Romance, Rednecks and Rumours

by Francesca Peak. This article was originally published in University of Warwick’s student newspaper, The Boar.

When I told people that I was spending my year abroad in Tennessee, the overwhelming response was, ‘why?’ Their perception of the South, wherever it came from, was certainly not favourable. So whether your view of the South comes from ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’, here’s my inside story.

  1. Everyone is incredibly friendly and welcoming whenever you walk into the room.
  2. You can go to a shooting gallery and, with proof that you’re over eighteen, shoot a gun at targets for a while. The gallery I went to was in a basement and completely unsupervised. Needless to say I didn’t stay long.
  3. Not everyone owns and carries a weapon. Sure, some of them do and some kids on campus have various weapons in their dorm rooms, despite it being banned by the university. The right to self-defence is fiercely defended and any attempt to question it is immediately shot down. Pun intended.
  4. My favourite anti-Obama sign was ‘IMPEACH THE BLACK GUY’, but in general there is a huge spectrum of political views. The key common factor is that everyone loves their country, but that’s America for you.
  5. Chewing tobacco is everywhere, as is smoking in general. There’s nothing more charming than the guy next to you in class spitting tobacco into a Coke can.
  6. Racism in the South isn’t what fictional or historical accounts lead us to believe. I can’t generalise, but I never sensed strict division between the many ethnicities. As Michael Jackson would say, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.
  7. You will come home several pounds heavier than you went. This I found out to my peril. Americans adore their food and the South is a prime example. KFC ain’t got nothin’ on the South Street Diner. But, amazingly, not everyone is 200 pounds.
  8. Southerners aren’t too hot on accents. I was asked if I was from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Poland and Russia. I have a strong British accent.
  9. Rednecks were the sharpest, funniest and friendliest people I met. Willing to forcefully defend their pro-American pro-2nd Amendment views, but certainly not the dumb fools they are often thought of.
  10. Men from the South are the most charming and courteous people you will ever meet. Apart from the guy chewing tobacco. That was disgusting.

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