10 Misconceptions About Charleston
Charleston has been the setting for so many movies, TV shows and books, it’s easy to think you know what it’s all about before you get here. Unfortunately, sometimes Hollywood gets it wrong. Technically, sometimes our own citizens can portray us incorrectly.
That’s why today we’re setting the record straight.
Before you get on that plane or train, find out what to expect from real Charlestonians by debunking these 10 misconceptions.
1. Everybody in Charleston Has an Accent
Not everyone in Charleston has a southern drawl. Why? Because not every citizen of this glorious city was born and raised here.
It’s true that you’ll definitely run into some Charlestonians who sound like they might have stumbled straight out of the pages of “Gone With the Wind,” but a lot of residents are from other cities. There’s a huge population of transplants living in Charleston. And who can blame them? Charleston is often voted one of the best cities to live in each year.
But back to that South Carolina accent: there is no one “true” Charleston accent. Just like in New York, Boston and Chicago, your accent completely depends on what part of the city you’re from.
2. We Only Eat Fried Foods
We can probably attribute this one to the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Or the fact that when visitors go out to eat in some of the more popular restaurants, they’re usually looking at menus full of fried chicken, grits and barbecue. Sure, we love our southern staples but there are so many other choices in Charleston and new and eclectic restaurants are popping up all the time.
Just as Boston residents probably don’t eat clam chowder every day, Charlestonians don’t eat fried lowcountry foods every day either, but when we do there are plenty of great choices!
3. We Only Listen to country Music
There’s so much amazing music that originates from Charleston and that comes to Charleston every year. Charleston is home to an annual jazz fest, the Spoleto Fest (which features music from all over the world) and the High Water festival that features mostly indie music.
4. Rainbow Row’s Homes Were Painted Bright Colors to Help Drunken Soldiers
You may or may not have heard this rumor yet — that Rainbow Row’s homes were painted bright colors to:
- Ensure drunken sailors made their ways to the correct homes at night
- Aid the illiterate in finding their desired destination/business
Most people don’t hear this rumor until they get to Charleston. Who’s spreading it? We’re sure we don’t know, but we guess it might be an ill-informed tour guide.
5. Sweet Tea is From the South
Sweet tea (or iced tea sweetened with sugar) may or may not have originated in the South. In fact, some food historians believe that this sugary beverage originated in the North and didn’t become popular down south until the 20th century.
Yet just because sweet tea might not have been invented in the South doesn’t mean it’s not as southern as peach pie and Lady Antebellum.
Though sweet tea was probably “invented” in the North, it didn’t become popular until its journey south. To quote Allison Glock, “Sweet tea isn’t a drink, really. It’s culture in a glass.”
6. All Charlestonians Are Religious
Yes, Charleston is known as the Holy City. Yes, there are so many steeples here that the city probably looks like a pin cushion from outer space. But no, not every resident is super religious.
We do however encourage all visitors to respectfully enjoy the church culture here. There are plenty of ways to enjoy a little religious history in the Holy City. Generally, if the gates to the church are open, that is very much a welcoming call.
7. We always wear seersucker
Southerners are known for their smart but fashionable styles. And seersucker is known as the “Official Fabric of the Southern Summer”. Yet, you won’t see everyone dressed in it every day either.
Traditionally, seersucker was only worn between Memorial Day and Labor Day (kind of like wearing white). Weddings are the perfect event for seersucker as is a dressier summer party or night out at one of the fancier restaurants on the coast. If you’re heading to Charleston from May to August, pack a seersucker suit for fashion (and if it’s summer, for comfort).
8. Every Woman is Scarlett O’Hara
Sorry, not every woman in the South is Scarlett. Just like anywhere else in the U.S., southerners have stereotypes that don’t fit every resident. (Though if you wanted to compare us to Julia Sugarbaker —not a Charlestonian but a strong southern woman nonetheless — we might not protest.)
You’ll find women of all shapes, sizes and social standings in Charleston.
The one stereotype the rest of the world got right? We are definitely friendly. So, if you decide to visit us, try to get to know us. You’ll find that there are more southern women than can fit into just one Hollywood movie or TV show.
9. “Southern Charm” Depicts Real Charleston Life
“Southern Charm” isn’t what one would consider “real Charleston life.” While the characters are real (you might recognize Thomas Ravenel’s last name), just like any reality TV show, the situations are mostly fabricated.
10. Everything Here Moves a Little Slower
Not everything moves slower in Charleston. While we love a good, long brunch; a nice, long walk and a long drink of sweet tea or Planters punch, not everything needs to be long and slow.
Southerners abhor sitting in the car for too long. We don’t drive slowly. We don’t talk as slow as the rest of the world might think. And we certainly don’t think or act slow (again, see: Scarlett O’Hara and Julia Sugarbaker).
If you have any other lingering questions about Charleston, take one of our tours. Our guides can give you the lowcountry low-down on everything from the real history behind Rainbow Row to the proper attire for dinner.