This may come off as a little egotistical, that my new fancy city life has gone to my head, but it hasn’t. I’ve just noticed some things in the few months that I’ve lived in the greater Charlotte area that are vastly different from where I grew up.
When I went home for the Easter and Mother’s Day weekends, I was hit with a bit of culture shock. I didn’t realize just how different things were in the rural parts of Eastern North Carolina. After all, where I live now still has Food Lion grocery stores and Bojangle’s restaurants. But the world around those things is so vastly different. Here are some examples…
4. The Smells Are Different
In the civilized world, you smell two things. Perhaps an old truck is rumbling in front of you and you inhale the gaseous exhaust; or you smell the food wafting from the pipes of every eatery along the street – whether its grease and bacon in the morning, or steaks in the evening. And that’s okay, because there is another smell you gamble with in rural areas. Imagine with me…
You’re driving down the highway, windows down, music blaring. All of a sudden you’re choking. You try to inhale but are met with a suffocating stink. Chickens – or pigs. It smells like death. And it’s one of those smells that, if you’ve been away from it for a while, hits you with such surprising force you feel like you’ve physically been hit with a lumpy old gym sock.
On the downside, when the honeysuckle is in bloom, it’s almost like you’re driving through a giant Cinnabon. So it’s a sort of give and take.
3. The People Are Different
I’m not saying there’s an abundance of one race and a complete lack of another, nor am I saying that the culture is completely different as if I moved to another country. But there are enough subtle differences that you notice when you go back where you came from.
For starters, the language is different. I’m actually the only person among the people I’ve met that was actually born in North Carolina. Everyone else I know moved here from somewhere else (most notably Florida, which seems odd because why would you want to live anywhere else?). So I’ve grown accustomed to hearing people speak with either a little Northern accent or none at all (especially not a Southern one). So when I went back home and heard words like “reckon,” “youn’to,” and “fixinto” it was a shock because I realized it had been some time since I had heard words like that.
Of course I could go to my local Wal-Mart and see all of this, and sometimes I do when I need to boost my self-esteem. But I’m not used to having to hunt those people down. I’m used to being able to fling a dead chicken in any direction and being able to hit someone that fits the description.
2. There’s Nothing to See
Unless the sight of billboards, trees, and a few ramshackle houses gets you off, there isn’t much visual stimulation. My commute to work these days takes roughly 15-25 minutes depending on how many morons forget how to drive. But it never seems to take that long because I have water; hills; tall, new looking, multistory buildings; and several other cars with me on the road.
Back east, the same distance I cover in Charlotte seems to take twice as long because the land is flat; the only water is a narrow, brown, polluted river; all of the buildings that aren’t hotels are a single story and run down; and even in the middle of the morning commute, traffic is pretty sparse. So driving the same distance, even if it takes less time, seems like it drags on forever. I now have no idea how I drove to and from Greenville three days a week for two years.
1. There’s Nothing to Do
When I moved here and people back home were asking me what there was to do, my first answer was almost always, “The mall in Concord is really nice.” And while that’s true, it didn’t hit me until recently that going to the mall around here is so far down on the list because there are so many other things to do. You can play putt-putt on a course that won’t give you tetanus. You can race go-karts. You can easily attend concerts and sporting events. You can spend an afternoon in a park without being accosted by meth heads or feeling like you may get murdered.
The problem I soon realized was that even now I’m inundated with such a sensory overload that I still consider going to the mall as a good day’s activity because back east that’s literally all you could do – so it’s all I know to do now. And I know I sound very hoity-toity or that I think I’m better than you. I don’t. But I live in a better place than you do, so I guess you can get mad at me for that.