7 Alabama Customs You Must Know Before You Go

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An old couple smiles at each other while sitting on a wooden swing at dusk.

We’ve all heard the classic song “Sweet Home Alabama,” but it’s a warm, friendly place for visitors, too. However, this hinges on you following a few local customs or at least being aware of them.

Here’s our heads-up on how to fit in, or at least not stick out like a sore thumb, in Alabama.

Alabama Is a Beautiful State to Visit

As you travel around this country of ours, you learn that each state has its own personality. Some are bolder than others, and Alabama is no shrinking violet.

What comes to mind first when you think of Alabama? For many, it might be the state’s record of excellence in college football or its indelible civil rights legacy. Others might picture a Mason jar full of icy sweet tea.

The state’s natural scenic beauty inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd to write that song in the first place. North Alabama has breathtaking hills and canyons, while white-sand beaches decorate the state’s southern tip. In between, you’ll find thick forests and lush, green countryside broken up by inviting lakes and rivers.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama

7 Customs to Know Before You Go

The people of Alabama may not be aware of their charming idiosyncrasies. But, bless their hearts, they do have some distinctive qualities.

Here are seven things that help to characterize the endearing and hospitable people of Alabama.

#1 Respect Your Elders

Saying “yes, sir” or “no, ma’am” isn’t just good practice; it’s pretty much the law of the land here. Showing respect to those who are older than you is a trait passed down from generation to generation.

Be careful to address people appropriately and seek their advice on life decisions. In addition, it’s customary to give them a little special treatment in terms of seating arrangements or planning a menu.

Multigenerational family, grandson kissing in grandpa on the cheek.

#2 Hold Off on the Naughty Language

Watch your mouth, and not just in front of older folks. There’s a time and place for everything. Profanity is frowned upon as uncivilized behavior – especially in mixed company.

Choose your words carefully because people will definitely judge you by them. This isn’t to say that you’ll never hear an F-bomb in ‘Bama, just that the people around you will surely remember it.

#3 Treat Sundays Like Major Occasions 

Have you ever heard the phrase “wearing your Sunday best?” It means dressing up in your finest clothes to attend church, and not just on Easter. Every Sunday is a special occasion in Alabama, and people dress and act accordingly.

Church is the main event, but family dinner follows it right up. A good impression is extremely important on this special day of the week.

A multigenerational family attending church in their Sunday best.

#4 Prepare for Fried Food

Fried chicken is sometimes the centerpiece of that Sunday dinner, but it may also grace the table any other day. You might enjoy some fried okra or fried green tomatoes on the side, too.

Fried foods are a way of life in Alabama. One theory on why they’re so popular in this part of the country is the hot climate. Quickly frying foods won’t heat up the kitchen as much. Another likely reason: they’re delicious.

Traveler’s Tip: The South has so many amazing dishes to devour. Check out the top 8 foods you have to try (and yes, fried chicken is on the list.)

#5 Keep Family in Mind

Family comes first, right? It does in Alabama, and this sense of loyalty doesn’t end with parents, children, and siblings. An obligation of sticking together extends to uncles, aunts, and cousins, too.

Who you’re “kin to” can make a crucial difference in socializing and making important business contacts. Friends of family members are the next best thing, so nurture your close relationships while visiting Alabama.

A southern family enjoys the backyard with iced tea and snacks.

#6 Get Ready for Three Square Meals a Day

Your reward for waking up early is a big sizzling plate of freshly cooked hot breakfast. How do you like your eggs? Hopefully with a side of bacon or sausage, homemade biscuits or toast, and grits or hash browns.

Lunch, which they call dinner in Alabama, is a big affair, too, and so is supper. And yes, they’ll do it all again tomorrow. Sitting down for a big meal is a big deal – three times a day.

#7 Respect Porch Culture

Storytelling has a major role in the culture here, and many of those tales get perfected on the porch. Making time to relax and converse outside is a tradition. Sometimes it’s on the porch in front of the house, overlooking the street.

It could be, however, on a back deck or a screened-in side porch. The goal is the same; shoot the breeze and catch up on the latest gossip while enjoying the nice weather.

A young black boy with a cute hat and striped onesie sits on a rocking chair on a porch.

Enjoy Alabama Like a Local

As you travel around the country, it helps to know the ins and outs of regional traditions. Of course, there are exceptions everywhere, but these are some general guidelines on what to expect while in Alabama.

Knowing these kinds of things ahead of time can help you navigate what could otherwise be an awkward social situation. By adopting these particular behavioral patterns, you might feel like less of an outsider.

Where have you experienced culture shock?

Traveler’s Tip: Speaking of touring like a local, here’s how not to look like a tourist in Orlando, Fla.

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