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Friday, February 6, 2009

The Southern Way

A couple of years ago our local newspaper ran an article about an Ivy league college that had been forced to offer a course on good manners to their graduates. It seems that the students had no idea about what constituted good manners, so they were offending people they were trying to do business with.

Duh! Anyone from the South could have told you that manners count. And not just because my mama said so. (That reminds me of the time one of my son’s teachers told me what a polite boy he was. I hadn’t noticed that at home so much, so I asked him about it. ‘Wouldn’t you rather I was polite in public than at home?’ he asked. I had to have a long talk with that boy.)

The South is changing-no doubt about that-but I hope we never forget good manners. Life certainly flows a lot smoother with good manners to lubricate our interaction with other people. Here are some things that a good southerner always does.

1.Be polite to everyone-the cashier at the bank, the guy who changed the oil in your car, your waitress at the local restaurant-everyone.

2.Only trashy people are loud and cause a fuss in public.

3.Always say please and thank you.

4.Be friendly to everyone whether you know them or not. It’s okay to talk to someone you don’t know if you’re waiting in line together.

5.If it’s in your power to do a kindness for others do it.

6.Don’t act like a know-it-all even if you know you’re right. Example. I have a friend who loves to go to Pigeon Forge in North Carolina. She’s been there so many times she could get there blindfolded. She went to Pigeon Forge with a church group who took a wrong turn. She didn’t say so, though. She said, ‘I think we should have turned onto that last exit.’

7.Always address people using ma’am or sir. Yes, ma’am. No, sir.

8.A gentleman always holds a door for a lady and lets her go before him.

9.A gentleman will stand when a lady enters a room. The guy who put down the tile in my bathroom was on his hands and knees on the floor when I poked my head around the door to check on his progress. He jumped up the minute he saw me.

10.Offer food and drink to visitors in your home.

11.If someone you know has surgery or a baby take some food over to them.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll get your started. In general, if you remember to put others first you’ll probably do okay.


Emma Lai said...


I was raised a polite, respectful Texan. One of the rudest people I ever met was in line at the post office in New Mexico. I had run into an old work colleague, and we were exchanging information so that we could get together for lunch. The woman next to us said, "Please. We don't want to know your personal business." like we were discussing something taboo. I was shocked. I guess no one shared rule 4 with her.

Elaine Cantrell said...

Evidently not, Emma. I think our Southern emphasis on good manner is one of the nicest parts of life in the South. Er, I hope your rude person wasn't raised in the South.

Emma Lai said...

She was definitely not raised in the south. When I caught up with my friend later in the week, she was also shocked. Between the two of us, we couldn't come up with a good reason for the behavior. But, I have to laugh now because I think that's another thing we do in the South. We figure there had to be a reason for the rude behavior. It's hard to fathom there are people out there who are just habitually rude.

Margay said...

I grew up in the North, but my father was raised in the South and one of the things that always impressed me when we visited was how friendly everyone was. There are some nice people up here, but the majority are kind of brusque, to put it kindly. We could all use some Southern gentility.

Elaine Cantrell said...


I really do try to be friendly to everyone I meet. I think it makes life a lot better.

Margay said...

I agree, Elaine.