I lived in the South for 7 formative years of my life. I transferred to Hoover, Alabama from Minnesota when I was a sophomore in high school. Bonus fun fact, the high school I attended for three years in Hoover was also the subject of an MTV documentary series about our football team, called ‘Two-a-Days’. However, when I was telling all of my classmates this in Minnesota before I moved their reaction was “oh, that’s cool, BUT DID YOU HEAR ABOUT _____?! She’s moving to the school in ‘High School Musical’”.
To which I responded, “that’s cool I guess but that doesn’t mean she’s gonna be in High School Musical, I COULD ACTUALLY BE ON MTV. Whatever, screw y’all byyyye.” Unfortunately ‘Two-a-Days’ was canceled right before we moved so no MTV fame for me which is why I have a blog right now and not a guest host gig on the new ‘TRL’.
Anyways, following Hoover I went to Auburn University for my undergraduate degree. It was there I fell in love with the South. And now, if someone asks me where I’m from or where I would call home I would respond with Auburn, Alabama, not Plymouth, Minnesota where I lived for over half my life.
As a transplant from the South, I still feel like a foreigner in the Pacific Northwest. I think a lot of Southerners do. Almost all of the Southerners I’ve known in Portland have left after a year or two. Even the ones who came to Portland bashing the South for it’s less-than-open mindedness and praising the PNW for it’s liberal attitude have given up on the Northwest and ventured back to the wild South.
So I wanted to dedicate a post to discussing my two homes, the South and the Pacific Northwest. I’ll lay out some things about the Pacific Northwest (Portland specifically) that Southerners tend to find strange. And then I’ll lay out some observations on where a Southerner & a PNW’er may find some common ground.
First off, things that Southerners (for the most part) would find weird about the PNW:
1. Vegans – “We ain’t no damn rabbits.” I concur. I have all the respect in the world for vegans, but I will never be one. I was going to try once just for a week and after about two hours I accidentally consumed milk as it was an ingredient in the caramel sauce on my soy caramel macchiato. On the flip side, it’s hard enough being a vegan in a vegan friendly city such as Portland. If a vegan ventured into a restaurant in the South they would probably have the options of plain lettuce and….honestly I can’t think of anything else.
2. Knowing your recycling schedule – I once had a landlord be completely befuddled that I didn’t understand the intricacies of recycling. She had to send me the Portland code to recycling so I would get the schedule right. This, admittedly, is something the South needs to work on.
3. Watching soccer – soccer to Southerners is a boring, 90-minute Eurofest that for some reason is allowed to end in a tie. Soccer is my absolute favorite, so this attitude is something I do not miss.
4. Owning a ferret – I was amazed at how many men on Tinder in Portland proudly flaunted their pet ferrets. I also saw a man walking his pet ferrets when I was in Seattle. That sort of behavior would probably have you committed in the South.
5. Not attending a Church service on Sundays – My mom once said, “you know why so many people go to Sunday brunch there? CAUSE THEY DON’T GO TO CHURCH.”
6. Juice Cleanses – Can we all agree this is primarily a West Coast thing? Why, I have no idea. I prefer solid food to be honest. “I ain’t no damn newborn.”
7. Men obsessed with flannel – Plenty of Southern men wear flannel, that’s for certain, but not to the extent of PWN’ers. The South is more the land of Vineyard Vines polos, croakies, and Greek t-shirts. When I first came to Portland I thought, “Woooow, look at all these unique men who don’t feel the need to conform to any standard! There’s not a pastel-colored cartoon whale in sight!” Then someone said, “They all wear flannel and have beards”. This statement shattered all my hopes and dreams.
8. Where are the people of color? – I’m pretty certain there are more people of color working in the Atlanta airport than there are in the entire state of Oregon. As a person of color I think the PNW seriously needs to work on this. The only time I see more than one Hispanic in the same location, I’m at a Catholic mass or salsa night at Aztec Willie’s.
But alas, I’ve noticed some odd similarities between the PNW and the South as well. Maybe my fellow Southerners who’ve found themselves in the PNW will cling to these and be able to stick out the long, gray winters.
1. Fear of snow – If literally one cute little bb fleck of snow falls from the sky, the PNW and the South are thrown into chaos. Because there are no resources to combat the snow, people are no longer able to drive, work, walk, eat. Basically we all die. Snow is terrifying.
2. Rain – People would drive me nuts when they’d say “ooooh, you’re from the South. You must not be used to rain.” Which, yes, the rain is more interminable in the PNW but the rain in the South WANTS TO KILL YOU. It storms in the South like the damn X-Men character is hanging out down there being extra petty for some reason. I’ve had to pull over multiple times while it was raining in Alabama because I could not see out of my windshield. I have yet to have to do that in the PNW. That being said, for PNW’ers, seasonal affective disorder is a real thing and maybe get yourself a sunlamp.
3. BACON. WE LOVE IT. – Bacon is the great food uniter. Put it on a salad, on a bloody Mary, wrap some seafood in it, eat it on the go, put it on a donut. We don’t care, we love you.
4. Speaking of bacon, let’s give a shout out to Nick Offerman – Ron Swanson will forever be a role model to both PNW’ers and Southerners alike.
5. College football – There are definitely less college football diehards in the PNW but those Oregon fans, like damn, they can be just as intense as SEC fans. I was on a dating app one time and an Oregon alumn, seeing my alma mater, greeted me by explaining why Auburn shouldn’t have beat Oregon in the 2010 National Championship. I was like “Ohh yeah I get that buuuuut we still won tho, SO SUCK IT LOSER. WAR. EAGLE FLY DOWN THE FIELD, EVER TO CONQUER, NEVER TO YIELD *drums drums drums*” (that was not really my response but I have that ready for the next Duck fan who gets in my grill about my Tigerz).
6. Folk & Southern rock music (specifically Wagon Wheel) – Portlanders have this annoying tendency to know about every band ever but they do seem to have a soft spot for folk and Southern rock as do my Southerners. This is great because I love a good foot-stompin’ kind of concert. Also, I think everyone on this God-given Earth knows and loves Wagon Wheel. Old Crow Medicine Show has achieved what no political party or Kardashian sibling ever could. They united a nation.
I don’t know if I’ll stay in Portland. Maybe the South will call me home. Maybe I’ll move to a foreign country. But I think this South to PNW transition has prepared me somewhat for the cultural shocks to come. I’ve met beautiful people all over this country and I look forward to meeting some more. And, of course, discovering what other methods of consuming bacon humanity comes up with.