Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Triangle: Where North and South (and West) Collide

More questions from a reader (thanks for commenting, Kathy!):
Can you tell more about the culture in RTP? I've heard it attracts people from all over so it's quite diverse. I know I've heard about Californians relocating there and now New Yorkers who move to Florida but then realize it's not for them so they head half-way back to NC and are called halfbacks. I thought that was interesting. So is it southern, northern or a mix of everybody?
Funny--I hadn't heard the "halfback" theory, but one of my friends would fit into that category. He followed that exact pattern...NY to FL to NC. I'm not sure why he picked NC though.

I would say it is a mix of everybody here. I've commented before on how everyone here is from someplace else, and those other places tend to be scattered. I've met people from Atlanta, Washington D.C, Boston, New York City, Michigan, Texas, California, Illinois, Oregon...and more that I cannot think of right now. One joke I've heard is that Cary stands for "Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees." I have met a few North Carolina natives, but they are by far the minority here. To me, the area does not scream Southern (although I haven't lived in the true South so my frame of reference is restricted). Here are a few off-the-cuff observations that will tell you this is the South:
  • Wendy's offers the "Carolina Classic": a burger topped with chili and coleslaw.
  • Nearly every restaurant, be it sit-down or fast food, offers sweet tea.
  • In the summer or fall, you will likely be invited to a "pork pull" or "fish fry"
  • You will encounter a southern drawl every now and then but it's more lilting than anything. Local newscasters and DJ's do not have accents.
  • People here (not just men!) are fanatical about college sports, mainly basketball; this website ranks the Duke Blue Devils and UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heels as the number one rivalry around.
  • The pace of life is only slightly slower than what I'm used to from California.
  • People complain about the drivers here being particularly horrendous (one theory is that it's because there are so many former New Yorkers who never had licenses before) but I have not noticed it as being any worse than any other place I've driven. People do speed on the freeways but not like L.A.
  • You get the overall impression that church is slightly more prominent in people's lives here, but then again, hardly any of the people I've become friends with go on a regular basis.
I have noticed that when I visit my brother in Western North Carolina, which is rural and up in the mountains, the Southern characteristics become much more prominent. Everyone has a thicker accent, things are much slower, people are less open-minded/progressive. I think my hometown and my new town share more similarities than differences, due to the fact that they are both suburbs. That seems to me to be the overriding characteristic. I suspect that if you chose to live in Raleigh or Durham proper, you would find they are first and foremost cities, and only secondarily Southern cities.


  1. Melissa,
    Cheryl again. Thanks for the information, especially what you posted today about observations between So Cal and North Carolina. That's the kind of stuff that's really interesting to me. So it's not that much slower-paced there than L.A.? I am looking for a slower pace, but maybe as you said, that's a city vs. town thing.

  2. Thanks, Melissa - just what we were wondering. The Wendy's "Carolina" style sandwich sounds wonderful. I know I'd love to try a pork sandwich with slaw on top.

    And I'm glad to help out with why you were getting so many hits. I hoped you wouldn't mind. :)

  3. Hi, Melissa,

    I found your blog thru a citi-forum. I am very interestd in any Californians who have moved to NC. I am originally from there, moved out here in 1985 with my family and now am considering moving my own family back there. We live in the high desert out here and HATE IT. Traffic is horrible, people are so rude and a larger home for a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids is out of the question out here right now. Has it been a difficult adjustment for any of your family members? The humidity, the bugs, the accents :)? I truly miss the GREEN Country. I think we're afraid of culture shock.
    I am enjoying your blog, thanks for all the info. Keep it up! ;)

  4. I am from NC (Durham actually), and it is true that NC isn't as "southern" as the deep south (Alabama and Mississippi) but I think most people say southern when they mean under developed. The truth is if you go even half an hour out of Raleigh you will find true local North Carolinians and then make a judgement on the people of NC. All the people there for the RTP and whatnot will leave as quickly as they got here so I wouldn't look at the character of the state by the people concentrated in that particular area. It is a great state and it has its own very unique character that I think is sometimes masked in the RTP.