Hi everyone! For those of you that didn’t know, I just moved to Arkansas on Christmas. My mission: turn around an Anytime Fitness that I purchased. After being here a while, I can definitely say that life is very different from living in Wisconsin. And since this isn’t just an international world adventure blog, I figured I’d share some of the Southern culture with you.
First off, I would say the overall way of life here is hugely dissimilar compared to Wisconsin. That’s not to say it’s better or worse, simply different. When I trekked here, I realized that I hadn’t ever lived anywhere in the US except my home state. I had always wanted to move somewhere in the States where I didn’t know a single soul and see how things went. Cross that one off the bucket list!
The first thing hit me is that they don’t call this the Bible Belt for nothin’. I can’t tell you how many times I heard an enthusiastic, “Have a blessed day” on voicemail greetings in the first week. The number of people who mention the Lord or God in everyday, casual conversation is about 58 times more than I’ve ever heard in Wisconsin. Another thing that multiple people have said is that in their lives, God comes first, the man is the head of the household, and then everyone else comes after him.
I don’t think this religious influence is bad at all, I’m just not used to it. In fact, I went to a church service on a Friday night with my personal trainer. Thank you for the invite Estella! Man, how my Friday nights have changed since I don’t drink. Regardless, the service was an eye-opening experience. We listened to a middle-aged guy talk about all the bad things he had done in his life, and how he was reformed and had made something of himself now. It was a good experience for me, and I’d say I’m better off because of it.
I have to admit there are a few things that drive me absolutely crazy down here. I could swear that everyone here is still using a Zack Morris phone, because sometimes it’s impossible to make a phone call, even on a land line. I don’t need to ask “Can you hear me now?” if the freakin’ call doesn’t even go through.
My other big beef with Arkansas is that everyone drives like they are 80 years old….or my dad. There is this main street that goes through the entire city of Springdale, and the speed limit is between 40 and 50 miles per hour. Cars will frequently go 30 during a time of little traffic. Let’s just say the Satarri is going to need a new set of tires when I get back home.
Speaking of driving, a lot of people here have trucks just because it’s the thing to do. Estella practically had a meltdown when she recently traded in her truck for a car, and I still don’t think she’s over it. She’s probably brought it up half a dozen times in two months. It’s okay Estella, Ford still has plenty of them coming off the production line.
I had never considered myself to have a strong accent, but people here call me out on it all the time. I don’t have to say more than a sentence and people will ask me, “So where are you from?” I will usually reply, “Guess.” “Well, I think you’re from the North,” is how they typically respond. Is the country still divided into just two factions? It’s hilarious how no one guesses an actual state, though I’m impressed that almost everyone knows where Wisconsin is located.
It quickly became apparent to me that the time line for romantic relationships is crazy faster than in the Midwest. I met or heard of a handful of people who were already married, had a kid, and then divorced under 25. Someone told me that Arkansas has the second highest divorce rate in the US, and after seeing so many young divorcees, I’m not surprised. I don’t really understand why this is the case because people don’t seem to get married after an abnormally short amount of time together. Maybe Dolly Parton is a more appropriate role model for Arkansas instead of Kim Kardashian?
You know how a server will ask you if you want anything to drink when you’re at a restaurant? Well here in Arkansas, the choices they offer are usually Dr. Pepper and sweet tea. Seriously, those are your top two beverages? I’m pretty sure that some people love sweet tea so much that they have a sweet tea fountain in the middle of their living room. I’ve had members act like an alcoholic going into withdrawal when I told them that they couldn’t down their daily liter of the stuff. I had no idea that something practically non-existent in WI would be such a staple down here.
I recently learned that I take our tolerance for bad weather for granted in the North. One day it snowed what seemed about an inch, and literally two hours later there was zero accumulation on the roads. Apparently this is sufficient cause for businesses to shut down, and mothers to frantically take their children out of school early in response to the snowpocalypse. Congratulations Arkansas, you officially have the most ridiculous response to a little snow that I have ever seen anywhere in the world.
On the plus side, the weather is amazingly warm here, even during January and February. Now I know I don’t dress normally even for a Wisconsinite. However, the entire time I was here, I’ve worn shorts and a t-shirt. Countless people have looked at me like I’m one grape short of a fruit salad, but doesn’t 50-degree weather equal shorts where we’re from?
There are a bunch of things that I really like about the culture down here. For starters, everyone is extremely hospitable, genuine, nice, and welcoming. Now I understand what people mean when they talk about Southern hospitality. The women are especially catering toward men, which I’m not going to argue with. I keep telling people that this is the only place on the planet where people are as nice as they are in the Midwest.
There is no doubt in my mind that my favorite part of living down here is the completely different vernacular. In public, there is a lot more formality because people frequently say “sir” or “ma’am” to address others, even strangers. I’m not sure why, but I actually like this a lot.
I have to admit that I did a double take because my second day down here I had a high school girl call me “sir.” I thought to myself, “Damn, did I become a ‘sir’ when I just turned 30?” Relief washed over me in an awesome wave when I realized that it was simply her trying to be polite.
One night I was out with friends, and I remarked something about the place where we were going. My friend Kara Jo says to me, “I’m smellin’ what you’re steppin’ in.” I’m sorry, I don’t speak Southern. What the heck does that mean? Apparently that’s a long-winded but much more entertaining way of saying, “I got ya.” Love it!
Sometimes people will pronounce a word as if it had extra syllables. For instance, “yes” becomes “yeas.” Or “friend” turns into, “frieand.” It’s hard to explain in writing, you just have to hear it in person.
Other phrases that I enjoy hearing on a daily basis include, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday,” “precious,” “fixin'” to mean “going,” the obligatory “y’all,” and using “wreck” in place of “accident.” I don’t know why, but I almost lost it the first time I heard, “I almost got in a wreck!” Not my most compassionate moment given the nature of the comment.
For the record, when I searched for “wreck” and got the picture above, almost all the pictures that came up were of ship wrecks. Hopefully you Southerners don’t get into an accident after reading that last sentence.
There is one thing here that they say that I’m going to be sure to incorporate when I move back home. When you do something nice for someone here, instead of saying, “I appreciate it,” they say, “I appreciate you.” It’s a subtle difference, but it makes things feel so much more personal between two people, which I like a lot.
This has been quite the transition for me because I’ve worked in the club full time for the last two months. Before that, I had never been in my club for more than a week at a time. I didn’t know how I would like doing it full time, what the challenges would be, and how well I would be able to do the job.
Then something started happening almost immediately after I moved down here. I would be working in the club, and I would help someone with their diet or workout routine. Then I felt this physical tingle in the back right part of my brain, an actual tangible response to what I had done. This has happened before, but not to this degree. That tingle coupled with a rush of endorphins makes me briefly feel like I just had ten Sugar Free Red Bulls injected into my bloodstream all at once. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever felt before.
The part that I’m sad to admit is that I didn’t get that sensation when I was working at Baird at all. Not even once. It’s that tingling feeling in my brain that tells me I’m meant to help others get involved with health and fitness. I have to admit it’s one of the best emotions I’ve ever experienced, and I get to feel it every day.