I lived in South Carolina for five years. Quite a drastic change, given that I moved there straight from New York.
After just 4 years, I wanted to run away. In the past, I have heard opinions like, “New York is not America, and America is not New York.” Living in the South, I had the chance to experience the meaning of this sentence firsthand.
I didn’t realize how utterly different the southerner mentality is from the average New Yorker.
In my opinion, people from the South don’t undergo any metamorphosis. Mental civilization gets there much later – sometimes I wondered if at all. Most of these people think the same way as their ancestors 300 years ago. Only that the ancestors were justified, they didn’t have any access to education, television, the news, nor the internet. As I listened and observed the southerners, it finally dawned on me that they take pride in this mental stasis; it’s their tradition.
The majority are Republicans who don’t quite understand, if at all, what that actually means. The main thing is that they can have an unlimited arsenal of weapons. That's their definition of “freedom”. For an average young man, it’s much easier to buy a gun than a condom (because the lady in the store is a friend of the across-the-street-neighbor and the neighbor will tell his mother). Weapons also determine manhood.
Tolerance for anything and anyone who thinks, looks, or lives differently is close to zero. Of course, no one officially talks too much about it. Everyone is fighting for equality. I discovered a surprising resemblance to Polish people...
Mobile home estates blend into the local landscape. Many of the inhabitants of such houses don’t have teeth but certainly, have at least 4 different kinds of guns. They don’t need teeth to chew tobacco, and you don’t really need them to bite a Big Mac from McDonald’s.
I must mention that McDonald’s, like mobile homes, is an integral part of the culture there and an extremely popular diet. Not just McDonalds. Any place where you can eat cheaply and to excess are an absolute hit. If the southerner wanted to weigh himself by standing on a paid scale somewhere in a Polish department store, the weight would surely light up red and warn: “Please enter one at a time!”
However, fast-food restaurants go with the times, so the lettuce leaf placed here or there classifies the hamburger on the southern list of healthy food. Together with Diet Coke, it makes an excellent choice.
During the season, people paint cars in the colors of their favorite football teams (I mean American football here), which is the norm. Southerners are ready to kill for their college football teams! Church and football are two sacred things. Again, I see a similarity with Poland – there are more churches than grocery stores.
Southerners are patriots. An American flag in front of every house is a must-have. There is still a Confederate flag behind the house – nobody wants to make a spectacle out of it. Those without homes pin the flag to the back window of their car. Can’t get more American than that...
Of course, every rule is confirmed by exceptions. I met wonderful people with huge hearts and extraordinary personalities. Some of them are now life-long friends. They are closer to me than family and still live in South Carolina. To me, they are heroes!
Looking back, I always think to myself: “Thank God I don’t live there anymore.”