Opinion: Daily Journal

Lessons for a North Carolina newcomer 

My first month in the Land of the Long Leaf Pine has been an incredible success. I’ve managed to avoid the newcomers’ most feared, multi-purpose saying, “Bless your heart.” But I’m sure someone soon will usher me through this rite of passage. 

What I love about North Carolinians is your generosity providing advice to outsiders like me on how to avoid those awkward situations that elicit the infamous phrase, which is slightly more polite than asking me why I don’t have the commonsense that God gave a houseplant.  

Still, there’s been a learning curve coming from Colorado to North Carolina. Thanks to my new friends in the Tar Heel state, I’ll share a few lessons I’ve mastered pretty quickly  

In Colorado, water is for fighting. In North Carolina it’s barbecue. The meat is pig, and it’s an all-day affair involving fire, alcohol and some kind of sauce smack down. Thanks to the John Locke Foundation staff, I had my first taste of “Eastern” style barbecue, complete with oblong hush puppies and hot sauce. Absolutely delicious! Bring it on “Lexington” style! 

Speaking of alcohol, I thought Colorado’s liquor laws were a bit odd. That is until I got to North Carolina. I struggle with the ABC store concept and still haven’t visited one. Probably because I don’t want to enable a government monopoly. Fortunately, a couple of staffers took pity on me and brought me some vodka. If the staff keeps bringing me vodka, I’ll never have to find one. That’s a strong hint!   

On the flip side, being able to grocery shop while enjoying a glass of wine is genius! And, it explains my frequent grocery store visits and high food bills. 

Weather here is a bit of an enigma. North Carolinians will face down a hurricane like it’s Tuesday but prepare for the possibility of one to three inches of snow like it’s the wrong AOC on a climate change doomsday bender complete with “Team Coverage” from all the news channels and gubernatorial advice to have three days worth of food and extra batteries. 

While chuckling about this with a Colorado friend, he reminded me that they’re expected to be at work after an eight-inch snow, but the Department of Transportation shuts down Interstate 70 for sunshine. That shut me up.   

College rules the North Carolina sports scene. Since no one likes the SEC (I’m a Mizzou graduate) and even fewer people care about the PAC 12, I must pick my ACC team. I was warned — know your audience before you pick. Two weeks ago, I was an N.C. State fan. This week I’m wearing “Carolina blue.” Next up? Duke. Feel free to pitch me which should be my adopted team.  

The line from the official toast “where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great” must have been penned for North Carolina drivers. Tar Heel residents are Ryan Newman tough (except for snow), and you embrace the state’s bootlegging-NASCAR roots. I know you all are thrilled that I’m a fast learner. 

One thing I’ve quickly come to appreciate about North Carolinians, you are excellent storytellers. Everyone has a story, and “it will only take a minute,” which explains why I ran 15 to 20 minutes late to everything my first couple of weeks. The lesson here is don’t rush when it comes to being with people. I’ve learned to budget more time between meetings and just enjoy the conversation.  

The loveliest difference between natives and newcomers is North Carolina’s natural graciousness. Whether it’s at the bank or the wine bar, the park or the parking lot, I love the sincerity and gentleness of “Yes ma’am” and “No sir.” 

My mother taught me good manners never go out of style, so neither will this great state. I’m looking forward to mastering more North Carolina culture. Thank you for making this newcomer feel so welcome.   


Amy O. Cooke is the CEO of the John Locke Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @theRightAOC and friend her Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheRightAOC.  Please send your suggestions for what should be on her North Carolina bucket list to [email protected]