In direct contrast to native Richmonders (and perhaps my better judgment), I feel that it must be said: Richmond, VA is NOT the South.
My husband, son and I moved to Richmond in June of 2010. We came into this city knowing no one, and left all of our family and friends 10 hours behind in Georgia.
Since then, we have put down some Richmond roots. My husband has become established at work, my son is thriving at a local preschool, and I have made some wonderful friendships and have truly fallen in love with this city.
All warm and fuzzy feelings aside, there is one thing about living in Richmond that still surprises me, even three years later. People that live here think they live in the South. I know that it is below the Mason Dixie line and that during the Civil War Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America, but I still have to argue that Richmond, VA is not REALLY the south. Here are the top five reasons why:
1) We moved 10 hours north to live here. As much fun as it was to drive in a car for 10 hours from Atlanta, GA to Richmond, VA with a then-9-month-old baby, two cats, and all of our belongings, it was still a move 10 hours north. If your destination requires a 10 hour drive to get there while traveling in a Northern direction, your destination is not in the South.
2) It snows here. I could count on one hand the number of times I saw snow while growing up in the state of Georgia. A white Christmas was a fantasy comparable to that of a fairy tale. Since we’ve moved to Richmond, we’ve seen snow every year, multiple times. This is not the South, it is a whole new world of weather… in the north.
3) There is no sweet tea. I have discovered that the meaning of “tea” is subjective depending on where you live. When I lived in England, if you ordered tea at a restaurant you received a steaming hot cup of Earl Grey, complete with cream and sugar. If you order tea in the South, you receive an ice cold glass of sweet tea, which is tea brewed with heaping amounts of sugar. Sometimes it is so sweet it resembles syrup. When you order tea in Richmond, you receive plain old unsweet brewed tea. If you ask for sweet tea, you will usually get an answer of “I can bring you some sugar packets?” If you’ve ever tried real sweet tea, you will know that this is just not the same. The only way to get a good sweet tea fix in Richmond is to visit Chick-fil-A, which happens to be a restaurant founded in the south, in Georgia.
4) People do not say “y’all.” It may be a based on the fact that Richmond is more urban than rural, but I must argue that it is just not a Southern place. Often during conversations here I hear “you guys” or “you all” but very rarely if ever do I hear the word “y’all,” which, in the true South, is a proper pronoun.
5) There are WaWa’s here. I may have grown up in Georgia, but I was not raised in a traditionally Southern way. My Dad was from Pennsylvania, and my Mom grew up in Fairhope, Alabama, which is right on the Mobile Bay, part of the Gulf of Mexico. My childhood spent in Georgia was also highly influenced by Northern culture and coastal summers. One of the first things I noticed when we moved to Richmond was that the local gas station was a Wawa, a chain I had only seen during trips up to Pennsylvania. It was my first sign that we were not in the proverbial Kansas anymore.
And of course the main reason I know we are not in the South is because of my four year old, who recently observed, “Mommy, did you know birds go South because they don’t like to be cold? But it’s cold here so we are probably not South.”
Well, that settles it for me.
Are you a Richmond native or transplant? Do you think you’ve landed in the North or the South?