One of the big cultural differences I've noticed between the deep South and the rest of the places I've lived is the level of politeness that exists here. Contrary to the popular stereotypes, it's not that people here are so much nicer--I wouldn't necessarily say it's that drastic a difference--but there is a certain level of respect that passes between strangers that I didn't encounter much when I lived "up North."
For example, I can't tell you how many times I've been called "ma'am." When I was thrift-shopping the other day, the shop owner's daughter (she was probably about 11) was sitting in a chair doing homework, and I said hello and asked her a question, and she didn't hear me at first so she smiled sweetly and said, "Ma'am?" It was so cute. I always feel like I'm too young to be referred to that way, but for Southern children it's the normal way to speak to any grown-up.
I was also surprised when one of my piano students (she is 15) started calling me "Mrs. Kate." Isn't that so endearing? It's actually sort of a perfect solution because I feel too young to go by "Mrs. Harvey" (especially to someone who is only ten years younger than myself--if I'm teaching 6-year-olds, that's a different story) but just "Kate" seems a little casual for a student-teacher relationship. When she first called me "Mrs. Kate" I thought it was so funny and sweet and unusual. Children and young adults are really hesitant to call you by your first name, even if that's how you introduce yourself, so adding a "Miss" or "Mrs" in front of your name is their way of showing respect.
Do any of you have experience with Southern politeness and charm? I'm wondering if this is something I will miss when we move away from here!