Saturday, October 26, 2013

31 Days of Mississippi Goodbyes: A Certain Type of Interpersonal Interaction


This is one I've been thinking about a lot lately simply because I've discussed it with quite a few people.

Here's the thing, I think that there is a different kind of "friendliness" in the South. There are expectations. As one of my friends said "You have to do a dance for everything here". And he's right.

It can be a good or bad thing, I think. I think it's nice because people go out of their way to make situations not awkward and to initiate conversation. But sometimes it's frustrating because you spend half an hour talking to a person and you're really not talking about anything.

Or you have a person like my dad. He's seriously the nicest guy and is never rude and always gracious. He has beautiful manners. But he's quiet and reserved and introverted. And he doesn't much small talk. And he's not really "shy" in that he fears it. He just doesn't like it so he doesn't do it. In the culture down here, I think that unfortuantly he's often mistaken for rude or snobby. I think in NYC hardly anyone would notice much.

Someone told me the other night that in the North people aren't going smile at a stranger as much or just stop and visit if they don't know you. But (as we found on our trip in August), they are (mostly) really happy to answer questions and talk to you if you initiate. And they're also more honest. My friend warned me that at first I would be offended.

And I know she's right. It's hard for me when things aren't couched in sugary terms. But it's also nice to have such a level of authenticity in your relationships. This friend used the example of someone who is simply to busy to get together and do something with you. In the North that friend will say "You know, I'm just too busy with life right now. I'll call you when I have time for it." In the same situation, a Southerner will say "Oh, I'd looove to get together, but we're awfully busy this week. Maybe take a rain check and we'll do something next week?" (knowing full well she's drowning and it'll be January before she can get her head above water let alone think about coming over for coffee).

This is something I'm so fascinated by. I know in one way I'll appreciate the honesty and the lack of having to put on a show for people when I really don't feel like it. But in another way, I'll miss people going out of their way to be friendly and talkative.

To see a list of previous posts in the series, click here.

1 comment:

Bech and Marley Evans said...

This is honestly one of the hardest things. I am Southern and I can't just say No. So I say no in my actions and in my lack of enthusiasm. Instead of "Yes," I say, "Maybe." And Northerners will still push. I finally got the point in Vermont where I said No, but I'm not there yet here!