The Meaning Of Southern Hospitality


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If you’ve ever taken a trip down South, you’ve probably encountered an instance of Southern hospitality. Southerners – for the most part – are warm and welcoming. In short, Southern hospitality is a state of mind. For us Southerners, it means putting others before ourselves.

Let’s talk about the true meaning of Southern hospitality in today’s modern age.

The Essence of Southern Hospitality

There’s a difference between good manners and manners reserved for special occasions such as church, weddings or funerals. Manners are the epitome of Southern hospitality because they are practiced every day and everywhere you go. And every person wants to be treated with kindness, courtesy and respect – that’s why manners are important.

Things such as greeting a guest face to face with something as simple as a smile can go a long way. While a smile is a small gesture, it can certainly put your guest at ease. Another small gesture is eye contact; when balanced, eye contact can demonstrate your interests to guests.

We love courtesy words here in the South. Some common words or phrases you might hear while visiting the South include:

  • “Yes sir” or “No sir”
  • “Yes ma’am” or “No ma’am”
  • “Please,” “May I,” “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” “Excuse me,” and “Pardon me”

Not to say that Northerners aren’t hospitable, but they are known for delivering their irritation up front, and they don’t do much to disguise it. People get on each other’s nerves especially when it comes to serving one another. Some Southerners will deliver irritation in the same way, but most Southerners know how to behave even when they’re feeling put out.

Food in the South

The South has some pretty remarkable and mouthwatering dishes. They’ll make you miss the South when you leave. We’ve got traditional dishes such as Hoppin’ John, collard greens, grits, cornbread and so much more. Newer dishes that have become popular over the last few decades include chicken and waffles, pimento cheese, and fried green tomatoes – a dish that became extremely popular after the film Fried Green Tomatoes featuring Kathy Bates, Mary-Louise Parker, Mary Stuart Masterson and Jessica Tandy.

When you eat food in the South, you will not be disappointed. You’ll leave with full bellies, full hearts, and probably lots of leftovers.

Other Forms of Southern Hospitality

If you are standing in line at the grocery store and you only have a few items, chances are someone will let you go ahead of them if they have a full shopping cart. If you have a lot of shopping bags, maybe someone will help you get the bags into your car. We share our food and drink with whoever comes to visit our home, and we pick up trash when we’re outside even if the trash isn’t ours.

In short, Southern hospitality is good manners, great food, and offering a place to sleep for someone when they made need it. For most Southerners, hospitality is instilled in us and it’s not something we think about. We just do it.