I would consider myself a Southern girl. I live below the Mason-Dixon line, I drink sweet tea by the pitcher and I occasionally lapse into a country accent when around other people of my kind. People from my home in Greensboro, North Carolina are definitely nice, but the pleasant atmosphere of the sprawling suburbia that I grew up in does not compare to the warmth (literal and figurative) of Louisiana. It was only here that I truly experienced the fabled “southern hospitality.”
Generally speaking, most people we meet here in Houma or Cocodrie can immediately tell we are not locals. They ask us where we’re from out of curiosity, not hostility, and welcome us to their lovely state. Many of them recommend places for local cuisine or diversions, such as Cajun dancing at the Jolly Inn. We are now regulars every Friday. I wouldn’t quite call us competent dancers, but the men and women there are more than happy to take us for a spin and show us their moves.
We always see Allen and Bettye, an elderly couple, when we go dancing. When the girls are not being waltzed around on the room by the ever-charming Allen, we sit and chat with Bettye, who has offered to host us for a jambalaya dinner. We have her number…call her maybe? (cue Carly Rae Jepsen song that shall not be named.)
When we spend time at the site coordinator’s camp, we are once again bombarded by earnest invitations to fish fries, crawfish boils and any kind of seafood-cooking ritual you can imagine. Even checking into a Microtel in Houma, my boyfriend and I were offered crawfish from an impromptu boil in the parking lot. Just this weekend, our landlord Leland Crochet had us over to his bed and breakfast in Houma where we grilled and relaxed in his pool. He bade us each goodbye with a big hug and kisses on both cheeks (including my visiting boyfriend, whom he had just met) and told us we were welcome to come again anytime. And I’d really like to take him up on that offer.
What strikes me about Louisiana people is the absolute sincerity of their words and invitations. Plenty of times I’ve received half-baked offers of “yeah, we should hang out sometime” that never went through. I know a lot of people back home that use enthusiastic words like “sure, anytime!” but seem surprised when you call them back. What I love about Leland and Allen and Bettye and nearly everybody we’ve struck up conversation with is that when they as you where you’re from, they really do want to know. When invite you over for dinner after just having met you, they mean it. That is genuine, 100-percent authentic southern hospitality.