Southern Hospitality: Where Can We Find That Down-Home Charm?
Tall cold glasses of sweet tea, tangy barbecue, spicy Tex-Mex, small towns, family values, and down-home, take-off-your-shoes-and-stay-awhile hospitality – when you think of the American South, these are probably some of the first things that come to mind.
If you grew up in the states (and even if you didn’t), you’ve probably heard the term “Southern hospitality” used to describe this kind of charm and down-home goodness. Southerners love to talk about it. Hollywood loves to feature it. And Southern celebrities – like Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey – bring it to life.
But what does Southern hospitality mean to the Southerner and non-Southerner? Which states exude that Southern charm? And for those of us seeking the true, down-home, put-up-your-feet Southern hospitality, where can we find it?
We surveyed over 2,000 people to find out. Here’s what we learned.
Defining Southern Hospitality
What exactly is Southern hospitality? And how do real people define Southern hospitality?
When we asked Southerners to define the term, the top answer was politeness, followed closely by good home cooking. And people from the North heartily agreed, but in the opposite order: good home cooking beat politeness by a small margin.
The Most Hospitable Southern States
Where can we find this combination of good home cooking and seriously polite residents?
Survey says Georgia is the most hospitable state in the South – a ranking that’ll come as no surprise to those who know Savannah ranked as the No. 3 friendliest city in the nation in 2016 – with almost twice as many votes as any other state.
The runners-up were Louisiana and Texas, two places long known for their excellent southern cuisine.
Where to Find the Best of the South
When we asked survey respondents to rank each Southern state for its best quality, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee got top marks for charm. In Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma, politeness was the defining characteristic. And for good Southern home cooking? Survey says Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi may be the places to be – especially if you’re dying to try Texas barbecue, Louisiana’s Cajun specialties, and, of course, Kentucky’s fried chicken (the local cuisine, not the fast food chain).
Who Are the Southerners – And Where Do They Live?
In an increasingly mobile world – where many of us live in cities, states, and even countries outside where we were born – Southerners and the hospitality they love have spread far and wide. And in some cases, typically Southern states have experienced an influx of out-of-staters. So which states contain the most Southerners?
We asked survey respondents where they lived and then asked if they identified as Southern. Of course, the people most likely to identify themselves as Southern lived in the Southern states, but it may surprise you to learn that about half of Floridians don’t consider themselves Southern. West Virginians were more likely to identify as Southern than their Virginia counterparts (even though the states are side by side). As well, you can find a decent number of Southerners as far north as New Hampshire and Washington.
States Where Southern Hospitality Hasn’t Taken Hold
When you’re asking people about the most welcoming, hospitable states in the U.S., it only makes sense to ask which states didn’t make the cut.
What do survey respondents have to say about states that aren’t good about rolling out the welcome mat? Unfortunately, Mississippi, Connecticut (which, despite being one of the smallest states in the country, has two cities that rank among the least friendly in the nation), and Kansas get the lowest marks.
How Sweet Is the South?
At the end of the day, you’ll have to decide for yourself. Is your own experience of the South one of rocking chairs and front porches, sweet tea, and cookies? Is it chicken and waffles, Cajun music on the streets, and strangers offering a helping hand?
If you haven’t experienced it firsthand, maybe it’s time for a Southern vacation. If Southern hospitality on the Outer Banks of North Carolina sounds like a dream come true, check out Twiddy's vacation rentals – and let us be a part of what makes you feel at home here in the South.
We analyzed the responses of 2,023 survey respondents to learn about their views about the American South and the concept of “Southern hospitality.” For demographic groups with less than ten total respondents, the data were discarded before analysis.
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