Having now lived in the deep South, the Midwest, the far North, and the mid-Atlantic regions of our beautiful country (oh, and Florida, which seems to be a region all on its own), I have noticed many similarities and differences in the cultures of each region. As for similarities, food seems to be a unifying force no matter where you live. My husband and I found we like beer & brats (short for bratwurst sausages, not obnoxious children) as much as we love gumbo and crawfish etouffee. I have also discovered that people in the Midwest are just as passionate (read “fanatical”) about football as those of us raised in the Southeastern Conference.
I have also enjoyed the diversity of culture in our country. Some of the differences are drastic and some are subtle. There are differences in dialect. Two such examples include the well-known “y’all” vs. “you guys,” as well as the reference to soft drinks as “soda” or “pop” in Northern states vs. “Coke” in the Deep South. (For my Northern friends reading this, yes, Southerners really do refer to all sodas as Coke…do not be confused if a Southerner asks you, ”What kind of Coke would you like?” and then proceeds to list the names of various sodas.) There are also differences in the ways people interact with one another. Growing up in the grace and gentility of the South, I was worried about moving to the Northeast. Generally, I grew up believing people from the Northeast were, for the lack of a more polite way to say this, rude. I found that they are not rude, but rather honest. They are very kind and friendly (for the most part), and you always know where you stand with them.
As strange as it may seem, of all of the differences that I have observed, the one that stands out most to me is the practice of monogramming. Before Christmas, my mother-in-law sent some adorable outfits to my girls. They were red and green polka-dotted leggings with white t-shirts with the girls’ initials embroidered in red. One day when my girls were wearing these outfits I actually had someone stop me and ask what was on their shirts. When I explained that it was their initials or monogram, she said, “Oh, well that’s a neat idea” and walked away. It dawned on me at that point that I had not noticed children running around with monograms embroidered on everything they own like I do when I am at home. I was discussing this with the ladies in my moms group. One of them told me that while she was vacationing in New Orleans, she had a shop-keeper tell her they could monogram an item she was purchasing for her son. She admitted that she thought it was just a tourist gimmick. It was then that I realized that the practice of monogramming children’s clothing is a Southernism. The rest of the country seems to think of monogramming as something to have done on your LL Bean canvas bag.
While monogramming makes it difficult to pass on hand-me-downs, it also has both aesthetic and practical aspects. It adds a personal touch to clothing and even decorative items for the home. Additionally, I, for one, would be lost without monogramming when I am around my identical twin nieces. There are subtle differences, but, let’s face it, it is so much easier to tell them apart when they are wearing their names or initials on their clothing. I need to look into tapping into this market as I make my way around the country. I could make a fortune.