Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cultural Differences North and South

Exactly 26 years ago, my wife and I moved to Florida from Connecticut.   I was a newspaper reporter in both Connecticut and Florida and quickly discovered several important differences between the two regions.
In the North, I would call a source, identify myself and quickly ask the necessary questions.  The conversation was invariably brief, almost curt.  In the South, I would call and identify myself, then enter in a labyrinth of a conversation that could last for many minutes before I arrived at the reason why I called.  Colleagues at the News-Journal used to laugh at me until I adopted the more languid approach to conversations.

I soon understood that residents are so bored by Florida’s formless topography that they latch onto any caller with a death grip and hang on as long as possible.  Also, everyone here is pretty much a stranger, having arrived from somewhere else.  Anyone who came into contact would therefore be a rare commodity to residents starving for communication.

I also had to get used to the dearth of sidewalks and the wide range of souvenir shell shops.
I have often wondered why there were so many differences between the regions of this country I’m familiar with and have analyzed them.   Here are a few things I figured out.

In Connecticut, people drive full speed with little regard to traffic laws.  My introduction to the state consisted of being passed simultaneously on the left and right side as I waited in my car at a red light on a two-lane road.  I figured out that residents there knew Connecticut had many military facilities and was, therefore, a likely military targets.  No one knew when bombs would fall, so they hurried to their destination with astonishing alacrity.

Here in Florida, people realize there is no need to rush.   There’s nothing left in the state worth destroying, especially now that Rick Scott is governor.  So, people meander.  In addition, the environment is still lovely despite developers’ efforts to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”  Driving slowly allows motorists a chance to appreciate the beauty before it is all covered up with billboards and strip malls.

I never saw blue hair in the North.  It seems a Southern habit.  Why anyone wants blue hair is beyond me, but I realized that Florida is a peninsula, and blue dye serves as homage to the waters that surround us.  It may also be a kind of protest against the green and red traffic lights that the blue-haired matrons perched behind steering wheels consistently demonstrate they can’t see.

Then there was the persistent failure to signal.  That was a problem in Connecticut, too, but that’s a state with many artists who, I think, saw the turn signal as more of an ornament rather than a function device.  In Florida, however, use of a turn signal would constitute work.  Both because of religious scruples and general objections created by retirement, moving either a hand or even touching the signal is not encouraged.  Efforts must be focused more on the important aspects of life, such as golf and Fascist sentiments.

Politicians, too, are very different.  Connecticut prides itself in electing mavericks whose main goal is to get as far away from the state as possible. Eccentricities are rewarded, resulting in intelligent and nationally significant figures like Chris Dodd, Lowell Weicker and many more.  In Florida, however, conformity reigns.  People don’t want to leave such a lovely state.  As a result, anyone who is elected to the U.S. Senate is actually being ostracized, which explains why so many of them have been blissfully incompetent.  

Then there’s the emphasis on lawns.  Since developers are eliminating anything green, residents in Florida strive to maintain what’s little that’s remaining by promoting their yards and criticizing neighbors who fail to join the environmental effort.  In Connecticut, however, neighbors pride themselves on lack of communication between neighbors.  So, unkempt lawns are the norm.  After all, no one was going to say anything there that might force the semblance of a conversation.

That also explains the emphasis on herbicides and pesticides in Florida.  Although they have the modest side effect of ruining the environment and poisoning everyone, they also provide jobs, a necessity in a state with high unemployment.  This is also one field with guaranteed turnover due to early mortality.

In the North, there is also no hierarchy.  Everyone is considered a peon.  As a result, there are factories and large businesses filled with workers.   That’s not true in the South, where Southern culture permeates with the sense of gentry.  As a result, the emphasis is on minimum-wage positions so that those with the few decent jobs have someone to look down on.

I am sure I will further appreciate Florida the longer I live here.  Clearly, 26 years is not enough time to fully and truly understand such cultural differences.  

Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history – and, occasionally, about current events.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. 

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