Deep South USA

Deep South USA

Otherwise know as the ‘Bible Belt’; it’s home to the American Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, the birthplace of blues, jazz and rock and roll, but its greatest boast is that good old Southern hospitality, only found in the Deep South & Southern USA.

The Deep South folk are conservative, fundamentalist and dominated by Southern Baptists. Here, God has a real personal presence in many people’s lives. It is also snake country and some people believe that the snake is the embodiment of the devil. Down here, the life seems simplified; the big-hearted folks of the Deep South seem genuinely pleased to see you.

The beer is cold, the food comes piled high on your plate. The region is a little at odds with time and life seems to have slowed down. The Deep South is like a jammed little juke box bursting with the sounds of times gone by. It is the place that North America left behind in the wake of its whirlwind of progress and business, and the pulsing heart at the Mississippi River‘s end.

Travel Essentials

Cash

The currency of the United States of America is the US Dollar ($).

Check with your local currency exchange bureau for up to date conversions.

Costs vary greatly all over the Deep South, but prices tend to go up during festivals, the summertime and in city centres. Prices compare favourably with other US states. New Orleans has the highest costs for most things, and during the Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras, rates in the region can double or even triple.

Climate

In the lower part of the region the weather is hot, sticky and very wet for most of the year, whilst in the higher mountainous areas it is cooler. In spring it can be colourful, with wildflowers and gardens in full bloom. June – September is the high season to visit, although the winter is fairly mild and pleasant to visit the cities.

Dress

Dress is modern and relaxed, remember that some small towns are far more conservative than other US states so try not to dress immodestly and keep legs moderately covered when visiting churches.

People

The most populated states are Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana with a population of around 5 million each and half this number in Mississippi. White people are still in the majority in the Deep South, and cultural heritage is very different along the coast from the inland areas.

New Orleans and the coast were colonised by French and Spanish Catholics, almost a century later the inland areas were settled by Anglo-Saxon Protestants from Virginia, and today the city is the black centre of the region. Over the last 200 years, there has been much inter-racial mixing, so people of the Deep South tend to be quite hard to put into distinct racial or cultural categories.

Language

The most widely spoken language in the USA is English, although there is no official designated tongue. Folks in the Deep South have a distinctive ‘twang’ to their accent which is unmistakable. French and Creole are spoken in parts, particularly New Orleans.

Travel

Because of the inflexibility and comparatively high cost of the coach and train, if there are a couple of your travelling, the best way to go is in a hired car. A gallon of petrol in the States costs less than a litre of water and car rental is available for around $50 a day, though prices vary greatly according to location and type of car. This option will afford the traveller the most flexibility, but to rent a car anywhere in the states you must make sure you have a valid driver’s licence and be at least 25 years of age.

Visas

Most western nationalities and some Asian nationalities don’t require visas granted they are travelling as tourists and have a return ticket to their home country. These visas are given on arrival at the airport andare valid for 90 days. After September 11th these regulations are very much in flux so its very important to check with the nearest US embassy or consulate for the latest information.

Southern Food

Mississippi mud pie by Annieseats - Flikr Creative commons

The Deep South is famed for its food and its high sugar and fat content – this is no place to start a diet! Savoury dishes are often sweetened sugar or honey and desserts are legendary like the pecan pie and Mississippi mud pie (actually made from sticky chocolate!).

Fried Chicken from Kentucky is a popular dish of Creole origin, and corn on the cob, okra (ladies fingers) and black-eyed peas are traditional staples, as is ‘grits’ a tasteless corn porridge.

Barbecue ribs or other meat smoked on the fire and served with a hot and sweet southern sauce is great summer food fare. Soul Food and Creole cuisine are rich legacies of the African-American slave tradition, dishes include chitterlings (pig’s tripe), catfish, crawfish and Gumbo soup.

Cajun food is from a poor, white man’s tradition and a jambalay, spicy rice with assorted seafood and veg in a hot tomato sauce is about the most hearty meal you could desire.

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