As a Southerner, I’d like to share some of the things about what it means to follow the world-famous traditional Southern ways by means of manners, etiquette, and hospitality.
Manners are very important to Southerners, no matter their social status. While good manners are slipping out of the majority of the modern picture, there is still a place for them in the South.
Most importantly, never confuse etiquette and manners. Bad etiquette is using your diner fork on your salad. Bad manners is pointing out that someone used their dinner fork on their salad. Manners will always trump etiquette. They are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, or at least put good effort into having it, you have good manners and it doesn't matter what fork you use.
Having good, Southern manners consists of basic principles, such as always saying being warm and welcoming, saying “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, “yes/no ma’am” “yes/no sir”, handwriting thank you notes, and gentlemen being gentlemen and ladies being ladies. It also includes basic etiquette, such as not talking with a mouth full of food or putting your elbows on the table during super. It also includes using your inside voice and minimizing personal conversations in public (where you have a captive audience). For more tips on traditional Southern manners, visit this link.
Lastly, let me briefly touch on the topic of hospitality. Hospitality is the epiphany of the Southern way of life, specifically the emphasis on good cooking. Hospitality is not so much what one does as it is the way one is. It’s being warm and welcoming to everyone. Hospitality is not about inviting people into your perfect houses, but into your imperfect homes. You don’t have to live in a McMansion and have all matching china and a perfect punch bowl to be a great host. Being a hospitable Southern host comes from the heart! Just remember, you should always have something to offer your guests in the way of food and drink. That something could be anything, just don’t ever let your guests leave without having at least so much as a snack and a glass of ice water/tea/lemonade and if you have the time, use it to bake a sweet little something!