20 Things You’ve Probably Experienced If You Grew Up In A Small Southern Town

Neighbors Talking Over Fence

Southern Living

Small Southern towns are one of God’s greatest gifts to the world. If you were lucky enough to grow up in one, or still live in one today, then you know exactly what we mean. Life moves a little slower, people are a little nicer, and the idea of community is more than just a platitude. There’s a lot to love about a Southern small town, but we’re especially fond of all their quirks and charms. In Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, they elected a dog as mayor. And in Arab, Alabama, you can attend an annual festival dedicated to the Southern delicacy known as the Poke Salad. Southern small towns—and the people who live there—certainly have their own way of doing things. Here are 20 things you’ve likely experienced if you grew up in a small Southern town.

1. Recognizing that your neighbors know more about your family history than you do

Roots run deep in small towns. Heritage and lineage are important, so it’s not uncommon for older community members to know all about your family tree.

2. Realizing there's two degrees of separation between almost everyone

Kevin Bacon has nothing on small town connections. Everyone's everyone else's cousin, neighbor, or church friend. You can't tell a story without a 10-minute interlude to discuss who’s related to whom and how. Note: This can make dating and gossiping tricky.

3. Being written an IOU

From the neighborhood butcher shop to the gas station, general store, or café, no one has an issue writing you an IOU. Shop owners are accustomed to jotting down a figure on the back of a receipt or paper napkin and pinning it behind the counter for your next visit. And if you’re getting a little late on payment, they know where you live!

4. Making a "quick trip" to the grocery store is not an option

Oh, you’re just stopping in for a carton of eggs? Mrs. Janet from three houses down begs to differ. Settle in for a nice long chat because she’ll need a full update on every last one of your siblings, cousins, and in-laws.  

5. Accepting your family will know you did something bad before you even return home

News travels fast in a small town. If you got caught up in some mischief, chances are Grammy got all the details before you even had time to think of an excuse.

6. Getting the support of the entire town during hard times

In many ways, a small town is like one giant family. So, when one family member’s hurting, everyone else is, too. If you’re grieving a loss or battling an illness, you can guarantee your house will be filled with more casseroles, flowers, and well wishes than you know what to do with.

7. Giving or receiving directions based off town landmarks

When your town only consists of a few square blocks, fussing with street names and GPS devices can seem a little silly. Just tell us where to turn once we’ve hit the Dairy Queen and we’ll be dandy.

8. Attending someone else’s church after a sleepover

Sleeping over at a friend’s house on a Saturday night was practically a weekly occurrence, but you weren’t sent packing once the sun rose. You’d be carted off to church with the rest of the family, then returned to your parents’ house sometime after the congregation’s potluck ended.

9. Having the same teachers as your parents

Small town professionals often spend their entire careers serving the same community. So, it’s no surprise that your teachers taught your parents, your doctor delivered your cousin, and your pastor married your aunt and uncle.

10. Parking lot hangouts

The one drawback to living in a small town is sometimes there’s just not a lot to do. Enter the parking lot hangout. It’s the next best thing to sitting for hours at your favorite diner or driving 50 miles to the nearest movie theater.

11. Chowing down on gas station food

Other folks may raise an eyebrow, but you know that looks can be deceiving. Who would have guessed that a service station could smoke such delicious barbecue?  

12. Knowing the news before it’s printed

If your community had a local paper, everyone in town subscribed. Often, you’d know about the latest happenings before the paper even had a chance to print it.

13. Realizing everyone will remember your diaper days

There’s no escaping your embarrassing pre-teen years either. Everyone remembers you as a younger version of yourself, so it’s best to sit back, relax, and enjoy the frequent trips down memory lane.

14. Knowing who’s inside a restaurant or shop based on the cars outside

This can come in handy when you’re trying to avoid someone—especially in a small town when there are only so many places you can go! But it also works the other way. You might drive by the post office and decide to stop in after seeing your bestie’s car parked outside.

15. Being forced to cook because no restaurants are open

Like Chick-fil-A, the entire town closes down on Sundays, so it’s tough luck if you find yourself hungry and not in the mood to cook.

16. Leaving your doors unlocked

How else could your down-the-street neighbor let themselves in for a cup of sugar while you’re out?

17. Shopping exclusively at specialty stores and missing them when you leave

There’s no Target or Super Walmart, so errands take a little longer, but you don’t mind because it gives you a chance to catch up with all your favorite specialty store owners. If you happen to move to a larger locale, you still swear by the cakes at your hometown shop and are skeptical of salons with more than one hairdresser.

18. Having the “usual” everywhere

From your morning coffee to your favorite Friday night dinner, you have a strict routine of places to frequent and what to order when you get there. If you ever change it up, you’ll definitely hear about it from your regular waiter or barista.

19. Stopping your car in the middle of the street to talk to someone

The kicker is that no one will honk at you. They may even get out of their car to join in on the conversation.

20. Being fiercely loyal to the way you grew up

As much as you complain about everyone being in your business and never having anything to do, you have a deep appreciation for the tiny town that raised you and wouldn’t trade your upbringing for the world.

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