A Northerner’s Take: Southern culture is different, but not in a bad way


Brian Reinthaler

Features editor Claire Reinthaler, a northern transplant, experiencing both the North and the South.

Claire Reinthaler, Features Editor

I’ve always been a city girl at heart. Growing up in New Jersey, just 30 minutes outside of New York City, it was hard not to be. I could never even imagine leaving; after all, that had been my whole life. It’s all I’d ever known.
But of course, then came the crazy year that was 2020 and with some free time and a desire for cheaper living, my family decided to take a look at houses here in North Carolina. At the time, I couldn’t even fathom living in the South. It seemed like a foreign place.. As it turns out though, even though there are many major differences between the northeast and the southeast, adapting wasn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined it to be.
Yes, the fact that we were locked down in a pandemic helped; in a way, that first year was not much different than it would have been if I stayed in New Jersey. But, over the next few years, living in North Carolina taught me some valuable lessons on what to actually expect from “the South” and not to believe all the stereotypes you hear.
Okay, yes, North Carolina is more southern than where I used to live, but from my experience with visiting the states south of it on the east coast, it’s very different from states like South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It’s more temperate, for one, and it has the benefit of shorter winters. But there are also the stereotypes that circulate. The northern idea that the South is all super conservative politically is something that was certainly on my mind when I moved here. Whenever one of my friends from New Jersey asks me about school, they often, only half jokingly, make a remark about the political leanings of the South as well. However, I’ve found that, for a state like North Carolina, the balance of political ideologies is actually pretty even; it more comes down to how rural or urban the area is. Of course there are exceptions, but overall, this is a generally more accurate rule of thumb. Living in an area like Clemmons and being in a suburb just like I was in New Jersey, the culture and political climate I was used to really didn’t change as much as I expected them to.
And then, as silly as it sounds, there’s the food. As an honorary New Yorker, I grew up on New York bagels, and honestly, that was a major factor for me when we decided to move. Just trust me, if you’ve never been to New York, you’ve never had a real New York bagel. The places that claim to make them here (or frankly, anywhere else in the country) can’t hold a candle to any place you’d go to in north Jersey or New York. The idea of going without that childhood staple of mine was daunting to me.
It turns out though, that while nothing could live up to my love for bagels, the south has some pretty good food as well. Biscuits and gravy, grits and real southern fried chicken were all delicacies that I had never really experienced before moving here and are all things that I’ve now come to love.
Most of all, what I’ve learned from the past two and a half years of living in North Carolina is to have an open mind. Be willing to see beyond what people might say and experience it for yourself so you can make your own decisions of what to think. Oftentimes, you may be surprised at what you find.