerners do things their own way. While famed for hospitality, they also possess a distinct set of habits that might seem downright perplexing to the uninitiated. From peculiar phrases to unusual culinary choices, let’s explore the delightful ways Southerners color outside the lines of the “normal” world.

1. They use “bless your heart” to mean anything but.


This seemingly sweet phrase is the Swiss Army knife of Southern expressions. It can convey genuine sympathy (“Bless your heart, that sounds awful”) to a backhanded insult (“Bless her heart, she tries so hard to dress stylishly”). Context is everything, and mastering the subtle nuances takes years of careful observation.

2. Every gathering is a potluck (even if it wasn’t supposed to be).

Southerners have an unspoken social contract: you don’t show up to a party empty-handed, Glamour notes. Even a simple BBQ means folks bring overflowing casserole dishes, enough to feed a small army. This spontaneous generosity ensures abundant feasts, and those last-minute grocery runs for extra chips become a familiar dance.

3. Sweet tea is a beverage unto itself.

Asking for “iced tea” down South will likely get you a confused look. Sweet tea is its own sacred institution, with fiercely debated levels of acceptable sweetness. Unsweetened tea is an acquired taste for most, and offering it without warning is a minor social faux pas akin to serving Yankees dry grits.

4. Unsolicited nicknames abound.

Southerners hand out nicknames like Halloween candy. Don’t get bent out of shape if “Sugar,” “Darlin’” or “Hoss” replace your actual name. It’s a sign of affection – confusing, maybe, but well-intentioned. Bonus points if the nickname references your Mama or a vaguely embarrassing childhood incident.

5. Porch sitting is an elevated art form.

Southerners cherish the unhurried pace of front porch life. Rocking chairs and ceiling fans are essential. Neighbors passing by are contractually obligated to pause for a chat. It’s more than relaxing; it’s how news travels faster than the internet and a sense of community is nurtured on warm summer evenings.

6. “Fixin’ to” means eventually.

Closeup front view portrait of a happy couple on a rustic porch swing at a vacation house. They are having some tea and casual conversation.

“I’m fixin’ to head to the store” doesn’t signify immediate action. This delightfully vague construction indicates intent sometime in the future, which could be five minutes from now or sometime next week. Trying to pin down a Southerner’s timeline using this phrase is an exercise in charming frustration. Gotta love Southern phrases!

7. Meals that are unrecognizable to outsiders are beloved staples.

family having dinner around the tableiStock

Chicken and waffles? Sure, that’s almost mainstream. But fried okra, boiled peanuts, congealed salads, and casseroles combining ingredients no sane person would mix are defended with surprising ferocity. Southern cuisine prizes tradition over trends, and sometimes, that means dishes that look, well, questionable to the uninitiated.

8. Football isn’t a sport, it’s a quasi-religious experience.

men watching american football on couch

Fall weekends revolve around college football with an intensity that transcends mere fandom. Tailgating is an elaborate production, game day outfits are planned meticulously, and opposing team fans are treated with a mix of polite pity and thinly veiled disdain. Understanding this fervor is key to integrating into true Southern society.

9. “Y’all” is essential and efficient.

Is it singular? Plural? Who cares! “Y’all” is the linguistic workhorse of the South, addressing everyone from a single person to a packed stadium. Attempts by outsiders to master its usage are usually adorably clumsy. Leave it to the natives, and just appreciate its ability to convey a sense of collective warmth.

10. Strangers’ life stories are freely shared.

Waiting in line at the grocery store? Prepare for the cashier’s detailed rundown of her nephew’s baseball game and her Mama’s upcoming surgery. Southerners aren’t being nosy, they’re exercising their right to connect! Oversharing is practically a competitive sport, and it’s considered rude to NOT show interest in these tales.

11. Biscuits aren’t just for breakfast.

korean couple enjoying coffee

Flaky, buttery biscuits are a Southern culinary pillar. They’re served alongside BBQ, smothered in gravy, sometimes even with dessert fillings! To a Southerner, biscuits aren’t confined to a mealtime. They’re an anytime, goes-with-everything, practically perfect foodstuff, and any attempt to relegate them is met with polite bewilderment.

12. “I reckon” means maybe, kind of, or not really.

This phrase walks a fine line between affirmation, uncertainty, and utter dismissal. “I reckon you might be right” could mean anything from total agreement to polite acknowledgment that your insane idea has been heard, if not endorsed. Deciphering the true intent is a skill even lifelong Southerners sometimes struggle to master.

13. Directions involve landmarks, not street names.

Asking for directions in the South might get you: “Turn right by the old Piggly Wiggly, then past where Mrs. Edna’s house burned down in ’92…” Actual street names are optional, as are precise distances. Southern navigation relies on local history and visual cues, which assumes everyone’s been driving these same roads for decades.

14. Monogramming is a competitive sport.


The South takes personalization seriously. If an object can be monogrammed, it WILL be monogrammed. Backpacks, bath towels, dog leashes — nothing is safe. Bonus points if the monogram is giant, in a brightly contrasting color, and involves elaborate curling script that’s nearly impossible to decipher.

15. “Hold my beer” precedes questionable decisions.

men drinking alcohol at the pub

This phrase signals impending shenanigans. Whether it’s an ill-advised backflip attempt or a sudden declaration to adopt that stray raccoon, when a Southerner utters “hold my beer”, you know things are about to get simultaneously entertaining and mildly alarming.

16. Sweetened beverages extend far beyond tea.

Sweet tea is merely the tip of the iceberg. Sweet lemonade that makes your teeth ache? Standard! Kool-Aid with enough sugar to form a visible layer at the bottom is a childhood staple. The Southern palate is fine-tuned for intense sweetness that would send folks from other regions into a diabetic coma.

17. Seersucker and bowties are everyday attire for some.


While not universal, the South holds on to a tradition of unabashed preppiness. Seersucker suits in pastel shades and bowties aren’t just for weddings. Some gentlemen rock them on a random Tuesday, adding a touch of vintage charm and a distinct disregard for modern trends pushing for minimalist casual wear.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.