Yes. I know this to be true, but it tends to rest in the back of my mind. I don’t think much about it. It’s just a fact. This week I had coffee with a someone who recently moved here. Her family is military, so she has experience with living in different places. We laughed as she shared stories of how odd she’s found Mobile.
First, let me say this- every city has it’s own vibe, history, and social customs. To a newbie it can be hard to navigate. This especially true if you move across the country to a different region.
I grew up in the suburbs of Mobile, so I know it’s an odd ball city. Generally, these quirks are associated with Old Mobile. You know, the population whose people have lived here for generations. Tradition runs deep.
So here is a few quick tips if you plan to move to Mobile.
- Bring your rain gear. For the month of March we have had over 10 inches of rain, that’s above average. We get more precipitation than Seattle. It’s not a matter of if it will rain, but rather when will it rain. At the moment I feel like I could grow gills. We average about 65 inches of rain a year with the majority falling in Summer. You can expect a shower every day around 2pm in the summer.
- Bring your shorts. It’s hot. Not ” oh dear, it’s warm today, I may have to turn on the air conditioning” hot. I mean, “I broke into a sweat just walking to the mailbox, and the air conditioning hasn’t cut off all day” kind of hot. The average summer temperature is 90*F in July. That’s the average. If you’re an English major, that means there were hotter days and a few cooler days that when added together and then divided, came out to 90*.
- It’s a wet heat. It’s an oppressive, wet heat. The air is saturated with moisture it’s called humidity. Humidity makes your hair frizz and makes the temperature feel much hotter than it really is. I call it, weather you can wear. It really does feel like your wearing a thick, hot, and wet cloud.
- Yes, we really talk slow. I blame the heat. It takes too much energy to talk fast. We also move slower for the same reason.
- All tea is sweet. Traditionally, it’s sweet enough to pour like syrup. I call that cafeteria lady sweet. If you don’t want sweet tea, you must ask for unsweet. It will mark you as a visitor, but that’s okay no one is perfect.
- Do not insult the food. The South is abundant with fine cooks. They take cooking personally. Especially their biscuits and cornbread. What ever you do, do not insult the bread. Wars have been started over this faux pas.
- If you are invited to dinner, ask what you can bring. It is considered good manners to ask if you can bring something, a side dish or dessert are always easy. Chances are they will say no, but you should ask. If by the off chance the offer is accepted, choose wisely. This is traditionally fried catfish and macaroni and cheese country. If you make something too unusual like Barley Pilaf, your feelings might get hurt when you take it back home with you.
- Be careful how you dress for church. Times are changing, even her in the deep south. It’s common to see women wear capris and pants to church. Many even wear jeans. Be warned, if you wear something a bit revealing- they will talk about you. “Bless her heart. She must be new in town.” They won’t ask you to leave, that would be rude. The younger generation seems to have issue with this the most. The hemlines are rising faster than the water level of the Mobile River.
- Mardi Gras has strict rules. If you are lucky enough to score a ticket to a Mardi Gras ball, read it. The mystic organizations have strict rules of attire. That goes for tuxedos and dresses. Sometimes they vary by organization. Ask before you go. I promise you, they will not let you in if you are not dressed appropriately. Ticket or not.
- Don’t wear white to a wedding. That’s sounds pretty basic. The bride is the only one that wears white. Most weddings are easy, just wear a nice dress. Unless it is an Old Mobile family. Then it doesn’t matter if it’s at the Cathedral downtown or the beach. Ask someone in the know or take no chances and pull out your best frock with matching hat and purse.
- Ma’am. Ma’am and sir are a sign of respect. It is considered rude not to say it. Chances are they’ll talk about your upbringing or question where you were born.
- Shrimp Boil! This can be traumatic for newcomers. At most shrimp, crab, and crawfish boils the heads are still on. That’s right, not only is it peel and eat you must decapitate your own crustacean. The crabs may or may not be gutted, depends on the cook. It’s up to you, what you do with the head.
I think that’s a good start. Those are the basics. I know there’s more, but it’s getting dark outside. Another rain storm.