NOLA to NH Observations: Nice People

I have been in NH for the past month (thus why I haven’t posted anything new). I had this great idea to write about the various observations I made while in NH and my first few days in NOLA. I was going to do them all together, but that is too long and nobody wants to read that much (let’s be real), so I’ll do them in themed posts. Enjoy!

Nice People

People always talk about “Southern Hospitality” and how Northerners are cold. Not true. I’ll tell you right now this is a blatant lie. What most people think of when they think of the North is New York City- fyi New York doesn’t constitute the WHOLE North, there are other places. Just because you went to NYC once and only encountered people who wore monotones, had their earbuds in and got really mad if you bumped into them, doesn’t mean that’s what EVERYONE is like.  It’s like being in a blizzard in Alabama and thinking it snows every winter in the entire South (fun fact: I’ve been in more Southern states  during a  snowstorm than in the Northern states). But I digress. I will admit that the niceness encountered up North and down South are very different.

NOLA Nice

Terms of Endearment:

Everybody calls women “baby”, “honey”, “sugar”, or some other term of endearment that makes most Northerners uncomfortable at first. I remember the first time a grocery clerk called me baby, she was about my age and it totally freaked me out. Then I noticed men calling me baby and I thought – please, I am NOT your baby- but then I slowly dropped my Northern preconceived notions about why people call you a term of endearment and embraced it. I don’t call people baby ever, but I also don’t cringe when other people do. For example, while in the airport (upon my return) a nice gentleman asked me “You findin’ everything you need baby?” “Yes sir, thank you.” “Ariight, baby.” And I smiled because I knew I was back in New Orleans.

Chattiness:

I find people in New Orleans to be really chatty. Out in the street, at the grocery store, in line for the bathroom at Mardi Gras, pretty much anywhere. People have no problem striking up a conversation with total strangers. Now that I’m thinking about it alcohol consumption might have something to do with it…

Ma’am & Sir:

Being from New Hampshire I did not grow up using ma’am and sir and I didn’t really get it. Then I heard a friend of mine on the phone changing plane tickets and anytime she was asked a question she would answer “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am”. It was weird to me, she was doing something so normal, why all the formalities? But then I realized, that’s just the way it is down here. No matter what you are doing you use ma’am and sir.

Helpfulness:

While working for One Million Bones I frequently carried 50lb boxes along with all my other supplies. It could be quite pathetic, we’ll just say it, to watch me strug-fest up the stairs or to an elevator, and especially through doors. I found that people (black men especially) were exceptionally helpful. They would often take the 50lb box without even asking how far they’d have to carry it. One man was leaving the building as I was entering and came all the way to the 27th floor with me, no questions asked, just helping.

Another time I had an incredibly bad day at work (Starbucks in Harrah’s; some guy who was tired of losing accused me of being incompetent and trying to steal his money…yea…right.) Anyway, I’d about had it. It was around 1am and I was sitting on the side of Harrah’s crying on the phone with my fiance and people kept coming up to me to see if I was ok. So I decided to take note of who was stopping. No white people stopped. No girls stopped. Nobody in their 20s – early 30s stopped. Only one group stopped because one of their black members checked up on me.  Two middle aged black men stopped. One Latino late 30’s Latino stopped. One late 30’s black man stopped. I was out there for about 45 minutes. It was really interesting to see who stopped, who didn’t, who listened to me saying I was fine and moved on, and who insisted that if I was still there in 20 minutes he would buy me a drink (I wasn’t still there).

New Hampshire Nice

Terms of Endearment:

We don’t use them with strangers. I don’t think that I have ever heard a grocery clerk call me “baby” or “sweety”. It’s just not our culture.

Chattiness:

I feel like I always hear people say that Northerners aren’t chatty, you can never strike up a conversation anywhere. I call shenanigans. Where do you think I learned to be chatty? I’ll give you a hint: the only place I lived for 18 years of my formative life. You can totally strike up conversations in line, with check out clerks, on the street, waiting around for things, whatever. But I do think that Northerners like other Northerners and are a little apprehensive of outsiders. (This even counts for people from a different town, part of the state or part of New England. And don’t act- other parts of the country- like you don’t like your own people more than outsiders.)

Ma’am and Sir:

Northerners (and pretty much anyone not in the South) don’t use them. Again it’s not rude, it’s just a cultural thing. What is rude is calling people ma’am or sir. A friend of mine from California told me “never call my mom ma’am, she gets really mad about it”. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it brings people back to a different era where formalities were necessary. Maybe it makes people feel old. Maybe it makes people feel like the person calling them ma’am is their subordinate and they (the ma’am) don’t like that. I really have no idea, but we don’t use it. Unless you want to piss someone off, then ma’am and sir are great to have in your linguistic repertoire. For example, I used to be a teller, and people get really mean about their money (usually when they have none left and somehow end up blaming you- the teller- for their improvident spending habits.) There was one woman who was always very surly and rude to me and when I was about at wits end I would pull ma’am her. “Ma’am, I understand your concerns but unfortunately I cannot do anything about your negative balance.” BAM! I just gave out my warning signal, like skunk standing on its front paws, watch out, I’m getting mad! My co-workers all knew what the use of ma’am or sir meant. Kill ’em with kindness right?

Helpfulness:

New Englanders are the most helpful people ever. Period. End of story. Snow storm got you blocked in? Here let me plow your drive way. Gone on vacation, here let me feed and water your horses. Mower doesn’t work? Here use mine. Need some free manure? Here take this. Struggling to move a HUGE piece of furniture? Here let me help you with that. Need to put in over 4 acres of fence and build a shed. Here I am in my shit kickers and cut-offs, point me in the direction. Drifting away from the dock? Here throw me your rope and I’ll pull you in and tie you off. New Englanders are the most helpful people ever. Doesn’t matter what is going on we will probably stop and help you, is it heavy? dirty? will it take a long time? no matter, let me help. (Please adjust helpfulness accordingly for city and state location).

The point? The cultural differences between New England and the South don’t mean that one group of people is nicer than the other, it just means that when you travel you need to understand that your norms aren’t their norms. Adapt, it’s kinda what we do best (that, and start wars).

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