How Real are Southern Stereotypes?

By Nicole Burdette

The cultural divide between the American North and the South lives in popular culture, movies, books, and in TV. But just how deep do these differences run, and how many stereotypes do people actually believe?

Some notions are that Southerners are typically seen as less intelligent, as  sweeter, or as having thick accents compared with Northerners.  

About half of the cliches about the South are believed, according to an unofficial survey conducted by an NYU journalism student in New York.

“It all depends on the area..” said Don S., a New Yorker, “but some things are just statistical…”

Don was referring to the stereotype where 100% of the people interviewed agreed that they view the South as very conservative.

“Conservatism is seen through the elections,” he said.

Additionally, 100% of people agreed that Southerners are typically very religious.  

This view, along with the 100% of people who agreed the South is more overweight, can be confirmed through collected polls and information. However, some things cannot be seen with just numbers.

While only 40% of those surveyed said Southerners had nicer spirits than Northerners, 70% said that Southerners had more manners and practiced more niceties.

“Being raised in the South, we were always taught to say things like ‘yes ma’am and no ma’am,” said Elizabeth H. from Tennessee.

On the other hand, Claire Wang, a student from China, said, “I only know about Southern people from TV… I think when other people learn that someone is from the South, they talk bad about that Southerner.”

Attitudes, however, also play a large role in the cultural divide of the American North and South. Eighty percent of people surveyed agreed that Southerners put on a sweet face but then talk bad behind that person’s back, while Northerners are simply more direct.

Luckily for Southerners though, a significant amount of negative stereotypes were not confirmed.

For example, only 30% of those surveyed said that Southerners were less intelligent than Northerners, and 20% percent of those were Southerners themselves.

Some other cultural differences given by Northerners during the interviews included: college football is very important, people are seen as uncultured, and food is always fried.  

Yet, it is not all bad in the South, according to Elizabeth H, “At least we have sweet tea here.”


Memphis BBQ in the North

Rendezvous, The Commissary, and Central BBQ are all very familiar names if you live in the Memphis area, a place that loves barbeque so much that it hosts the Memphis in May Barbecue Fest each year.

It is hard to find a restaurant in a new area that replicates a genuine, home style meal. However, homesick Memphians will be pleased to know that there is one place up North that does just that.

Southern Hospitality is a Southern themed bar and restaurant located in Hell’s Kitchen, on Manhattan’s West side that serves true Memphis barbecue.

    An almost-cheesy, rustic feel, makes Southern Hospitality the ideal restaurant for a Southern getaway from the bustling streets of the big city.

    However, it must be noted that this joint runs on the pricier side, especially if you are a student. Southern Hospitality’s world-famous prime ribs cost $34, while a sandwich costs around $16.  

   Yet, with Justin Timberlake, its owner, being a Memphian himself, the restaurant offers food that is as close to home as it gets, and it is probably worth the extra bucks.  

While picking at the last of your sweet ribs, Memphians, perhaps you can play the game “Six Degrees of Justin Timberlake,” a Memphians’ favorite pastime.

This game consists of connecting your relation to the pop singer through a game similar to that of one for actor Kevin Bacon.

For example, Mary S’s mom is JT’s mom’s dentist, or Meredith H’s dad is Timberlake’s cousin.

Nicole Burdette is a rising senior at Houston High School in Memphis, Tennessee.