One of the best things about taking Disney vacations is getting the opportunity to meet fellow Disney fans from all over the world. I’ll strike up a conversation with people waiting in line for rides, sitting next to me for a parade or Fantasmic, and shopping in gift shops. I seem to have one of those faces that invites people to talk to me. I get stopped and asked for directions, asked about the pins on my lanyard, my Disney tee shirt, etc. Raymond, Megan and Joseph are used to this and find it funny, if not highly entertaining, more often than not. It means I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world!
I like learning about different cultures. Even within the United States, there are regional differences in certain words for things, how we raise our children, how we interact with strangers and each other, what kinds of foods we cherish and so on. These differences gave me the idea for today’s post. We’re from Louisiana. The South has some very strong regional traditions, cultural norms, and firmly held “ways” that make us easy to spot when we travel. While not originally from the South (I’m mainly a Midwestern girl), I’ve been here 26 years which means I’ve lived in Louisiana longer than I’ve lived anywhere else and there has been plenty of time to adapt!
Next time you’re at Walt Disney World, you can recognize Southerners (and Louisianans) by a few telltale signs:
Our children always say “Yes, Ma’am or Sir / No Ma’am or Sir” to every adult. This is not because we’re especially strict parents – it’s a cultural norm so strongly prevalent and extremely important – children would be considered incredibly rude if they didn’t say it. It’s an absolute must, just like please and thank you. I’ve found that some non-Southerners find the ma’ams and sirs a bit alarming and may say, “Oh, you don’t have to say that to me.”…Southern kids DO have to say it. To all adults, all the time. That’s just the way it is here.
We rarely refer to our elders (or superiors at the office, even) by their last name. Mr./Mrs. First Name is completely acceptable with the exception of school teachers. Our children’s friends have always called us Mrs. Lisa (pronounced “Miss Lisa”) and Mr. Raymond. It’s that way for everyone.
We rarely call our grandparents Grandma or Grandpa. Oh, there’s a lot of variety in grandparent naming, but those aren’t usually among the choices. Mamaw, MiMi, Ma, Granny and PawPaw, Pa and Pops are pretty common.
In these parts, Soda/Pop is “Coke” like tissues are “Kleenex”. You say, do you want a Coke? Then follow up with which kind it will be if other varieties are available…Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Diet Coke, etc. Also, a shopping cart is a “buggy”. If inquiring whether or not you’re about to do something (like have lunch) we may say, “Are you fixin’ to eat?” “Fixin'” to do something may be even further shortened to “F’in'” by some folks.
We make eye contact with everyone, we smile and wave to strangers, we stop in the middle of walkways and store aisles if we run into someone we know – we stop and visit. We strike up conversations with complete strangers nearly everywhere we go. Annoying? Maybe, but since we move a little slower and take life a little easier than people in other places, it’s just the way we are.
We don’t usually yell at one another in public. Southern gatherings are pretty quiet affairs – although booming laughter, happy squeals, and good-natured teasing about rival football teams are completely normal. Having a public disagreement would be considered completely unacceptable. Yelling/lecturing children (or spouses) in public is rarely seen – we tend to use “the look” with our children to stop certain behaviors with the unspoken promise that misbehavior will be dealt with as soon as we get home.
On our last visit to Walt Disney World, we were in Epcot when I spotted a bad situation – a family in the middle of an argument. Normally, I would never become involved, but I could tell what the problem was right away – they were lost. The mom (of the formidable, robust variety) and kids (looking mortified and miserable) were walking several yards away from the dad (who was clearly distraught) – angry words were being hurled from the mom towards the dad. Seriously, I wouldn’t normally butt in, but I was embarrassed for them all and feeling the waves of hostility passing back and forth (with me in the middle)…I found myself close-ish to the dad so I quietly asked (very tentatively)…”Could I maybe….help you find something?” The relief on his face was almost funny – it seems they were looking for Soarin’ and we were almost to the entrance for the World Showcase on the Mexico side. I turned around and (I know pointing is rude, but desperate times and all that) pointed toward The Land Pavilion, giving directions. He thanked me and turned around to gather his family…while listening to his wife yell, from 10 yards away, “You were WRONG, weren’t you!!!!!” Oh, well….One thing I can tell you for certain. They were not from Louisiana.
How would we spot Disney guests from your part of the world?
For more information on Southern Slang – this is hilarious (and educational!).