Turns out, the South is a pretty nice place to live

posted at 6:40 pm on September 29, 2011 by Tina Korbe

When I first moved to Washington D.C., my dad jokingly warned me not to hype home too much. “If they find out just how nice we have it down here, all your new East Coast friends will want to move to the South and our cost of living will go up,” he teased. In my family, we like to say the South is the country’s best-kept secret. But, as it turns out, plenty of people have discovered it: During the last decade, the South was the fastest-growing region of the country.

In his column today on National Review Online, Lee Habeeb, vice president of content for Salem Radio Network, chronicles his own journey south, from New Jersey to Mississippi. Habeeb cites all the usual suspects as to what makes the South appealing, from the slower pace to the lower cost of living:

“Have you lost your mind?” is the refrain I heard over and over from friends up north when I told them the news. It was as if I’d just told them I was moving to Madagascar. …

I then told them about the quality of life in Oxford, and how far a dollar stretches. And the ease of doing business. When I show them pictures of my house, and get around to my property taxes, things get positively somber. On a home valued at $400,000, my tax tab is $2,000. My parents in New Jersey pay $12,000. And for a whole lot less house. On no land. When I remind friends about the pension liabilities they’ll be inheriting from the state unions, things get downright gloomy.

I can relate to everything Habeeb writes — but in reverse. When I moved to Silver Spring, Md., I had a hard time swallowing the price of rent — because it nearly matched my parents’ mortgage payment. And when I called the customer service departments of coast-based cable and electricity companies and got nowhere with the representatives who answered the phone, I found myself frequently saying in as kind a voice as I could muster, “I just moved here from Arkansas. And I’d really like to be able to tell my friends and family back home that y’all are just as friendly and helpful as Southerners have a reputation for being.” At every turn, in other words, I was reminded that I was a long way from where I grew up. (I was going to say, “a long way from the South,” but, technically, Maryland is still the South — it’s featured in Southern Living, after all. And wasn’t the nation’s capital situated on the Potomac precisely as a concession to the southern states?)

That’s not to say I didn’t experience a new kind of camaraderie with fellow Metro riders when we all faced a broken escalator out of the subway station. Nor is it to say D.C. didn’t substantially unravel my OCD by giving me a chance to observe it in the high achievers all around me. Above all, it’s not to say I wasn’t stimulated by new ideas and engaging conversation morning, noon and night. Coastal cities have their advantages, from public transportation and easier international travel to endless restaurant options and topic-rich, thought-provoking public lectures (seriously, one of my favorite elements of the city!). Especially in what I think of as “The Big Three” (NYC, L.A. and D.C.), living in a city might mean you pass famous and powerful people on the sidewalk, have a chance to voice your ideas to someone who might actually be able to do something about them, or wake up one morning to the startling realization that the distance between your dreams and reality isn’t actually so great as you thought it was.

But the point is, the magic of those “quintessential” cities has already been brought vividly to life for all of us — even those of us who’ve never lived in them — by books and TV shows, songs and movies. Hollywood and Broadway — plus all the most prominent recording and publishing companies — are located in those places.

The advantages of the South — especially the advantages of the 21st century South — are less well known (and, somehow, Southern coastal cities are frequently overlooked as major cities). Oh, there are books and TV shows, songs and movies about Dixie — but, as Habeeb points out, they’re often misleading caricatures or dwell too heavily on the South’s past. Little has been done to update the popular image of the region, which is now economically inviting and culturally reassuring — perhaps because those who spin popular images, from the president to junior reporters, haven’t taken the time to really understand the South for themselves.

That happens to be Habeeb’s thesis:

Americans, black and white alike, are moving in record numbers to a part of the country where taxes are low, unions are irrelevant, and people love their guns and their faith. And yet we have heard hardly a peep about this great migration from our nation’s public intellectuals.

Why? Because their ideological prejudices won’t permit them to admit the obvious. They’d prefer to focus their research on the pre-1970s South because they are more comfortable with — and more invested in — that old narrative, while this new one marches on right under their noses. And their keyboards.

And so it is with a sense of puzzlement that this Jersey boy turned Mississippian watches the decision making of President Obama. Millions of Americans may have voted for him in 2008, but millions have been voting with their feet, and he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in understanding why. …

He should ask Americans like me who’ve moved South why we did it. And he should be especially interested in understanding why African Americans are fleeing his home city of Chicago for the South, too.

If he dared to ask, he’d learn that we are all fleeing liberalism and chasing economic freedom, just as our immigrant parents and grandparents did. …

It turns out that white Yankee migrants like me, African American migrants from Chicago, and businessmen owners in Illinois and around the world, see something in the South that novelists, journalists, academics, and our current president cannot.

The future.

Truth is, all joking aside, it’s a shame to keep it secret.

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right2bright on September 30, 2011 at 11:14 AM

Yeah, not2bright… we Southerners are so stupid we sit around on the porch with banjos. And God only knows we could never assemble one of those new fangled automobiles or airplanes without the help of our Yankee betters pouring into our backwards state to learn us how. FOAD ass-hat!

Storybec on September 30, 2011 at 5:17 PM

For many decades, I have felt the South has carried the mantle of civility lost in so much of our nation that has succumbed to various annoyances like “in your face” feminism, Black militancy, the 60’s era Counterculture legacy of anti-intellectualism, and the crowd driven toward brass rings by any means possible. Often these hollow souls are little more than slick and shallow bottom feeding poseurs like Ward Churchill who emulate low lifes, or condone depravity as a naughty stick in the Establishment’s eye. Nihilism has denied the human need for gentle qualities of beauty, decency and the sublime. .

Maybe the South is different because of historical demographics and a closer relationship to 18th Century France and it’s salon culture. Spawned were the rich oral traditions of the wild Scotch-Irish and the Negroes combined with the art of civilized conversation by planter elites, and all this wrapped in the diurnal rhythms of a prolonged country life while the North and West industrialized.

talking stick on September 30, 2011 at 5:49 PM

Red River Gorge
Horse farms of Lexington lined with stone fences
Keeneland in April and October
Churhill Downs and the Kentucky Derby
Bluegrass Trail (& music)
Bourbon Trail
Appalachian Mts.
Mammoth Cave, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world
Lake Cumberland
Land Between the Lakes
Wine Country

…and that’s just in God’s country – Kentucky.

HellCat on September 30, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Turns out, the South is a pretty nice place to live

I was a lot happier when we were thought of as a pretty rotten place to live.

ncborn on September 30, 2011 at 7:52 PM

We have to damn many outsiders retiring down here already. They seem to love the beaches of South Carolina. They have driven up the price of beach lots off the scale. A creek beach not far from a good beach goes for over 1.5 million. Don’t even ask the listed price of front beach lots.

SC.Charlie on September 30, 2011 at 8:17 PM

Tupelo – Birthplace of Elvis Presley
Vicksburg Battlefield Park
The Natchez Trace
The Natchez Pilgrimage Tour
McComb Railroad Museum
The Petrified Forest
Delta Blues Museum
The Birthplace of Kermit the Frog, Jim Henson Exhibit
Tunica Queen Riverboat Tour
Ford Center for the Performing Arts
The Corinth Crossroads Museum
Jimmie Rogers Museum
Crosby Arboretum
Biloxi Mardi Gras Museum
Tour to Ship Island
30 miles of Beaches
4 Casinos on the Coast

— and more in Mississippi.

itsspideyman on September 30, 2011 at 8:28 PM

Oxford is a very nice little town.

I lived for quite a while in rural Mississippi years ago, when it was still a bit blighted by the bad old days..
However, I’ve always found the people there pleasant, decent and kindhearted.

TexasJew on September 30, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Oxford is a very nice little town.

I lived for quite a while in rural Mississippi years ago, when it was still a bit blighted by the bad old days..
However, I’ve always found the people there pleasant, decent and kindhearted.

TexasJew on September 30, 2011 at 9:50 PM

That was measured and nice, TexasJew. Thank you for choosing that tack. I think you had another one available?—and you choose this one.

I might just be reading it in.

… oh well, thread’s going away … was fun while it lasted.

Axe on September 30, 2011 at 11:22 PM

Little has been done to update the popular image of the region, which is now economically inviting and culturally reassuring — perhaps because those who spin popular images, from the president to junior reporters, haven’t taken the time to really understand the South for themselves.

Keep them away from Leesville, LA. It will only reinforce their opinion about the South. I pray none of you ever step foot in this God forsaken hell hole.

Shock the Monkey on October 1, 2011 at 1:04 AM

Perhaps I missed it in 4 pages of comments, but I find it stunning that out of all the places mentioned as needing to be on the “must-see/do” list, Gatlinburg, TN and Dollywood have, mistakenly I’m sure, been overlooked.

Or maybe ya’ll were waiting for them to get used to the South a little before spring the hard stuff on them?

TASS71 on October 1, 2011 at 1:28 AM

I’m a damn yankee for the best part of 30 years now. I love The South and the people who make The South what it is.

hawkdriver on October 1, 2011 at 10:36 AM

Yep. I’m a displaced Yankee now living in Tennessee for the last decade.

And its all true. It never ceases to amaze me how far the dollar goes here … and I’m not in a very rural area. If you’re willing to drive 30 minutes into the sticks, you can buy 10 acres and a 2500 square foot house and pay a mortgage payment that’s half of what you’d pay for a crappy one-room apartment in Queens. And I’m not even exaggerating.

While many of the stereotypes are true – the accent, the general lack of education, the guns and NASCAR and Jesus – the people are generally much warmer and friendlier and more human than other places in this country.

Oh – and Southerners serve their country at rates way, way higher than they should proportionally. The military is a Southern institution. Period.

Best of all, in the South you find the best parts of conservatism in every day life. The Great Nashville Flood of 2010 is a prime example. Most of you probably heard zilch about it – because the media didn’t cover it.

The media didn’t cover it – because we took care of our own. It was reportedly one of the worst non-hurricane disasters in U.S. history. Billions in damage, dozens killed.

Yet Nashville just took care of it. The people were MIRACULOUS. No other word for it.

The South is a fine place to live. Chattanooga, TN is one of the best cities on Earth, FYI. Not to mention Savannah or Asheville or Charleston.

I hope most Northerners never figure out what they’re missing.

Professor Blather on October 1, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Professor Blather on October 1, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Working a contract at Ft. Campbell and living in Clarksville now for 4 months. 3 to go until I get to go home to NC.

Beautiful farmland. (bad drivers in Clarksville and that section of I24 though)

hawkdriver on October 1, 2011 at 12:26 PM

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