Southern hospitality is king in Charleston, South Carolina. When walking around the city, people will say hello to you – on the sidewalk, in stores, while standing in line. Everywhere. Many people from different parts of the country, and the world, are not used to random strangers striking up conversations with them. This interaction is totally normal in the South, so just go with it and embrace the chance to meet new people.
The humid climate makes Charleston particularly susceptible to sudden flash floods. Be sure to check the forecast before leaving your hotel or vacation rental. If there’s even a slight chance of rain, you should bring a rain jacket or umbrella along because the weather in the Holy City is often unpredictable.
The aforementioned flash floods are so common in Charleston that locals often treat these days like snow days. Streets are shut down, certain offices might close and people paddle through the streets in kayaks. Because downtown Charleston is just barely 20 feet above sea level, floods often occur from high tide, even if it hasn’t rained at all. When high tide and a rainstorm coincide, it’s not unusual for a foot (or even more) of water to build up on the street. While some college students will venture out in kayaks or even barefoot, it’s highly recommended that you don’t follow suit. The city’s antiquated sewer system combined with the waste left by horses pulling carriage tours every day means the water that rises up on the road is not filled with anything you want to be stepping in.
Unlike a lot of big cities, Charleston’s downtown area is very residential with a mix of college students, young professionals and families all calling this part of town home. Because the city is so small, many tourist attractions are in or right near residential areas. Locals are accustomed to tourists parading the streets at all hours, so be courteous and always check the road before crossing. Nothing makes a local crazy like a pack of tourists crossing the street while the driver has a green light.
Though the city is pretty good about cleaning up after the horses that roam the streets every day, sometimes you may encounter waste. While walking around downtown, particularly the historic district, be aware that you may unintentionally encounter horse feces.
Southerners love to cook and care for their guests. If you’re dining a Southerner’s house, they will make sure you are more than full before you leave the table. Most traditional Southern dishes are not vegetarian-friendly, so keep this in mind before accepting a dinner invitation. And if you’re not full by the end of the meal, don’t hesitate to ask for more – Southerners will take it as a compliment.
In the South, proper manners are a strict code to live and die by. Much like avoiding contact with strangers on the street, forgetting to say things like “please” and “thank you” will not be received well by native Southerners.
“Y’all” is part of Charlestonians’ natural lexicon. Even the thousands of residents who have moved to Charleston from other regions in the last decade often assimilate this term into their vocabulary. While locals can understand the novelty of hearing a Southern accent for the first time, they’ve been asked to repeat words and phrases so often this request can be very irritating.
While the College of Charleston does not have a football team, there’s a heated rivalry throughout the state between the Clemson Tigers and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Unless you’re a diehard fan of one of these teams, the best policy is to not comment on college sports unless you want to be roped into an impassioned debate.