What People Get Very Wrong About The South

What People Get Very Wrong About The South

The South gets a bad rap.

Think slow-talking simpletons, rampant racism, and a whole lotta fried food. While some Southern stereotypes are harmless (sweet tea is delicious), others are hurtful and just plain wrong. The South is a complex and diverse region with a rich history, both beautiful and troubled. It’s time to bust some myths and see the South for the fascinating, dynamic place it truly is.

1. Everyone in the South has a thick accent.

black cowboy with american flag

Sure, there’s a lovely Southern drawl, but the region is huge! Accents vary from Texas twang to the softer cadence of the coastal Carolinas — according to Fluency Corp, there are at least 7 distinct accents in the region. Major cities like Atlanta have far less pronounced accents due to transplants from all over the country.

2. It’s all backwards and behind the times.

The South has pockets of poverty and social issues like anywhere else. But it also boasts major tech hubs, world-class universities, and thriving arts scenes. Painting the entire region as stuck in the past ignores its progress and the vibrancy of its cities.

3. Southerners are obsessed with the Civil War.

Some folks get too caught up in Lost Cause mythology (which minimizes slavery), but most Southerners are focused on the present and future. Honoring history is different than being obsessed with it, and today’s South is about so much more than its past conflicts.

4. Racism is worse in the South.

Unfortunately, racism exists everywhere, even in the more “liberal” parts of the U.S., The Guardian explains. The South’s past with slavery and segregation makes it more visible, but that doesn’t mean people in other regions are inherently less prejudiced. It’s a problem that the whole country needs to confront, not just blame on one area.

5. Everyone is super conservative.

Politics in the South are complex, not a monolith. While rural areas lean conservative, cities are increasingly diverse and hold pockets of progressive voters. Generalizing anyone based on their region is a disservice to the spectrum of political beliefs everywhere.

6. The food is all fried and unhealthy.

Fried chicken and biscuits are amazing, but Southern cuisine is WAY more than that! Think fresh seafood in coastal areas, Gullah Geechee food influenced by West Africa, the bright flavors of Cajun and Creole cuisine… It’s a testament to the region’s diverse culinary heritage.

7. Everyone is super religious.

The Bible Belt exists, and faith is important to many Southerners. But just like elsewhere, there are varying degrees of devoutness. Cities attract secular folks, and even small towns have their fair share of non-churchgoers.

8. It’s unbearably hot all the time.

Summers can be brutal, that’s true, but the South isn’t uniformly swampy. The Appalachian Mountains have distinct seasons, with some areas even getting snow. Plus, those Gulf Coast beaches are perfect for spring and fall getaways when the rest of the country is shivering.

9. Southerners are rude and unfriendly.

Southern hospitality is legendary for a reason, as Southern Living highlights. While you’ll find rude people anywhere, many Southerners go out of their way to be polite and welcoming. Expect “yes ma’am,” a helping hand, and long chats with strangers in the grocery store.

10. It’s all small towns and country living.

The South has beautiful rural areas, but also bustling metropolises! Cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Austin boast thriving job markets, diverse populations, and all the amenities of urban life in any other part of the country.

11. Music is just country and nothing else.

Country music is big, but the South is a hotbed for so many genres! New Orleans gave birth to jazz, Memphis is the soul music capital, and Atlanta dominates the hip-hop scene. Plus, major cities attract musical talent from all over the world.

12. Everyone is obsessed with football.

men watching american football on couch

College football is practically a religion in some parts of the South, Saturdays in the fall get crazy! But hey, people are passionate about sports everywhere. There’s plenty of love for basketball, baseball, and other sports, too.

13. Sweet tea is the ONLY beverage choice.

Okay, sweet tea is iconic and Southerners drink it by the gallon (especially in summer), but unsweetened tea is readily available too, plus coffee culture thrives, and Southern breweries and wineries are making a splash!

14. People in the South are unintelligent or uneducated.

This is an incredibly insulting stereotype. The South is home to top-ranked universities like Duke, Vanderbilt, and Rice. Judging folks based on region rather than individual merit is ignorant and unfair, regardless of where you’re from.

15. The South doesn’t have good weather.

While summers can be scorchers, the South enjoys long springs and mild autumns compared to the harsh winters up North. Coastal areas boast beautiful beaches year-round, and mountain towns offer a cool escape during the hottest months.

16. There’s no art or culture scene in the South.

From traditional Appalachian folk art to modern galleries showcasing globally renowned artists, the South is brimming with culture. Museums celebrating history, major music festivals, and independent theater troupes are just a few examples.

17. The South is one big homogenous blob.

This might be the biggest misconception of all! The South encompasses a vast range of landscapes, cities, accents, traditions, and lifestyles. Cajun Louisiana is worlds apart from Virginia horse country or Miami’s multicultural energy. The beauty of the South lies exactly in its diversity.

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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.