Steve’s List of Things that Every Northerner Should Know about the South Before Signing a Contract to Work There

Steve Murawa

I remember this time of year at Kent State very well; it seemed that students came out of the woodwork from every direction to set foot on campus after their winter hibernation. Spring also always seemed to bring with it the inevitable question many ask themselves as they prepare to graduate: “What on earth am I going to do with this degree???”

If the economy in Ohio is anything like the toilet bowl that it was when I graduated in 2002 (and judging by the headlines, it is), those of you soon to graduate may be hearing the same thing from your professors that I did. Those words played over and over in my head: “You have to move south; that’s where the jobs are.”

So I packed up and moved to South Carolina for a teaching job. For those of you considering a similar move, I offer some advice: Proceed with caution. Don’t get me wrong; it’s exciting to meet new people and experience new cultures. After all, isn’t that part of having a well-rounded education? It’s not all sun, beaches, and job opportunities down here, though. It may be fun to watch “Dukes of Hazard” on TV, but it’s not quite as fun to live in a perpetual episode of the show.

I thought of how to best to warn current Kent State students about being prepared to take such a risk. As many nice things as there are about life here, you will be in for some culture shock. What I have come up with is a list of simple observations that anyone considering settling down in the Deep South should know.

I offer you “Steve’s List of Things that Every Northerner Should Know About the South Before Signing a Contract to Work There:”

  • Down South, people change lanes without looking. They will simply run into you rather than turn their lazy heads to look. This probably stems from the fact that drivers education is optional here (at least that’s what the locals tell me. Who knows if they’re accurate or not, but that alone should tell you something).
  • I saw a car up on blocks . in a Wal Mart parking lot.
  • Blasting Guns-n-Roses out of your Trans-Am window while brushing your mullet is perfectly acceptable here in the year 2007.
  • At a major historic site I saw a sign next to a lagoon that read: “Caution: Alligators.” I wonder how many people will have to get mauled (or bring lawsuits) before they put up a fence or something? People have no fear of alligators here!
  • Good Southern breakfasts consist of fried chicken on a greasy biscuit. No cheese; no sauce; just chicken and biscuits for breakfast. Usually washed down with a bucket of sugar mixed with a little water, otherwise known as “sweet tea.”
  • No matter how hard you resist, you will eventually say the word “y’all” with regularity. If you say “everyone” or “you guys” they have no idea what you are saying.
  • Many see no contradiction in flying a Confederate flag and an American flag on the very same pole.

There you have it. Many of you will not heed my warning or blast me for simply perpetuating stereotypes. I do have a serious point though: If considering a life-changing career move, look at every aspect carefully and remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. For what it’s worth, I think Ohio is a great place to live.

Steve Murawa is a 2002 graduate of Kent State and guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].