15 Etiquette Rules the South Is Known For

Fried Chicken. Chicken dinner served with potatoes, vegetables and rolls. Chicken, soaked in buttermilk, dredged in flour, spices and fried in a cast iron skillet. Classic American Southern cuisine.

15 Etiquette Rules the South Is Known For

Anyone who has lived in or visited the South knows that people treat you differently there. People from the South are often known for their Southern charm, even if many of the etiquette rules are unspoken. Spending even a day or two in the South is enough time to see why people from the South are known for their hospitality and pleasant demeanor.

The way people act in the South can vary by state or region. However, most Southern states have pretty consistent etiquette rules they live by. The etiquette rules in the South are much different than your standard etiquette rules across the country.

These unspoken rules of the South are passed down from one generation to the next and are a vital part of Southern culture. What’s considered rude to a Southerner may not seem out of the ordinary for people in other parts of the country. However, if you’re planning on visiting a Southern state or even moving there, it’s important to understand Southern etiquette.

Etiquette rules the South is known for can range from simple rules like saying please and thank you to lesser-known rules like always being prepared for company. Regardless of what part of the South you visit, you’ll find most of these rules are unspoken. Even still, they’re practiced by the locals in nearly every Southern town, city, or state.

To create a list of 15 etiquette rules the South is known for, 24/7 Tempo consulted several publications, including Southern Living, Reader’s Digest, and Forbes. We also read opinions on Reddit about Southern manners and other etiquette rules. Here are 15 etiquette rules the South is known for. (After this article, check out 25 Phrases and Slang Words Only Southerns Understand.)

Always say please and thank you

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Saying please and thank you is a must in Southern society.

This rule may seem like a given everywhere, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to say please and thank you nowadays. In the South, it’s absolutely required that you say please and thank you. It’s also important to thank everyone, no matter what their position is.

Take off your hat when you’re inside

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Southern ladies and gentlemen take off their hats when indoors.

In most other places, no one would blink an eye if you wore your hat inside. In the South, it’s considered rude to wear a hat indoors. Being indoors isn’t the only time you’re supposed to remove your hat, however. You should also take your hat off if you’re eating or when a lady is present.

Wait until everyone is served food before you start eating

Fried Chicken. Chicken dinner served with potatoes, vegetables and rolls. Chicken, soaked in buttermilk, dredged in flour, spices and fried in a cast iron skillet. Classic American Southern cuisine.
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Wait until everyone is served before eating in the South.

Many of the unspoken etiquette rules in the South revolve around food. Where else in the country can you find the kind of comfort food that nourishes your body and soul? When you’re eating in the South, you always wait until everyone is served before you start chowing down.

Don’t talk with your mouth full

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Never talk with your mouth full.

Speaking of chowing down, there are plenty of rules regarding how you should eat as well. It’s never polite to talk with your mouth full or to chew with your mouth open for that matter. If you’ve got something to say, finish swallowing that bite before you join the conversation. Additionally, remember to always chew with your mouth closed.

Always offer refreshments when someone comes to your house

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Expect to be offered a beverage or light snack when entering a Southern home.

They don’t call it Southern hospitality for no reason. When someone comes over to your house, you always offer refreshments. It’s simply the polite thing to do in the South, especially since it’s considered rude for a guest to ask for something to eat or drink. Don’t make them wait–instead, offer them a refreshment or a light snack right away.

Be prepared for company at all times

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Southerners are always ready for company.

If you’re wondering what someone should do if they don’t have any refreshments to offer, there’s a rule that prevents that from happening. In the South, you should be prepared for company at all times. You never know when a neighbor, friend, or someone from church might drop by unannounced. Being prepared at all times means you’ll always have something to offer your guests.

Always hold the door for the person behind you

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It is a common polite practice to hold the door open for others.

Holding the door for those behind you is another practice that has become a thing of the past in certain parts of the country. However, in the South, it’s always considered polite to hold the door for the person behind you. Even if they seem a little far away, you’re better off waiting for them rather than neglecting to hold the door for them.

Don’t underestimate the impact of a “bless your heart”

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Midsection View Of A Woman's Hand Holding Red Heart

“Bless your heart” is a common expression in the South.

Even though “bless your heart” may seem like a positive thing, it has numerous meanings in Southern culture. Sometimes it may be used to genuinely express empathy. It can also be used to express judgment towards someone else’s actions or situation. It’s considered a rite of passage in the South, especially when it comes to learning exactly how and when to use the phrase.

RSVP on time

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Southerners still expect their guests to RSVP on time.

It may seem like no one counts on RSVPs anymore, especially in the digital world we live in. Regardless, if you’re invited to an event in the South, it’s considered rude to either not RSVP or RSVP late. Whoever invited you to their party, wedding, or other event is counting on knowing how many people are coming so they can plan accordingly.

Be on time

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You should always be punctual in the South.

Not only is it appropriate to RSVP on time in the South, but you should also try to be on time in general. Showing up late is overlooked in some places. However, when it comes to Southern etiquette rules, it’s considered rude to show up late to something you’re invited to.

Listen intently to the story, even if you’ve heard it before

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Listen intently to the stories told by your elders, even if you’ve heard them before.

We’ve all been in a situation when someone starts to tell a story we’ve heard before (maybe even a few times.) In the South, if your grandpa or great aunt is sharing a story that you’ve heard before, it’s important to give no indication you’ve already heard the story. Listen as intently as you can even if you’ve heard it a million times before.

Let your elders go to the front of the line

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Southerners often allow their elders to go to the front of the line.

Respecting your elders is still a big deal in the South. It’s required if you plan on following the rules of Southern etiquette. If you’re at a family event or waiting in line for a buffet, let your elders go to the front of the line ahead of you.

Don’t say yep or yeah

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“Yes” is the only polite way to respond in the affirmative in the South.

It may not be something you think about often, but in the South, you should always say “yes” when asked a question instead of saying “yep” or “yeah.” This distinction can mean the difference between coming across as polite and coming across as someone who doesn’t have very good manners.

Stand when an elder walks into the room

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Standing when an older person enters the room is another way Southerners respect their elders.

Another Southern etiquette rule regarding elders is standing when they walk into the room. This rule allows you to show a great amount of respect for those who are older than you. Even though etiquette rules like this are not as common nowadays, those in the South recognize that our elders deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Don’t forget the thank you notes

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Southerners value a thank you note.

Thank you notes may seem unnecessary to others, but people in the South know how important they are. When you receive a gift or someone does something kind for you, always send a thank you note. Even better if your thank you note is sent promptly. Try to avoid sending your note months or even years after the event. While a text may seem appropriate enough in other parts of the country, a proper thank-you note is a must in the South. (Next, don’t miss these Classic Southern Foods Everyone Should Try.)

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