Some Notes on Southern Manners and Etiquette

Here are various matters of manners that I found on the web and by just asking people about the topic of Southern manners and etiquette.

• Funerals – Stop and pull over for a funeral procession unless doing so would create a genuine hazard (not just an inconvenience).

• Titles – Use “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Miss” (plus the last name) when addressing someone until that person asks you to use their first name.

• “Sir” and “Ma’am” – Use “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” (or ma’am) unless the other person asks that you do otherwise.

• Thank You notes – When someone gives you a gift. Keep a supply of Thank You note cards on hand.

• Handshakes – A proper handshake is a firm handshake. The web between thumb and forefinger of both parties should touch. It is a handshake not a fingershake.

• Teacups – Despite what you may see in a movie, extending the “pinkie” is comical – not polite.

• Opening doors – Holding a door open for another is the right thing to do no matter who it is, but it should especially be done for women, the handicapped, and your elders.

• Hats and caps – This is one of the most commonly violated rules of polite behavior, and a new generation of Southerners has apparently failed to realize that wearing a ball cap in a restaurant or other indoor location is just plain rude. The rule is basically this – if you are in a place where people would commonly sit down, then you remove your hat or cap. So, hats are OK in a shopping mall, not OK in a restaurant. Hats are always OK when outdoors except for times when it is removed as a show of respect. Examples of hat removal for respect are during a funeral, during a prayer, during the playing of the National Anthem (including Dixie or other songs equivalent to a national anthem), as the flag passes by (federal or Confederate), and any other time you want to indicate respect.

• Don’t confuse etiquette and manners. It’s bad etiquette to use your dinner fork on your salad. It’s bad manners to comment that someone used their dinner fork on their salad. Manners always trumps etiquette.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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5 Responses to Some Notes on Southern Manners and Etiquette

  1. David C. Gaar, Jr. says:

    I have never seen these rules in print, only communicated by word of mouth, a hand on the shoulder, or THAT look when you have slipped up. I was not only corrected by my parents, but friends, neighbors, and teachers, and I am so glad that I was. I am retired, looking back on life and missing my life in the South. I watch the news, interviews and such on t.v. and am constantly amazed at how people interrupt each other. Along with proper manners, to me the twin is proper English. Our language has been mangled by those who should know better, but aided by the computer.

    Your recommendation for thank you notes is so valuable. I was taught that they were your best friend and should always be sent in a timely manner. You would not believe how few I have received for graduation and wedding gifts, most of them were late, in horrible manuscript, not cursive and full of misspelled words. The ultimate disgrace and honor at the same time is to receive a thank you written in perfect English executing proper spelling and punctuation by a foreigner. Obviously other cultures respect and honor a gentility that has escaped our modern generation AND their parents.

  2. Thank you for commenting, Mr. Gaar. Here is another post that is specifically about Thank You notes – .

    These are the things that set us apart from much of the rest of the world. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

  3. Andrew Smith says:

    Please consider the idea of foxydeltan regarding 25 manners to be taught on kids. Please check it at

  4. Travis Hollington says:

    Dear Sir,

    I have read your post and I completely agree with these thoughts. I do however have to ask one question. Being a person who works in the engineering field and wears a hat/cap daily I find myself removing my hat/cap when I physically sit down (whether it’s a restaurant or anothers home.) I know this isn’t traditionally good manners but I feel if you stay long enough to sit then you should remove your hat/cap.

  5. Mr. Hollington,

    I believe that you are following the traditional rules of etiquette just fine. I don’t know the details of where that rule originated, but there are almost always some very practical reasons behind rules of etiquette – or any other social beliefs and traditions, for that matter.

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