Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good morning ma'am....who me?

When I moved from N.Y to the south I went through a definite culture shock. There were grocery stores that had names like Piggly Wiggly and Winn Dixie. People boiled raw Peanuts in saltwater and ate them. The night clubs had concrete floors. The radio stations didn't play dance music, just R&B, funk and hip hop.

I went to a major clothing retailer called Belks and was told when I asked to see an Etienne Aigner wallet that it was pronounced "Ag-ner". I tried to explain that it was indeed pronounced "On-Yay" to no avail.

But the one thing that really threw me for a loop was people saying hello.

Coming from New York City I was accustomed to thinking that when some person said hello there was going to be trouble. You just didn't say casual hellos in New York. So imagine my surprise and confusion when total strangers began to say hello to me and just kept walking.

Even men I passed while in the mall or walking down the street said hello and then just kept walking. In New York if a guy on the street said hello he was probably going to start following you.

After a while I got used to the southern friendliness. I even began to respond when people spoke to me. I'd say "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon".

You can say what you want about the south but people there know a thing or two about common courtesy. And I won't even get into the use of the word ma'am. I remember people saying ma'am to me and thinking I was too young to be addressed by ma'am. Then I realized it was just a southern thing.

So now I once again live in a big city outside the south. When I first moved here I had to stop myself from saying hello to people. It would slip out during my first few weeks and months here. And when it did I would get the same look I had once given to people in my first months in the south.

I must say of all the things that I miss about the south; people saying hello is at the top of my list.

Do strangers say hello to each other where you live?


Ehav Ever said...

It is so funny that you post this. When I lived in Kansas City it was the same atmosphere as you mentioned in NYC. People didn't go around say hello or "what's up." Saying What's Up in KCMO was like starting a fight.

So when me and several friends of mine started college at Prairie View A&M University in Texas we were bombarded with What's Up. One friend of mine almost got into a fight with someone because they said What's Up. Once I was told that I was a cold and mean person because I would walk around campus looking straight ahead and not saying anything.

One day I was walking to class and this girl stopped me and said, Hey don't worry it is going to be all right. I thought to myself, What is she talking about? I was told that I always had a serious look on my face and I always walked fast and straight as if I was a drill instructor. We tried to explain to people that we had a completely different culture in the Midwest. Especially after the Crips and the Bloods gangs showed up.

Shelly said...

Living in London it NEVER happens - unless someone's asking you for change or trying to sell you something! I can't imagine that kind of random, humane friendliness.

New Black Woman said...

I live in suburban Atlanta and some people do say hello to me.

However, it's not that common (in my experience). I've had numerous people walk pass me and not speak (even after making eye contact).

jjbrock said...

MDC yes they do. Hello!

Anonymous said...

I'm in Florida and we definitely say hello a lot. And we'll have random pleasant conversations with almost ANYONE- White, Black, or old. And we'll talk trash with each other too, especially is a line is moving too slow.

Anonymous said...

They speak here in Maine. And they even hold the door open for you. I'm originally from NYC and I just about die every time I go home.

wisdomteachesme said...

weeellll, you are correct mdc, we do speak to everyone and it is a great feeling to just speak-friendly= good morning, howyoudoing?, whatup!

yes we love to smile and speak.
i also was taken aback many years ago when i was travelling to nyc and dc all the time. when i first spoke randomly - and out of habit- my friends pulled me to the side and quickly hushed me up saying NOOOO don't do that--you will get something started??? I said, jsut for saying hello?? i thought that was stupid--strange mean people--yes, Some new yokers are icy-tey always look depressed to me or mad. no joy.
but i do understand the mindset of people that live on top of each other and have to walk blocks to see green grass and trees...

LOL--i miss belks....hahah mc, i know you gave up trying to tell the correct way to say etienne aigner! LOL

we also order sweet tea by the pitcher and in the south you get hush puppies with sefood, and free re-fills on your tea.

but there are some areas wn here that you keep your eyes straight and your mouth closed- a lot of transplants-and just mans decision to act evil as they see fit.

and what symphony said is very true also-LOL-i can strike up a conversation in line at WallyWorld, at Tar-Jay, or at Jock-se-Penny. hahahahahaha
it' just how we are.

good topic...hahahaa

Randi523 said...

Yep, b/c I live in the South (Birmingham, AL)

What's funny also is: I've visited the Maryland/DC area, and NJ often, and total strangers say hello to other total strangers I've never experienced the whole "not speaking to total strangers thing."

I think sometimes it depends on how "approachable" one looks as to whether a total stranger will speak or not.

Anali said...

It certainly doesn't happen all the time, especially when it's really cold, but strangers do say "hi" sometimes, even up here in Boston. I do it too.

I do find that when we are in the midst of a really bad snowstorm, or right after and shoveling out, some people get really friendly. This also happens right before and after the Red Sox and Patriots win a Championship too. People will talk to anyone who will listen about the games!

Don said...

Funny post.

I live in the South, and pretty much everyone will greet you with a warm smile or a simple hello upon first meeting them. When I used to live in Milwaukee, it was strange but people just looked @ me like..."Are you expecting me to say 'Hello.'

I think that's where southern hospitality gets its name. Maybe. said...

Hi Mes Deux.

Chile, I moved from NYC to Atlanta. And frankly, I find it a bit of a nuiscance to be spoken to ALL the time. I'm glad they have the southern hospitality thing going on. It's really nice. And it is refreshing.

I find however, that it's a little much sometimes; to the point of annoyance, frankly.

But overall, it's nice.

At the same time, there was something I liked about NYC. People don't pay attention to you like they do here.

I'm just sayin'.

I lived in Cali, too. People don't care about you there, either.

I also find that people here are EXTREMELY inquisitive. No likey!

LOL said...

The thing is -- my disposition has not changed despite living in the West and the South.

I'm still very much a New Yorker.

Tami said...

I grew up in industrial Northwestern Indiana, right outside of Chicago, and spent a decade in the Windy City itself. And no, folks didn't go around speaking to random strangers.

Now, here in central Indiana, not only do people smile and say "hello," they launch into full-fledged conversations, especially at the store. Once a lady cornered me in the detergent aisle in WalMart to tell me about the wonders of using Borax. A couple times a checkout lady has given me unsolicited recipes. Another time I was searching for a nice vase and a customer at Pier One just jumped in to help and give advice. some friendly folk in the Hoosier state. In fact, my friend who is Louisiana born and bred visited me here last year and found the level of friendliness just plain weird.

SheCodes said...

Let me just say that I LOVE the south for that reason. I just think that the people are warmer,and I look forward to visting the southern states.

When I lived in Manhattan, on the street I couldn't even look people in the eye... especially men, because if I did, they thought I was offering something nasty. But everything was different indoors... I always talked to strangers in stores, in the theater, in restaurants, etc, and I found NYers every bit as friendly as the southerners. It all has to do with context.

Now I live in a snotty neighborhood. They don't say hi, but they kind of nod at you and keep walking their dog, etc. But it's clear that they don't want to strike up conversation.

jose said...

I'm from NYC. no. I mean, I do it in my school, but no.

tasha212 said...

I live in Louisiana, the deep south. And yes, common courtesy and respect are ingrained in you from childhood. (If you're raised right) I just visited NYC for the first time last October. I loved it, but the energy and culture and kindness of people was different. No one talked to you. It seems like you can get real lonely if you don't know anyone. Down South, not only do people say hello, there's a respect for older people that is taught. If someone is from an older generation, you always say sir or ma'am when addressing them. You always proceed their names whith Miss, Mr., or Mrs. when talking to them, even if they're friends. I think when I move to a big city I will have to get use to this.

wisdomteachesme said...

i's very cool the way each place has it's own special "flavor"...even how in one state different cities can be almost opposite...

it's a very nice balance to the whole....

Nicole said...

Raised in Mississippi, lived in Philly and now Atlanta. While I love the Northeast and may go back, I also love that people speak down here and say y'all. When I travel out of the area it's the y'alls that I miss most. And I say ma'am to everybody, even when I'm responding to people younger than me...drives my coworkers crazy.

Lisa said...

MDC: Now, I have always lived in Memphis. My sis and I were talking today about how we didn't have to say 'sir' or 'ma'am' to our parents, but our dad would pinch the fat part of your arm off if you didn't say it to other adults. . .

Also, when I was learning to drive, part of my lesson was learning how to do the "head nod hello" when you pull up to a stop sign next to someone. . .

Most importantly, at work, we look at folk real funny when they walk into the office without speaking. You do know the rule is whoever walks into the room must speak to everyone first. . . if you don't, you are immediately labeled a "no home training having. . . "

I would feel so out of place in a place where they didn't speak!

James Tubman said...

people say hello to me because i look them straight in the eye and say what's up

i give them a look like "you better say something back"

so they do and i'm happy

Mes Deux Cents said...


Yeah I remember when saying "What's up" could cause a fight. Even among some women.

That's crazy; people really put themselves in silly little boxes.

And I never thought of St L being a rough city until I saw a news report about all the gangs there.


I was wondering how it was there. I kind of figured it would be more like NY there.


Wow that's kind of unusual isn't it? But you know that might have to do with there being so many transplants in Atlanta now.


Lol, hello back!


Yeah I remember those random conversations. It took me a while to get used to that. At first I would give people a blank stare. Lol


I remember going to a fast food place called Captain D's and getting hush puppies.

Is Belks gone now?


I heard the DC is more southern than northern. So that might account for why people speak there.


Lol, yeah I remember times when people would talk in NY, like blackouts or transit strikes.


I heard Milwaukee is kinda rough. You're lucky no one tried to start a fight! Lol



But I will say that it's kind of weird, after living in the south, to pass people sometimes and not say hello.

And you’re right; you can achieve a certain kind of invisibility in NY. Which is great when you're young and getting into things you have no business doing! :)

I have to say I'm somewhat of a chameleon. Eventually I acclimate and start to blend in culturally.

But at heart I still have my NY skepticism!


Lol, I'm not sure if I could handle all that conversation. I'm still in NY "I'm in a rush mode" usually.

I know how to give people a disinterested look when I need to escape! Lol


Oh yeah, eye contact is not a good thing in NY.

I think NY'ers are friendly if given the opportunity but very skeptical by nature.


I bet its worse for guys.


I remember the mr and miss thing too.

And you're right about the respect for older people.


That's true, even different parts of the same cities can be very different.


Lol I bet it does drive them crazy, but in a good way.


Lmao@the head nod! I remember that. Or people driving by while you are sitting on the porch and them waving, even though they don't know you.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey MDC,

St. Louis? I said Kansas City. Oh now it is on. What's Up? (LOL)

I visited St. Louis a few times when my mother was working there temporarily. I also went there once to do some speaking engagements at some schools in East St. Louis. It definitely had some touched areas.

What I do remember in NYC was after 9-11 things changed for a nice while. People seemed a lot nicer in NYC after 9-11.

Dustin said...


I moved from the West coast were many spoke to each other to the East Coast where you make as little eye contact as possible. This is an especially useful tip if you are on NYC transit.

The move has been a culture shock in many ways but speaking to people is one thing that I have to remember not to do otherwise people think you are up to something.

In regards to the South, I remember people being very polite there. As a child I remember being surprised when someone called me ma'am. It was funny because I could not have been more than 12 at the time. I will take Southern hospitality over East Coast hostility every time.

Juicy77 said...

I'm in the DC/MD/VA area and it's half & half. Some people speak. Some don't. It's tricky in DC specifically, because people come from all over the country and the world, and bring their particular custom (to speak or not to) with them. I used to say hello to strangers but too many unstable characters (which we have a LOT of in DC) took that as an invitation, so I've since stopped.

Mes Deux Cents said...


That's one way to get people to speak! :)


Oops! Lol, sorry I don't know why I was thinking St Louis.

I remember when there was a major event in NY, like a transit strike, people would be very friendly. So it doens't surprise me that people were speaking to each other after 9/11.



I learned to things as a child in NY. Always walk like you are going some where, even if you are lost and don't stare or speak to people.

Those were the NY golden rules.


Many people think of DC as part of the south. So it's probably locals that speak.

And as you say there are a lot of transplants, so they are probably the ones that don't speak.

Gunfighter said...


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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron