Welcome to Atlanta (Thinkstock)
As the song says, “Welcome to Atlanta.” The ATL has long been a beacon of what’s tirelessly called “The New South,” mixing an urban sophistication that rivals America’s most chic cities with an unmistakable Southern charm. It’s a mix Atlanta has down to a science — one that no other Southern city has managed to combine quite so artfully (sorry, Charlotte). It’s a great place to live, as I did for 12 years. And it’s a great place to visit; there’s nothing Atlantans like better than making converts of those who believe there are no sophisticated cities below the Mason-Dixon line.
So come on down and get a taste of the gentility for which Atlanta is known. But be warned: Southern hospitality aside, it is still possible to annoy an Atlantan, although they might not immediately show it — except after you’re long gone and they talk about you with a curt “bless his/her heart” (Southern-speak for “What an a**hole”).
Don’t let that happen to you. Here are “12 Ways to P*ss Off Someone from Atlanta.”
Atlanta is a great town, which you’ll enjoy even more if you avoid p*ssing anyone off (Photo: Terence S. Jones/Flickr)
1.) Calling Atlanta ”Hotlanta”
Every time the h-word is used, Atlantans die a little inside. That grating nickname is a relic of Atlanta’s overly earnest efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to establish itself as a major American city. That battle has long since been won, and the victory party should have included a formal ceremony banning that word from existence. If you must bestow a nickname, opt for “the ATL” (but use that one sparingly since it’s starting to get played out too).
Please don’t call it Hotlanta. Ever (Photo: Foon/Flickr)
2.) “You live in Atlanta? But you don’t have an accent.”
Too many people venture to the South expecting to hear that stereotypical thick, exaggerated drawl — the kind that conjures up images of slow-moving ceiling fans, mint juleps, and seersucker suits. Truth is, that drawl is a figment of Hollywood’s imagination (We’re looking at you, Kevin Spacey; that cartoonish speech impediment you called an accent in “A Time to Kill” and again in “House of Cards” is about as southern as an umlaut). The fact is, that Hollywoodized Southern accent is exceedingly rare in the South and virtually nonexistent in Atlanta. Plus, the city’s growing transplant population — Atlanta has topped Penske Truck Rental’s list of top moving destinations for four straight years — means you’re going to hear a variety of accents and non-accents in Atlanta. So in the likely event you fail to encounter a Southern drawl during your stay in Atlanta, try not to act too surprised.
Most people in Atlanta don’t talk like Scarlett O’Hara (GIF: Giphy.com)
3.) Complaining/observing/joking that “every street is called ‘Peachtree.’”
Yes, there are a lot of streets named ‘Peachtree’ in Atlanta. (Photo: Wojtek Felendzer/Flickr)
Atlantans are forever tired of hearing this, whether it’s as a complaint, which makes you sound petty, or as a joke, which makes you sound like a hack comedian trying to win over the crowd at the Punchline. Yes, there are about 90 Atlanta streets that incorporate some variation of “Peach” and “Tree” into their names. But THE Peachtree Street and its adjoining cousin, Peachtree Road, are the only ones you really need to know. And even with all the other Peachtrees, everyone manages to get around just fine. And you will too.
4.) Mispronouncing “Ponce de Leon”
Here’s one Atlanta street that doesn’t have Peachtree in its name: Ponce de Leon Avenue. This is a major thoroughfare — home to tons of landmarks such as the 24-hour Krispy Kreme, the strip club/dive bar Clermont Lounge, and the greasy spoon Majestic Diner — and it’s likely you’ll end up on it at some point. But despite how your Romance Languages professor or your GPS may pronounce it, the correct way to say it in Atlanta is “Ponts deh Leon,” or simply “Ponts.” Pronouncing it “Pon-say de Leon” or “Pon-say de Leh-ohn” or “correctly” will get you pegged as an out-of-towner or, worse, a linguistic showoff.
The Majestic is one of the landmarks you’ll find on Ponce de Leon (Photo: Jack Kennard/Flickr)
Related: 12 Ways to P*ss Off a Nebraskan
5.) Saying “We have/don’t have this in New York”
It must be some kind of lingering, post-Civil War compulsion that makes visitors constantly pit the two cities against each other: the quintessential Southern city vs. its larger Northern counterpart. But Atlanta takes pride in being its own city with its own culture, identity, and style. And while there are many areas where Atlanta will simply never match New York — public transportation being one — it’s not trying to, thank you very much.
6.) Accuse Atlanta of being a bad sports town
An ESPN column infamously labeled Atlanta The Worst Sports Town in America, a label residents didn’t like and, more importantly, don’t deserve. Despite the knocks from around the country, Atlanta sports fans do turn out for games: last year, the Atlanta Falcons ranked 13th out of 32 NFL teams in attendance, besting such “football towns” as Philadelphia and Chicago; the Atlanta Braves also ranked 13th out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. Count the rabid fan bases of Georgia Tech and the nearby University of Georgia and you have a fairly buzzy sports town with a lot of great venues to watch a game. Speaking of sports …
Bad sports town? The Atlanta Falcons drew more fans than the Philadelphia Eagles last year (Photo: Getty Images)
7.) Mention how the Atlanta Braves won only one World Series
The fact that the Braves spent the 1990s as one of baseball’s elite teams and yet won a single World Series title still stings a little, especially since those World Series dreams were twice denied by a certain pinstripes-wearing team from New York. Don’t mention it, especially if your team’s last World Series appearance predates email (cough! … L.A. Dodgers … cough!). Or if you’re from New York.
Yeah, yeah… “only one World Series.” Best not to bring it up (Photo: Associated Press)
8.) Drive badly
True, this doesn’t go over well anywhere. But sometimes people who’ve heard tales about the South’s slower pace tend to be surprised at how brutal Atlanta’s driving scene is. Well, believe the hype: this is a town of serious, fast-moving, go-for-broke drivers. Atlanta is frequently in Top 10 lists of cities with the worst commutes, so people have places to go. And that famous courtesy for which Southerners are known explodes into blind rage when an Atlantan encounters someone who drifts into the far left lane on I-285 (aka “the Perimeter”) and moseys along at the speed limit. If you’re coming to Atlanta, you’d best up your driving game.
Bring your driving A-game to the ATL (Photo: elaine/Flickr)
9.) Complaining that Atlantans can’t drive in the snow
Yes, the city was paralyzed this year by a snowfall of just over 2 inches. But that’s no reason to start needling Southerners in general and Atlantans in particular about how they drive in the snow. On Atlanta’s heavily-trafficked roads, snow doesn’t stick and become powder like it does up North. The constant traffic turns it into slush, which freezes into a thick sheet of ice that would even challenge North Dakota’s most experienced snow drivers. If you must ask Atlantans about snow, just ask them where they were during that awful snowstorm this past January; just about everyone has a story. And Southerners love to tell stories — that’s one stereotype that’s true.
Don’t judge an Atlanta driver until you’ve driven a mile in his iced-over roads (Photo: Stephanie Zell/Flickr Vision)
10.) Assume that the city’s only good restaurants are Waffle Houses
Years of enjoying New York’s celebrated restaurants haven’t dulled my obsession with Atlanta’s food scene and my local faves: the elegant waterfront favorite Canoe; the city’s best Mexican restaurant, Nuevo Laredo Cantina; the neighborhoody, farm-to-table Sprig; the New South cuisine of South City Kitchen; and the countless Asian restaurants along Buford Highway. If you’re planning a trip to Atlanta, take time to seek out Atlanta’s many fine-dining choices. And, yes, include a Waffle House because they really are glorious.
Enjoy the fine southern cuisine at South City Kitchen. You can go to Waffle House for dessert (Photo: Evening Edge.com/Flickr)
11.) Not minding your manners
This is another Southern stereotype that’s 100 percent true: Southerners are big on manners. Walking into a McDonald’s and barking, “Gimme a Big Mac!” at the server won’t go over well here (By the way, what are you doing at McDonald’s? Head over to FLIP immediately). Saying “please,” “thank you,” and “how are you?” may slow things down, but social niceties are something Atlantans happily make time for.
12.) Bringing up the “Real Housewives of Atlanta”
We try to pretend they’re from somewhere else. Bless their hearts.
Don’t judge. You probably have a “Real Housewives” in your city too (Photo: Gregorio T. Binuya/Everett Collection)