Thanks to a wonderful song, Nina Simone introduced me a long time ago to Savannah…since then, I always wanted to visit this intriguing city. Finally, I did it…and I felt in love!
Trying to just mention few amazing discoveries, I would like to start with a man: the General James Edward Oglethorpe is now one of favorite people…Walking through enchanting squares, the first thing that I realized is that Savannah is so special thanks to the vision of this British colonizer. Given the mission by King George II of England to buffer Charleston’s plantations from the Spanish, this reformer had a much more broad vision in mind, when he colonized that area in 1738. “Oglethorpe laid out his settlement in a deceptively simple plan that’s studied today the world over as a model of nearly perfect urban design. Many of his other progressive ideas—such as prohibiting slavery and hard liquor, to name two—soon went by the wayside. But the legacy of his original plan lives on to this day.” How can you not love a guy like him: astern moralist yet an avowed liberal, an aristocrat with a populist streak, an abolitionist and an anti-Catholic, a man of war who sought peace…
But in this few traveling days, this General is not the only man I felt in love for…more to come…meanwhile, some interesting facts about “Georgian” good manners:
As we’ve seen, it’s rude here to inquire about personal finances, along with the usual no-go areas of religion and politics. Here are some other specific etiquette tips:
Basics: Be liberal with “please” and “thank you,” or conversely, “no thank you” if you want to decline a request or offering.
Eye contact: With the exception of very elderly African Americans, eye contact is not only accepted in the South, it’s encouraged. In fact, to avoid eye contact in the South means you’re likely a shady character.
Handshake: Men should always shake hands with a very firm, confident grip and appropriate eye contact. It’s okay for women to offer a handshake in professional circles, but otherwise not required.
Chivalry: When men open doors for women here—and they will—it is not thought of as a patronizing gesture, but as a sign of respect. Accept graciously and walk through the door.
The elderly: Senior citizens—or really anyone obviously older than you—should be called “sir” or “ma’am.” Again, this is not a patronizing gesture in the South, but is considered a sign of respect. Also, in any situation where you’re dealing with someone in the service industry, addressing them as “sir” or “ma’am” regardless of their age will get you far.
Bodily contact: Interestingly, though public displays of affection by romantic couples are generally frowned upon here, Southerners are otherwise pretty touchy-feely once they get to know you. Full-on body hugs are rare, but Southerners who are well acquainted often say hello or goodbye with a small hug.
Driving: With the exception of the Interstate perimeter highways around the larger cities, drivers in the South are generally less aggressive than in other regions. Cutting sharply in front of someone in traffic is taken as a personal offense. If you need to cut in front of someone, poke the nose of your car a little bit in that direction and wait for a car to slow down and wave you in front. Don’t forget to wave back as a thank-you! Similarly, using a car horn can also be taken as a personal affront, so use your horn sparingly, if at all. In rural areas, don’t be surprised to see the driver of an oncoming car offer a little wave. This is an old custom, sadly dying out. Just give a little wave back; they’re trying to be friendly.