Howdy Is Just Being Nice

The nicest people live in the South.

Anyone who was born and raised in the South and has done any traveling has probably noticed the same thing that I have: We’re friendlier.

Now, I’m not saying that people who live in the north, east, or western part of the United States aren’t nice folks. I’m simply saying we’re friendlier in the South.

I’ll give you an example. Only folks in the South can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger in a doctor’s office, airport or restaurant, and within minutes be talking about kids or grandkids, church, or food.

If food is discussed, it’s likely that the women will walk away with at least two recipes scrawled on a napkin or a magazine.

If you try this sort of thing in New York City or Chicago, people look at you as if you want something.

If you’ve ever ridden mass transportation in a big city, virtually no one talks to anyone else. Subways and buses are fairly quiet, except for the rumbling of the subway tracks or the diesel engine on the bus.

They just don’t talk to each other like folks in the South do.

In the South, we say ‘howdy’ to pretty much anyone we see. It’s just common courtesy down here. We even say ‘hello’ to folks while we’re driving.

When I started driving in the mid-70’s in rural Arkansas, I quickly learned that when you passed someone on the road, it was expected that you would lift the fingers on one hand from the steering wheel to acknowledge the other person or persons in the oncoming vehicle.

Most of the men would abbreviate that to raising their index finger. During a recent visit, I noticed that this practice is still in place today.

Also in the South, folks are pretty accepting of family flaws. We all have them, so rather than try to hide them; we openly and nicely discuss lots of things that go on in our own family, and in other families. This could include a family member who could easily qualify as the village idiot, or the relative whose front yard looks like a salvage yard for muscle cars.

We don’t talk about anyone with malice, and we always end any comments with “Bless their heart”, to make it OK.

If we’re honest, everyone’s family is just a couple of cousins away from being on the Jerry Springer Show.

Also, if you live in the South, when someone in your family passes away, there’ll be a herd of people at your front door in short order. And, they’ll all be bringing enough casseroles, meatloaf, fried chicken, vegetables and desserts to feed an army.

Southern people know why it’s called comfort food.

Lots of Northerners retire to the South. Many of them have told me that they moved here because of the weather, but that they were pleasantly surprised at how nice everyone is.

It really is a shame that people being nice to each other is a surprise to anyone. As my momma told me when I was a kid, “Being nice doesn’t cost you a thing.”

And that’s the nice thing about mommas. They’re always right.


©2015 John Moore

For more of John’s musings, visit

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