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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Southern Hospitality

Having been raised in the Bible Belt, moving to Germany was a big change for me. Slowly, after four years of German life, I adjusted to the culture and certain aspects of my Southern upbringing slowly faded away into the background. Well, until I visit home again, anyways. I always know I’m back in Arkansas when I no longer see advertising for S&M conventions on the U-Bahn and begin seeing billboards with “Are you friends with Jesus” plastered every few miles.

It’s always hard coming from the hustle and bustle of German life to the slow, take-it-easy style that Southerners have adapted. With only two traffic lights, my hometown definitely has slow and steady down to a pat. At first it’s a bitter pill to swallow going home to where, instead of being a part of someone’s life, religion is someone’s life. “I’ll pray for you”, “Bless your heart”, and “Praise God” are heard just as often as “How are you doing?” It’s a bit of sensory overload to go back to my Baptist roots and try to ease into the environment again. My grandmother, now 80 years old, has gone to church every Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night for as long as I can remember. It is simply who she is and I often find that that is the way of a lot of folks.

An extra to having lived in the Bible Belt for so long is the idea of a dry county, where no alcohol is sold. My husband had to sit down and have a long think. To a German, it’s simply unfathomable that alcohol is not sold anywhere, period, in certain areas. Sales of alcohol on Sundays is also a puzzler to him, and his family still enjoys discussing it from time to time.

The first week is always hard but after that first trip back to the small white church I have been a member of since I was eight, it starts sinking back in and I slowly grow used to the feel of a close-knit community. It’s a comfort and reminds me of my childhood and all the events I attended at our church. Frito always laughs really hard when we talk the first time on the phone and not only is the Southern twang extremely strong, but “Bless your heart” and “honey” pops out at least twice. I suppose you can take a girl out of the South but you can never get rid of the South in the girl.

originally published in Currents Dec 2008/Jan 2009

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