A stubborn Northerner’s say on whether Virginia is part of the South

Being from New York has definitely affected my view of what I consider the South

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Hanna Preston is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

I remember walking into my dorm on move-in day, drenched in sweat from a combination of carrying my luggage up the Dillard stairs and the sweltering heat of Charlottesville. I made a comment to my roommate —  “I cannot believe I go to school in the South. This is way too hot for me.” My sweet roommate, born and raised in Harrisonburg, looked me dead in the eyes and stated in the most serious voice I had ever heard, “Virginia, or at least Charlottesville, is not the South.” 

Being from New York, I consider anything below New Jersey the South. If there are stretches of land that contain farms and animals grazing on fields, then that is the South. Given that I passed both farms and animals on my seven hour drive down to the University, I thought I was well into Southern territory. My new Virginian friends told me that not all of Virginia looks the same, and many of them actually considered Charlottesville a little bit urban and somewhat “Northern.” 

When I told people from states like Alabama and Georgia that I considered Virginia part of the South, I received one of two reactions. They either gave me a deadpan stare and refused to even respond to my statement, or they lectured me for minutes on end — which felt like hours to me — about why they are true Southerners and how these Virginians do not even come close. 

I suppose I have been given some evidence that Virginia — or at the very least, Charlottesville — is not as Southern as I believed it to be. For example, I had a basic conception that the South is warm. Needless to say, I was baffled when I saw Charlottesville’s first snowfall.

Experiencing the weather here, along with objections from those from Virginia and further south, should have been enough to tell me that there was a chance my singular idea of “Virginia equals South” was wrong. But who ever said that a stubborn New Yorker was logical? I’m still having trouble accepting that Charlottesville and Virginia are not unanimously Southern, though that could be more of a reflection of my New York ideals.

Growing up in New York, you’re told from a very young age that New York City is the pinnacle of urban life and the very embodiment of Northern attitudes. You’re proud of your city and hold it above everything else in your heart. You also become a little bit conceited in regards to being from New York, and subsequently the Northeast. As Nicki Minaj says correctly in “FEFE,” “I’m from New York, so I’m cocky.”  

The way New Yorkers are portrayed in movies is honestly pretty realistic. I wouldn’t say we’re rude or mean, but we do look out for ourselves. We rush through the day, don’t stop to make small talk unless absolutely necessary and while we don’t lack manners, they’re not always a priority. When walking through the streets as a kid, my mom — a native of Queens — would tell me to walk with a purpose and avoid strangers. This New York attitude has shaped how I approach each day and the world around me. 

All I’ve known — up until coming to the University — is New York and the New York attitude. Therefore, any place with contradictory characteristics becomes categorized as “other” or “Southern.”  In Charlottesville, people stop on the street to talk to each other. They move more slowly about their day — physically and figuratively — and always make sure to present basic manners, even to complete strangers.  And so, I see Charlottesville as part of the South.

Sure, there are elements that could support the fact that Charlottesville is not incredibly Southern, but for me, the true differences between the North and South are differences in attitude and how people go about their day.

Granted, growing up in New York has made me a bit cocky. I refuse to use “brick” to mean far away, and I will never admit that Bodo’s has better bagels than the ones back home. And because of the stubborn and steadfast attitude that’s been instilled in me, when people ask me where I go to school, I will say, “in the South.”

Hanna Preston is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

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