Mailvox: Southern hospitality

Witrack asks: In all honesty…is Southern hospitality a reality? I hear stories about Southerners sometimes in this day meeting strangers and inviting them to their homes for meals, etc. That kinda stuff. Southern hospitality? Myth? Or fact?

Oh, it’s real, all right. They’re very polite too. Even the surly teenage grocery baggers will look you in the eye and say “thank you, sir”. One night after having dinner at our new pastor’s house in Florida, Space Bunny and I were both taken aback when after dessert had been finished and it was, by Northern standards, time to have coffee and then leave, when the pastor asked: “so, do you like playing games?”

We just looked at each other, both thinking, right, this is some kind of cult and now his wife is going to pop out wearing an S&M harness while he breaks out the whipped cream and mayonnaise. It turned out he meant it literally, and we ended up having a great time playing cribbage and whatnot until midnight. Southern friendliness and the hospitality is genuine, it’s just a little hard to believe at first for those of us raised in quasi-Scandinavian culture. The southerners didn’t believe it when I told them that in Minnesota, if a man is talking with another man he’s known all his life, you stand parallel to each other and look straight ahead when you talk, especially if the subject is serious. Do not touch, do not lock eyes, do not even face each other.

In my opinion, it’s Minnesota Nice that is largely a myth. It’s nice only by coastal standards, not Southern.

So, you can imagine it was a little bit of a shock when I lived in Italy, where your friends greet you with an enthusiastic “ciao bello!” and a kiss on both cheeks. This was not only unexpected, but rather alarming when it first happened.

VD: “Did he just call me beautiful?”

SB: “Oh, just be happy he didn’t grab your butt.”

I never quite reached the point that I could actually address another man that way. But Space Bunny tells me that at least I did stop visibly cringing when subjected to the treatment. Va bene. Quando a Roma, fa cosi come i Romani.