Some girls were born for the country, and when you’re a country girl, camouflage, big trucks, and mud-riding are life. But to be honest, I am NOT one of those girls. I was raised in the city with a mother who instilled in me a healthy fear of the flesh-eating bacteria found in lakes and rivers and who taught me to always wear my shoes when going outside so that I wouldn’t contract any foreign feet fungi. My favorite pastimes include shopping and all things pink and girly. So you can imagine the culture shock I experienced when this city girl married herself a country boy and moved to a small town in South Alabama. Mayberry ain’t got nothin’ on this place, people!

Excuse my grammar . . . just trying my best to blend in with the locals.

You can literally borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor. Heck, they’ll even throw in a whole cake just because. As the new girl on the block in the sticks, I was as lost as a goose in a snow storm.

Once again, my grammatical attempt to blend in with the locals.

Here are a few lessons I had to learn as a city girl turned southern small town mom.

  1. American English and southern English are two very different languages. For example, the old city girl version of me would have heard the words “bless your heart” and thought I was actually receiving sympathy from a caring passerby. Now, I know better. Ladies and gentlemen, these three little words are southern sarcasm at its finest. That passerby might as well be saying “suck it up” or “gosh, you’re an idiot.”
  2. Dirt is one of the main food groups for southern kids. I really cannot express the ungodly amount of dirt/mud my kids have ingested since birth. It’s a miracle that they’re still walking around with all the bacteria and fungi undoubtedly coating their insides now. So much for wearing shoes for protection.
  3. Speaking of shoes, there’s no point in wasting your precious dollars on those luxuries. The kids prefer the fungi.
  4. Talking to strangers is socially acceptable. When I was a kid, I was taught to never talk to strangers. After all, a stranger could be a potential kidnapper or sexual predator or gang leader. Strangers were SCARY. But not here in this small town. Kids are given a good old-fashioned whoopin’ if they aren’t friendly and polite to every person they come in contact with. “Now, Johnny, I don’t care if that man has gold teeth and a machete strapped to his backside. You remember your manners!” Kidding. Kidding. Kind of . . .
  5. Invitations aren’t necessary. I always thought it was impolite to invite yourself over to a friend’s house. That was a big no-no. You were supposed to wait for an invitation and then you could drop by. But not here! You’re sure to get a good ole “bless your heart” if you start whining and belly-aching about not being invited over to so-and-so’s house. You just show up with a casserole in hand. They’ll let you in. Every. Time.
  6. Waving is a highly important social skill all children learn. Whether they are riding in the car, participating in a pageant, or out for a stroll, when any person passes by, they must always stop and wave. Stranger or friend, it doesn’t matter (see number 4). And let me tell you, this skill is harder than it looks. When I drive, I tend to focus on the road so as to not send me and my family hurtling off of the pavement into a ditch or slamming into the vehicle in front of me. It took quite a few disapproving head nods and “bless your hearts” to set me straight. Now, I wave. NO MATTER WHAT.

After nine years of learning the ins-and-outs of small town life, I am proud to say that I have finally made it. I am that local you’ll run into out and about who expects to see a wave and hear a chipper “hey y’all.” And if I don’t . . .

Bless your heart.

Stephanie Gilbert

Stephanie is an OCD mama of three "spirited" children (four if you count the big boy posing as her husband) who blogs at where you are sure to find lots of love, laughter, and honesty. She dreams of being a published author one day, winning a lifetime supply of Reese's peanut butter cups, and surviving the toddler years. Most of all, she loves her God and desires to point others to Him. She believes there is always joy to be found amidst the junk in our lives and nothing should keep us from laughing out loud.