Oxford Stories Column: North vs. South – a Cultural Divide?

“Once a northerner, always a northerner.” – Alice Hollensteiner

The Northern and Southern regions of the United States are known historically for their differences, most infamously during the Civil War. Even in our present day, there are still vast differences in the social and cultural behavior of people from the North and South.

Upon moving to the University of Mississippi to begin my college career, I met dozens of northerners who were in quite a culture shock, even some who lived only a few states away.

It is interesting that although we are a single country, different regions contain such contrasting cultures. To gain insight about the differences between life in the North and South, I interviewed several University of Mississippi students.

Junior Shelby Pisarich grew up in Biloxi and lived there until three years ago when she moved to Oxford to attend Ole Miss.

“Growing up in the South has allowed me to view the world in many varying perspectives,” she said, “particularly those oppressed by the general close-mindedness of Southern ideology.”

“Growing up in the South has its struggles, but I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything.” – Shelby Pisarich

If she had the choice, would she have chosen to be born elsewhere? “No, because had I been born somewhere else, I wouldn’t have had the experiences that allowed me to develop the strong, progressive viewpoints that shape the person I am currently,” she said.

What preexisting ideas do you think northerners have about the South? “Northerners, from my experiences, seem to believe that there is a stagnant perspective that is carried in the South, almost like the people who live here are simply stuck in their ways, which is not always the case.”

To gain further insight, I interviewed two Northern natives: Alice Hollensteiner of Washington D.C. and Ian Jeffries of Cincinnati, Ohio, both freshmen. What influenced them to attend a Southern university rather than stay in the Northeast, where there are arguably much better choices for schooling.

“I chose to attend a Southern university rather than stay home because of the football, warm weather, and Southern hospitality, which I now know truly exists,” she said.

What is the biggest cultural difference? “The biggest cultural difference is the idea of money,” Hollensteiner said. “In the North, money seems to be at the center of everything. Everyone is constantly concerned about having the best job and the nicest car, while in the South, people are much more relaxed, and money doesn’t seem to be a huge worry. The Southern lifestyle has a much slower pace than that of the North.”

Which region would she prefer to live in: “It honestly depends on what point I am at in life” she said. “I would have to say I would prefer to live in the North where I was born after I graduate from college. There are much more opportunities for starting a career there as well as a family. However, after I have retired, I would love to live in the South where I can have time to relax and not focus on the fast-paced lifestyle that is so common in Washington D.C.”

Ian Jeffries, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, had a similar experience when choosing to pursue a college education in the South. His family attended Ole Miss and had the biggest impact on his decision to come here. It was no surprise that he chose the University of Mississippi since he was raised as a Rebel fan.

Has his expectations of life in the South been fulfilled? “It’s hard to say,” he said. “Being from the North, I’ve learned a lot about Southern culture through literature and throughout school. It has definitely met my expectations, and I’m happy to call Mississippi my second home.”

The most obvious cultural variations that Ian realized are some that many others also experience as a culture shock when migrating to the South. He said everything, from the way people dress (specifically the high frequency of camouflage), and the devout presence of religion, is very prominent in the South.

Will you remain in the South or return to Ohio. “I will always consider myself a Northerner,” he said, “and I have a deep connection with the state of Ohio. While I have respect for the deeply rooted culture of the South, I have a special liking of the way things work in the North and our unique culture, so I will likely return to my home region after I graduate college.”

“I will always consider myself a northerner, but I am proud to call Mississippi my second home.” – Ian Jeffries

The Northern and Southern regions of the United States share many similarities, but when contrasted, it is clear that there is a divide between cultural and social behaviors. While they both have a rich heritage and background, they exhibit how much of a melting pot our country is and how regional influences can shift a culture.

Regardless of where any American comes from, there is endless amounts of culture and influence to learn from each other. Most citizens take much pride in their original birthplace, and can agree with the idea that “the home is where the heart is.”


By Rex Ravita. Read more stories like this on Oxford Stories.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Good article but someone needs to be proofreading. I have pointed this out several times before! There are two grammatical errors in subject verb agreement. This happens too often in Hottytoddy.com stories.

  2. Really enjoyed the article. I have lived both north and south and this does give a pretty right on picture. But I have to agree with Cookie regarding the proofreading. Those two grammatical errors jumped right out at me. This is the first Hottytoddie story I have read, so I cannot compare to others.

  3. So glad I read this story this morning. It is heart warming, well written and enjoyed reading the interviews. I plan to forward it on to my north and south friends. In fact, our son born and raised in Mississippi, and who graduated from Ole Miss would never have met his wonderful wife of 20 years, if she had not decided to attend Ole Miss from St. Charles, Illinois.

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