10 Habits of Polite Southerners

Betsy Cribb
·4 min read

Okay, we'll admit it: Sometimes we act like the South has a monopoly on polite behavior and good etiquette, and that's not totally the case. But while we'll acknowledge that there are plenty of gracious, friendly people all over the world, we maintain that Southerners are true pros when it comes to good manners. And that's because for us, etiquette isn't just knowing which fork to use or the ins and outs of a thoughtful thank-you note, it's about treating people with warmth and kindness. Here, we've rounded up ten habits that every polite Southerner keeps.

woman writing thank you note
woman writing thank you note

Tetra Images - Jamie Grill

1. We make small talk with everybody.

Around here, even coffeeshop-counter and checkout-line transactions aren't strictly business—that would be rude. We go beyond "please" and "thank you" to chat with whomever is helping us, whether it's at the local bakery or the car repair shop. By the time we've got our croissant in hand or our oil changed, we've also heard half of the attendant's life story and shared most of ours, and we like it that way.

2. We reply to invitations in a timely manner.

From sip-and-sees to backyard barbecues, the Southern social calendar is stacked with countless events and celebrations, so we respond to each invitation right when we receive it. A quick reply is helpful for the hosts, plus it ensures we won't forget when the invitation inevitably lands at the bottom of a growing mail stack. Of course, we can't make it to every event; and when we can't, we're sure to send a gift and a handwritten note.

3. We’re quick to offer sincere compliments and show gratitude.

Rather than using social interactions as a means of serving our own interests, we see them as opportunities to build others up and make them feel good about themselves. We're eager to celebrate other people's achievements and quick to offer encouragement when the chips are down. Additionally, we say "thank you" earnestly and often; there's no such thing as showing too much gratitude.

4. We have a friendly demeanor.

Beyond watching our words, we also pay attention to our body language to ensure that we're exuding warmth: we maintain eye contact in conversation; refrain from closed-off positions, like crossing our arms; and respect personal space.

5. We put our buggies back.

There's no official law stating that you must return your shopping cart to the store entry or a parking lot's designated holding areas, but we have some thoughts about people who don't… and they're too impolite to share here. A free-range buggy is at best inconsiderate and at worst a car-dinging machine.

6. We don’t offer advice unless it’s solicited.

It's tempting to offer guidance in your areas of expertise, whether that's child-rearing or interior-decorating, but genuinely polite folks refrain from sharing recommendations or life wisdom unless they've been explicitly requested to do so.

7. We tip generously.

Etiquette goes beyond the words we speak, and a tip is a tangible expression of gratitude. Stellar service should always be celebrated with a generous tip, and even if service hasn't been top-notch, it's important to show a little compassion and tip anyway—you never know the behind-the-scenes circumstances that contributed to poor service that day.

8. We ask how you’re doing and actually listen to the answer.

One of the hallmark character traits of polite people is that they listen more than the talk. They're quick to ask questions, attentive to the responses, and never interrupt. Rather than constantly turning conversations back to themselves, they are eager to give other people the floor.

9. On the other hand, we don’t ask intrusive questions… even if we’re dying to know the answers.

There's nothing wrong with a little curiosity, but even the nosiest among us knows better than to ask overly personal questions. Examples of inappropriate questions include (but are most certainly not limited to): "Why aren't y'all engaged yet?" "When are you having kids?" "Who does your Botox?"

10. Most importantly, we are gracious even when inconvenienced.

It's easy enough to be well-mannered when things are going your way, but it's in less pleasant situations that our true penchant for politeness shines. Whether it's a long wait for a table at our neighborhood restaurant, a botched paint job in our homes, or an unsatisfactory customer service interaction, we know how to keep our frustration in check and manage requests and complaints with tact, compassion, and patience. A little empathy goes a long way.