Secrets of the Southern Belle
° How to Be Nice °
I would like to believe that most people have good intentions, because, really, who actually wants the rest of the world to think they were raised by wolves? So I gladly give everyone credit for at least trying to behave well. However, the truth is, some people could use some extra help. If you ever have the pleasure of spending time in the South, you can readily note the fundamentally different way southerners interact with people. People who are not from the South are often confused or genuinely surprised when they experience true southern hospitality. Smiling, greeting strangers on the street, and opening doors are not common in all parts of the world. But it surely makes us happier people!
Our ability to be kind and generally respect others comes from most of us being raised under the biblical premise of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In the South, whether you live in downtown Atlanta or rural Alabama, there are no strangers. Most of us realize from early childhood that karma is real and the bridge you so easily burn
might well be the bridge you have to cross to get home. In different parts of the world that move at a faster pace, being insensitive or considering most people as dispensable seems to be the norm. But in the South we treasure being respectable and respecting others. Unfortunately, as we see more migration from other parts of the world, we also see an increase of poor manners and rude behavior. But the Southern Belle prides herself on treating everyone like the next president, because potential is not always obvious; your parking valet today might be chairman of the city council tomorrow.
So we greet people. It’s such a small thing, but I notice that in some cities, no one ever says hello, good morning, or have a nice day. They intentionally avoid making eye contact with any and all living things. (Apparently their shoes and belt buckles are quite the conversationalists!) I find it particularly odd in business, when the salespeople or tellers don’t speak or thank you for your patronage. Don’t they realize that without customers they would not have a job? I guess my mama’s favorite adage, “Common sense isn’t common,” is definitely true in most cases. To intentionally ignore someone’s presence is just simply rude; if someone pretends you don’t exist for long enough, you might start believing them!
We say, “Hello, how are you doing today?” even if we have no interest in the answer. Everybody always says, “I’m fine, thanks for asking, and how are you?” We might mention the weather. When appropriate, a Belle will try to bring a compliment into the conversation. It’s as simple as this: we treat
the people we meet as human beings. We try to pay attention to them.
And I’d like to think we try to be considerate. We aren’t in as much of a hurry, so we’ll let somebody get in line in front of us if asked nicely. We are especially kind to the elderly and the infirm. We do favors for people. We are warm, but at the same time we are formal, which is why we are always well-groomed. Some of these habits, which some might consider old-fashioned—like writing notes and sending flowers—are very charming and endearing, as you will learn on your way to becoming a Southern Belle.