Newcomer Magazine

Carolina Culture

Posted June 6, 2007

A colorful blend of the traditional pastand the high-tech present

Yes.We admit it. All of the stereotypes about life in North Carolina are true.We say things like “ya’ll” and “bless your heart.”We like our tea so sweet you could use it for syrup on pancakes. And, we loved NASCAR before NASCAR was cool.

Southern belles, bluegrass, grits, barbeque, shagging—we’ve got’em all. Same with the hog farms, chicken farms, tobacco farms and peanut farms. And, when the heat and humidity hit, we love to run around barefooted with the sun on our backs and grass between our toes. It’s true...all of it.

But what you’ll also find here in the Tar Heel state is a whole heapin’ pile of dichotomies. While we love our traditions, we also keep a keen eye on the future. From technology to the arts to sports to shopping—there are some mighty interestin’ things going on around here.

Let’s start by taking a look at the music scene. You’ll be hard pressed to find a native Carolinian who hasn’t memorized the church hymnal. Fact is, most of the folks down here believe there’s nothing sweeter than hearing good ol’ Southern gospel music flowing out of the front doors of a church on a warm summer evening. But, we’re just as hooked on the latest and greatest in funk, hip-hop, folk, classical, jazz and just about any other genre. From the up-and-coming bands playing at Chapel Hill’s renowned Cat’s Cradle to the pops and classical concerts of the N.C. Symphony, we Tar Heels are rockin’, rollin’, jammin’ and chillin’.

You can’t talk about culture in North Carolina without a tip of the hat to our deep rural roots. Tobacco and cotton were the golden crops that much of the state’s infrastructure was built upon. But, times have changed...and so have we.While farming still is a major economical force here, so are the pharmaceutical, biotech, financial and health care industries. So, nowadays, when someone asks you what field you’re in— they’re not talking about corn, butterbeans or potatoes.

One thing that surprises a lot of newcomers is that North Carolinians aren’t all the same.We don’t sound alike, look alike, dress alike or act alike. You can’t pick us out in a crowd (usually) and not all of us like grits. We’re a culture of diversity—personally, professionally, politically, religiously and just about any other way you can think of. Don’t believe it? Just head to any bar or restaurant in the state during the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament and see for yourself. Baptists and Buddhists, Democrats and Republicans, blue collar and white collar workers stand side-by-side cheering for the same team or noseto- nose trying to convince the person across from them why his or her team stinks. But, even then, it’s our diversity that creates the tie that binds— regardless of who wins the game.

Even our weather is diverse. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter and just right in the spring and fall. Everything you’ve heard about our long, hot, humid summers is absolutely true. They’re just that: long, hot and humid. So, here are a few tips to help you survive:

Make sure you’ve got plenty of white in your wardrobe—white shorts, white t-shirts, white dress pants, white dress shirts, white socks, white caps, white sundresses, white everything. Rememberwhite reflects the sun.

Get one of those cardboard fold-out thing-a-ma-bobs to put up in your windshield whenever you get out of your car. It’s also a good idea to leave your windows cracked just a little. Otherwise, you’ll come back to a car that redefines the meaning of “inferno.” Also, if you’ve got leather or faux leather interior upholstery, you might consider bringing a towel to put down in the seat before you sit down—especially if you’re wearin’ shorts.

There’s nothin’ that sittin’ on the front porch in a swing or rockin’ chair on a warm summer evening can’t cure. Those June bugs and crickets are mighty fine therapy.

Continuin’ on with the weather theme, when we hear “hurricane”, we think “party.” But, at even the slightest mention of a trace of snow or ice, the first thing that comes to mind is “Ohmygosh! We gotta get some bread!”Word to the wise: If you’re one of those northern snowbirds who’s not daunted by winter weather, be sure your kitchen stays well stocked November through February. Because, if you happen to run out of bread, milk or any other staple after the weatherman says there might be “an extremely slight chance of accumulation,” we Southerners will clean out the grocery stores faster than you can say “peanut butter and banana sandwich.” There ain’t no way we’re gonna take a chance on being stranded without food and all of the proper necessities.

One thing you’ll find here in North Carolina is that there’s no such thing as not fittin’ in. Sure, we know ALL about the stereotypes. For Pete’s sakes, we’re reminded of them every day by our good friends from the North and West. They rib us about how we drive too slow, talk too slow and move too slow. But, we make friends really quick and we’ll be the first to throw up our hand when we see ya and say, “Howdy! Wanna come in for a glass of tea? It’s fresh-brewed!”

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