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Well, if Virginia isn't the south what is? I have had the WORST bosses EVER since moving here. But you're absolutely right, NC was the best place I ever worked. Men still hold the door open down there for women and it's considered good manners. In the North, they want something no doubt.


I grew up in the North and now live in the South. All told? My biggest asshole problem has been with people from the north. And with women.

Thanks for pointing me to this post in response to my earlier comment. My point, though, was not that accusations make assholes into BIGGER assholes.

I meant, rather, that sometimes the folk TALKING so much about assholes (whether making accusations, or even.. ahem.. just insisting over and over on using the WORD when some really and truly do find it offensive) might, at times, THEMSELVES be the assholes.

Do you have another post you can refer me to where you discuss THAT?


(I think you're great, you know.)

Chris A


Born and raised in Tennessee, I just figured everyone was like what you described in your article. IMO, You treat me with respect and you will get respect from me. You challenge my family/friends or my "Honor" we will have words.

How funny and how true!



Last Thursday in the Alabama state legislature Republican Sen. Charles Bishop and Democratic Sen. Lowell Barron were having an emotional exchange when Bishop hit Barron in the side of the head, knocking him over a desk.

Having been to the Middle East and America's Middle South I can report a difference in degree but, not in kind.

Tom Timmerman

Hi Bob,
Very interesting that the Culture of Honor pops up here. The most recent issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology contains my article on southern-born baseball players. Pitchers from the South are not more likely, in general, to hit batters; but they are more likely than non-southerners to hit the batter who follows a home-run hitter. They are also more likely to hit a homerun hitter the next time he comes up to bat. They are also more likely to hit batters in retaliation for a hit teammate. Interestingly, though, southerners are more likely to hit White batters in these situations, not African Americans.

Major John Doe


I grew up in Hawaii (which I've found to be very similar to the South), was educated in NYC and Boston and spent the majority of my professional life in NC and GA. Additionally, my colleagues in Special Operations were almost 80% white Southern. In many ways, American military culture is Southern culture.

Now as you know, I certainly believe that there are situations where violence is verbotten but as a teacher said to me when I was young, "A weak man's mercy has no meaning."

I am gulity of the behavior you state. Polite but once crossed, prone to violence. Like I've said before, I'm not proud of that but I can't deny the fact that this has worked for me as well. I disagree with one of your readers when he said that violence was more likely in NYC than in SC. That wasn't my experience. There was a lot of talking in NYC but it was actually difficult to get into a fight. I think you have to draw the distinction between violent language (which is just talk) and actual violence.

As for myself, when I enter into a managerial situation, I find that my reputation preceeds me and it makes my life easier. I never have to raise my voice. I never have to berate people. A raised eyebrow is generally enough. The downside to this is that I often wonder if I am getting genuine debate in our meetings but the trade off is acceptable to me to have a courteous workplace.

So all things considered, I would rather work with Southerns than Yankees. But then I got to work with the very best of Southern society so perhaps my view is too biased to be considered.


I am someone who raised in the Great Plains and who considers himself a cowboy (yes, I take care of the cattle every day) I also have a professional job and am a manager. I think the view of cowboys and honor expressed here could be missing the point. Yes, I am polite and respectful and I feel no need to be demeaning to others. I think "southern manners" are part of the equation, but I also think self confidence has a great deal to do with how one behaves. I do place a high value on what is perceived by some as "honor". I would break "honor" down into some subsets that would include honesty, punctuality, competency and a person's general commitment to the quality of their efforts in their endeavors. This definition is the result of being in high risk situations, both physically and/or financially. There is nothing that will cause more anger and disappointment in your fellow human beings than being physically hurt or losing money, because somebody was less than honorable. I have been in both situations and I can assure you that there were some people who thought I was an asshole. Being angry and lashing out is not my personal style, I will, however, explain to someone the error of their ways. Usually telling someone they have screwed up and caused someone to be hurt or lose money results in being considered an asshole. It doesn’t matter if you are nice about it or angry, you are still considered an asshole, because most people do not like to be perceived as wrong. I’m certainly not going to waste my time getting all wound up about the sloppy guy at a party. There is enough trouble on the road of life, no need to go and look for it.

Bill Hudgins

We Southerners - I am Virginian by birth (Like John Carter, a fighting man of Mars!) and Tennessean by choice for many years now - are particularly assholey when it comes to affronts to women. A young man once accidentally bumped and spilled my wife's tea at a big outdoor event - he was just being exuberant and was bigger than I, and immediately apologized - but suddenly he found this older guy telling him in a flat voice that he needed to buy the lady another glass of tea. I don't know where that person was hiding in me, but he was out in a flash.


I find your comments very interesting, as I am a man who was born in Memphis TN, by a father from Texas and a mother from Florida. I have lived in Alberta, Canada since the time I was seven and thought myself rather culturally purged before reading this assessment. It would seem; however, that being raised with the influence of Southern culture has still had a profound effect on me. I find this rather interesting and I can't wait to read the rest of the book (and perhaps slip it under one of my co-workers doors.)

Wally Bock

I was raised in New York and I now live in the South. I've married into a Southern family where I am the token Yankee. When I first met my mother-in-law, she commented on how "Southern" I was. She was reacting to the fact that I was raised to be polite, have manners, show respect to elders, etc. The results of reported experiment (bumping, insult) run counter to my own experience. It seems far more likely to me that you'd have a physical confrontation in New York City than in York, SC.
There is always a tension, in every society, between confrontation/speaking truth and circumspection/keeping peace. It plays out differently in different places.

Dr Deep Pandey

I think the Southern Politeness is a global behaviour. The more you you move towards south of the Globe, the better you are treated by residents.


Hi Bob,
As a female living in Tennessee (you can't get more southern than that!), I would like to weigh in on the southern male issue. Yes, these guys are more polite, open doors, say please and thank you a little more often, and display their general "good ole boy" demeaner for all to see. What's often hidden, however, is the way that these same "good ole boys" take care of each other in business and politics (case-in-point...our current administration). Both personally and professionally, I have witnessed southern men who are threatened and/or "put off" by strong, assertive women. If the democrats think that Hillary Clinton can carry the southern male vote, they truly are dillusional. Southern men will say they like a strong women, but the actions that I see around me day after day say otherwise. They may be beyond believing that women should be "seen and not heard", but they are not beyond the idea that women should ultimately remember their place. As is always the southern way, this attitude is subtle and stays under the radar most of the time. However, much like the example of being bumped results in an angry response 85% of the time, the southern male does not show this attitude outwardly until challenged. Don't get me wrong, I love the south and I am married to a southern man. The key, however, is to not let the polite, "aw shucks" demeanor fool you...there's more going on than meets the eye.


Does anyone else sense homophobia in the quoted email? Perhaps I'll stop reading this blog now. Thanks, bye.


Dear Dr. Sutton,

As a native Southerner who has lived in Louisiana, Alabama, Illinois, and now Oregon, I can attest that Southerners are indeed very polite, more so than in the Northeast and Midwest. That said, people in the Pacific Northwest are typically friendlier and quicker to say hello and thank you. My parents, both of whom lived the majority of their adult lives in Louisiana (but now reside in Oregon) have been amazed by the level of civility and politeness in Oregon.

I can also attest to what you write about the defense of honor. That's not just Southern men either; Southern women are similar in their responses to perceived "bumps" to their honor. I must sheepish confess: me, too. I don't know if this is because I'm a bit of a "daddy's girl," or if it's part of my Southern heritage. I am happy to report, however, that my ARSE score is comfortingly low.

Thanks for your thoughtful book and terrific blog.

Peace be with you,

John Whiteside

As a Connecticut native who lives in Texas, I'm inclined to agree with you; people are simply much better behaved in everyday interactions here than they are on either coast (and that's one reason I like being in Texas.) I'm in Houston, which is the more southern (vs western) part of the state, and while it's a bit different from what I've experienced in the southeast, the general princple holds.

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