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West Coast vs The South

December 26, 2011

I grew up in Arkansas and moved to California when I first entered graduate school.  I remember thinking that regional differences were exaggerated, that people on the West Coast were just like people in the South and everywhere else.  Over time, though, I have become sensitive to the regional variations in cultural consciousness.

One thing I have noticed is that in California, ending a relationship you are no longer interested in maintaining by breaking off contact with the person is a standard part of the behavioral repertoire.  The simplest and best solution to many relationship problems, romantic or otherwise, is seen to simply be to remove and ignore the offending party, and to move on as quickly as possible.  It is practically a matter of competition to see who can get “over it” the fastest.  A problem with this is that it does nothing to alleviate the behavior patterns that led to you being miserable in the relationship in the first place.

Doubtless this is partly an urban effect.  In a city with millions of people, the chances of unintentionally running into someone specific are pretty slim, so it is easy enough to ignore an individual and avoid any obvious consequences.  But I think that in the South, there’s a slightly different mentality.

Maybe it’s the rural heritage, maybe it’s the vaunted hospitality, but in the South it’s generally assumed that you’re going to have to get along with people whether you like them or not.  If someone offends you, blocking them out is not considered an option except as a last resort.  Actively working out differences is important, as is getting along comfortably with the people you come into contact with day in and day out (who tend to be the same people over and over again).  When a romantic relationship has passed its prime, its just as likely that the partners will remain a lasting fixture of each other’s social lives as that they will pass tracklessly back into the anonymous throngs of humanity.  Perhaps this is because it is recognized that it takes more energy to block someone out than it does to reconcile yourself to their existence.

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From → Personal Stories

One Comment
  1. There are benefits to both methods.
    I think you are correct in your assertion that the societal norms exhibited in each separate part of the country are determined by purely utilitarian reasons mixed with the pre-determined tendencies of the common folk of each respective area. In short, they each have their reasons for the way they behave. Being from the South, I have found more value in the approach you outlined from the South. It keeps people from hating each other so much and encourages a “live and let live” attitude. I have always been the type of person who did not like to hold a grudge. I guess that has more to do with where I grew up than I thought…

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