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Æthelthryth the Texan

North/south behaviors. Is this true?

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I was talking to someone recently who had a temporary relocation of 9 months from here (Houston, TX-ish) to a state way up north. He called me ma'am and we were joking around that he was making me feel old and he started telling me that people up north reacted to him addressing most people as ma'am or sir, or opening doors for people at stores almost as if he were from another planet. He said he got asked where he was from a LOT when he did these things, or if he was in the military. I found that hard to believe as to be honest, that seems to be the way more people I know around here act than do not. Is mean that's just how it is *most* of the time. Not 100% of people do, but I would say most. You hold the door open at a store/public place for people coming in or out around you, you address people you aren't close with- or at a minimum, people clearly older than yourself- as sir or ma'am in most day to day encounters, you chat with waitstaff or store employees, and you just generally be polite. Is this seriously a regional thing? I am not a well traveled person so I might be missing the obvious, but I felt like this guy HAD to be exaggerating. Is he pulling my leg or was maybe in an odd little pocket town or do people really have different norms on this stuff as you get north of the hot humid states?

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Polite, friendly, holding doors - yes, that is universal in my experience.

Ma'am and Sir - no, that is definitely a Southern idiosyncrasy. I hate being ma'amed; thankfully it happens only rarely here in the Midwest, and never when I travel in CO or PNW.

Edited by regentrude
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Polite, friendly, holding doors - yes, that is universal in my experience.

Ma'am and Sir - no, that is definitely a Southern idiosyncrasy. I hate being ma'amed; thankfully it happens only rarely here in the Midwest, and never when I travel in CO or PNW.

Is it because of the formality that you dislike it or something else? Just curious. It was kind of hammered into me as a child and I've kind of hammered it into my own kids. It never occurred to me that it would annoy someone.

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I am from the north and have been living in the south for 20 years.

 

I do not think he is exaggerating.

 

I don't teach my kids to use ma'am but my kids have picked up for themselves that it is expected. I know people have sometimes thought us rude when leaving ma'am off. I do remember holding doors but possibly without even a smile or eye contact with the person. I am used to the small talk now but it took a long time and sometimes still bugs me. Sometimes I just want to grab my gallon of milk without all the chitchat.

 

But...most of the time I am chatty now too 🙂 I much prefer southern life. Most days. Some days I am in a hurry!

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Well, here in WI, using ma'am or sir would be...not normal in most interactions. I mean, I'd use it if someone I didn't know dropped something on the street and I was trying to get their attention. But addressing anyone else that way isn't common here.

We do, however, hold doors and chat with waitstaff/store employees, so we aren't totally hopeless.

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My sister moved down south about a decade ago. She had to learn to teach her kids to say ma'am and sir down there because it would have been considered extremely rude if they did not use those terms when talking to adults. Up north that is a foreign concept to me unless you are specifically addressing your teacher or instructor.

 

Holding doors however should be univerasal

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Where I live (middle of Indiana)---people will generally hold the door open behind them (as in keep a hand on it til you grab it), but won't hold it open for you to walk through and then they walk through. Ma'am/Sir isn't really heard here aside from the occassional person shouting "ma'am/sir you dropped your wallet" or whatever.

 

As far as chatting w/ store employees/wait staff--some do, some don't. I really don't chat--I'll say hello and thanks, but I don't like getting into conversations with random people, plus it just slows things down.

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I've lived in a couple of states up North.  In one of them, people were polite, but distant.  In the other state people seemed to go out of their way to be rude.  And they actually seemed proud of their rude reputation!  Now that I'm in the South, I do find most people to be more polite and friendly.  It's unusual to stand in line for something without someone striking up a conversation.  I have noticed that when I travel to the citys of the South, that friendliness is a bit less.

 

And Ma'am/Sir - only in the South.  Never up North.  My dd has picked up the habit of "Yes, Ma'am/Sir" and took everyone aback at the family reunion we just had.  She may not have a strong Southern accent, but she has picked up the lingo.

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Polite--happens here and tends to be more verbal; where I'm from, people are less formally polite and definitely more terse. Holding doors--happens everywhere I've lived. Friendly is subjective, but people here are not super friendly. If you say hi to a stranger you pass, they look at you odd. Where I'm from, they look at you odd if you don't say hello as you pass. My parents get odd looks when they visit here and chat people up at stores or whatever. When people here go somewhere and strangers say hi or make passing comments on the street, it weirds them out.

 

When we traveled to the west coast, we found people more likely to talk to strangers. They were still polite and held doors.

 

Here ma'am or sir would probably only happen in a customer service situation, or a situation where you need to interrupt a conversation or get someone's attention, and you don't know their name.

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Is it because of the formality that you dislike it or something else? Just curious. It was kind of hammered into me as a child and I've kind of hammered it into my own kids. It never occurred to me that it would annoy someone.

I dislike formality in casual life (in the workplace, formal address with academic title is appropriate)

But most importantly, to me this is something you say to OLD people (I don't feel old enough to be called Ma'am. It conjures up an image of a little old lady or elderly matron, not of a modern professional woman)

or if you want to express a power differential.

My DS uses Sir and Ma'am to address his senseis and higher ranking adult judokas, and police officers.

 

To me, this for of address is not something you use among equals.

Edited by regentrude
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If you search for it you might be able to find the multiple zillion pages long thread on regional differences between ma'am/sir usage and acceptance.  I first ran into it a couple of years ago.  There were some very interesting responses on that thread.

 

In some areas it is considered flippant and rude to use those terms.  Like seriously rude.  Kids who have moved from the south to areas where those terms are not acceptable have been sanctioned by schools or sports organizations for being "rude" using those terms.  In other areas it isn't necessarily rude but it is considered odd.  Of course, then there are areas where not using those terms is considered rude.  Very definitely regional and some pretty strong differences and reactions, depending on the area.

 

As for holding doors open, that seems to be less of a strong difference between areas but yes, I think that is becoming more of a regional thing over time.

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The only people who address me as madam are the hotel doormen, porter, airport shuttle driver and military. I am definitely north of Texas but I don't think of California as a northern state.

 

As for opening doors, I have people kind enough to open doors for me from Arizona to Washington state. Holding open a door so it doesn't hit the person behind you would be a common courtesy though.

 

However our extended family don't chat with store employees or wait staff because of our personalities.

 

When the air force, army and navy called to recruit me after high school, they joke about me being called madam when I finish Officer Cadet School. So the words madam and military are subconsciously linked in my social circles.

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This is just so fascinating to me. But after reading these replies I don't think I could handle living up north! I would feel so isolated and it almost would feel hostile that I would have to worry about offending anyone! That would be a hell of a thesis project though on how the differences came to pass.....I'm sure it's definitely been done. It honestly never occurred to me to give it much thought though outside of your stereotypical NY skits or something though.....

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I grew up in Pennsylvania and went to college in the South.  I picked up the habit of saying "sir" and "ma'am".  I went home for the summer and got a temp job.  On my first day of work, I answered my boss with "Yes, sir" several times.  He literally called over everyone in the office (about 20 people) and demonstrated my "talent" by asking me a few questions.  I knew I was being set up, but still respectfully answered "Yes, sir" or "No, sir".

 

It actually is rarely heard where I grew up.

 

Also, when I first moved to the South I was offended when a young man would hold the door open for me.  Where I came from, doors are generally only held open for people who are handicapped.  My brother (don't we all love younger brothers) realized at Christmas that I had gotten used to having the door opened for me.  When we went to the mall, he pretended to hold the door open and then slammed it in my face as he walked into the mall without me.  When I caught up to him, he just looked at me and said, "You're not in the South, anymore, Honey."   :lol:

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I don't know.....we recently relocated to the south.  We have had to teach our children how to say ma'am and sir.  I don't find the people here particularly friendly though, compared to the Midwest.  (Compared to the NE, the people are definitely kinder.)  But, the aggressive driving, machismo swagger, and degradation/objectification of women combined with a strident racism....eh, I'm not convinced that the South is kind.  A Southern will offer you iced tea and bless your heart and then run over you with their monster truck in the HEB parking lot.

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Polite, friendly, holding doors - yes, that is universal in my experience.

Ma'am and Sir - no, that is definitely a Southern idiosyncrasy. I hate being ma'amed; thankfully it happens only rarely here in the Midwest, and never when I travel in CO or PNW.

 

I agree.

 

We've traveled around the US, the eastern half of Canada, and a handful of (English speaking) countries.  Using sir/ma'am is just a southern US or military thing.  Most other places it's considered rude or odd except in certain very specific circumstances (like valet service).

 

Holding doors is very universal.

 

Chit-chat is more of a rural thing - anywhere.  We've had great conversations with folks all over, but it's far tougher to get folks to speak in cities or suburbs of cities than it is in rural areas.  Rural folks love to talk.  We prefer rural (but we've had success and good conversations in cities too - we're that persistent). ;)

 

All of those are generalizations, of course.  There are always exceptions, but in general...

 

Hubby is from the south and was taught sir/ma'am.  He had to learn our FL and northern ways (FL is mostly imported north, so more northern than southern in custom) and realize we were NOT bringing our kids up as he was. (My kids were all born in FL - we moved to PA when my oldest was four.)  Fortunately, he could look around and learn quickly.  He dropped the terms himself too - except with his family.  Our kids learned to pick up the words for his family - no problem - but they don't use it elsewhere.

 

When new kids from school come from the south they also adapt very quickly.  At our school they don't get in trouble for it.  They just learn the local custom and don't have a problem with it.

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This is just so fascinating to me. But after reading these replies I don't think I could handle living up north! .

 

I live in the south (in a big city), so the sir/ma'am thing is somewhat common but certainly not universal. I grew up in a military family & though I knew a lot of military families who used it w/in their own families (as well as w/ others), that was not the case in my family.

 

I agree w/ a PP who mentioned that it is generally used more for addressing someone older (as in quite elderly).

 

It does lose some of it's charm, though, when used incorrectly. Ahem. I was in a Chick-Fil-A drive-through a few years ago. The kid there called me 'sir'. (I was wearing a plain brown fleece top & my hair was very short.) He then changed it to ma'am. AND, then back to sir again. :rolleyes: :lol: At that point, it would have been better to give it up. I'm perfectly fine w/ being addressed w/ a "Good morning", a "Good afternoon", or a "Good evening" & calling it good. Even "hi" or "hello" w/ a smile works.

 

And, as gender identifiers are falling more & more by the wayside, I don't really see the use for sir or ma'am in the longer term. Imo.

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Since he said opening doors, not holding doors, he might mean getting doors for people when he is not already going through anyway. Holding a door you just went through might be universal, but going out of your way to get a door for someone is not universal.

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Is it because of the formality that you dislike it or something else? Just curious. It was kind of hammered into me as a child and I've kind of hammered it into my own kids. It never occurred to me that it would annoy someone.

 

This is me too.  And my dc.

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I dislike formality in casual life (in the workplace, formal address with academic title is appropriate)

But most importantly, to me this is something you say to OLD people (I don't feel old enough to be called Ma'am. It conjures up an image of a little old lady or elderly matron, not of a modern professional woman)

or if you want to express a power differential.

My DS uses Sir and Ma'am to address his senseis and higher ranking adult judokas, and police officers.

 

To me, this for of address is not something you use among equals.

Yes, that is my feeling, too. We had an employee who was from a southern state and he always used Ma'am when talking to me. It felt weird to me because I viewed him as a peer. I was older than him, but only by a handful of years. I wouldn't say I *hated* it, because I know this was his upbringing and he felt I was in a position to be respected. But I did always notice it.

 

I don't usually say it unless major deference is wanted: police officer, professor, clergy.

 

Maryland has a blend of northern and southern culture. Some areas are friendlier and more chatty, while others are more down-to-business and aloof. I personally like a more aloof style.

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I don't know.....we recently relocated to the south.  We have had to teach our children how to say ma'am and sir.  I don't find the people here particularly friendly though, compared to the Midwest.  (Compared to the NE, the people are definitely kinder.)  But, the aggressive driving, machismo swagger, and degradation/objectification of women combined with a strident racism....eh, I'm not convinced that the South is kind.  A Southern will offer you iced tea and bless your heart and then run over you with their monster truck in the HEB parking lot.

This also I think is regional or maybe more community based.  There are some areas of the South/towns I have been to or have live in that are really friendly and they will give you the shirt off their backs if you need it.  Nearly the entire town will show up to help if you are in trouble.  And they are genuinely friendly. There are other communities/areas where they will smile, call you honey and trash talk you as you walk away.

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I generally find people to be polite.  Holding doors is very common.  Pleasant conversation and manners is normal.  And we do it all with any ma'aming.  Ma'ams and Sirs are only as sincere as the person using them.

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Since he said opening doors, not holding doors, he might mean getting doors for people when he is not already going through anyway. Holding a door you just went through might be universal, but going out of your way to get a door for someone is not universal.

I very rarely see someone opening a door they were not already going through. I do it once in a while if I see a woman struggling with a stroller or someone with mobility assistance who might find it difficult to open and hold a door while going through. But if someone lept up to open a door for me just because I'm a woman, that would take me aback; I do think that general idea is very "out" where I live.

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I very rarely see someone opening a door they were not already going through. I do it once in a while if I see a woman struggling with a stroller or someone with mobility assistance who might find it difficult to open and hold a door while going through. But if someone lept up to open a door for me just because I'm a woman, that would take me aback; I do think that general idea is very "out" where I live.

 

What you are describing is what we've found to be common in the south too.  I can't think of a single time anywhere that someone has come to open a door for me that they weren't going through unless I was in need (pushing grandma in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, carrying a bit of stuff) and that happens in the north (even cities) as much as the south.

 

I agree with a pp that most people simply are polite.  Whether they are chatty or not depends a bit upon their personality and we seem to find that more common in rural areas.

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What you are describing is what we've found to be common in the south too. I can't think of a single time anywhere that someone has come to open a door for me that they weren't going through unless I was in need (pushing grandma in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, carrying a bit of stuff) and that happens in the north (even cities) as much as the south.

 

I agree with a pp that most people simply are polite. Whether they are chatty or not depends a bit upon their personality and we seem to find that more common in rural areas.

I totally think there are urban vs rural differences at play. I was raised in a small town in the upper Midwest and people were super chatty. Now I live urban and it's less so I've seen that during travels too. We have done a bunch of really long road trips.

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This is just so fascinating to me. But after reading these replies I don't think I could handle living up north! I would feel so isolated and it almost would feel hostile that I would have to worry about offending anyone! That would be a hell of a thesis project though on how the differences came to pass.....I'm sure it's definitely been done. It honestly never occurred to me to give it much thought though outside of your stereotypical NY skits or something though.....

Well if it helps you feel any better about the north, my husband has a new coworker who just moved from Houston, where she grew up, to the PNW. We saw her and her husband walking in our neighborhood last week and invited them up to our porch. We ended up chatting for several hours, and she said that she found people out here much, much friendlier than Houston and still wasn't used to how polite other drivers were.
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Well if it helps you feel any better about the north, my husband has a new coworker who just moved from Houston, where she grew up, to the PNW. We saw her and her husband walking in our neighborhood last week and invited them up to our porch. We ended up chatting for several hours, and she said that she found people out here much, much friendlier than Houston and still wasn't used to how polite other drivers were.

 

Polite drivers exist?!?!   :eek: Yeah, that is one thing that I will say we do NOT have. Or talented drivers either. We're maybe not as bad as Florida, but probably close. And everyone seems to be armed here too, so yeah, that would be a nice change I guess! 

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I'm from the midwest. Ma'am makes me uncomfortable. I personally find it almost a class issue, not just being polite.It feels too subservient to me. My mom is almost 80, grew up in the rural midwest and never used the term and hates to be called ma'am too.  We lived in the south for a few years and never made ds use it. He didn't want to and we didn't really care. If people were going to judge him rude because he didn't say a word or two but was otherwise polite and kind, that was their issue. 

 

We do hold doors for people. 

 

I think there are just different cultural norms of how one operates in public. It doesn't mean the people are colder or less kind when you're not in a short public interaction. 

Edited by elegantlion
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Door opening happens in the PNW here but it's not dependent on gender like I have noted in parts of the south. Sir and ma'am and Miss firstname- that is definitely something I only hear around here from southern transplants or sometimes military families. I only use sir and ma'am to get the attention of elderly people who I don't know their name. Like, an older man left his wallet on the counter and I run after him to return it.

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Polite drivers here. We open the doors for each other, but only when it's reasonable, like if we're already going through and don't want it to slam in someone's face. We never, ever, ever say Sir or Ma'am. I would feel very, very awkward saying Sir or Ma'am. It would be like calling someone my lord or my lady. Just completely not part of the culture.

Edited by Garga
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I grew up in Oklahoma. Sir and ma'am was not common in my area. You did hear it, but it was very rare. In GA it's more common but most people I know rarely say it (save for police officers, etc.). Dh is from Alabama where it is considered rude not to say it.

I don't know.....we recently relocated to the south. We have had to teach our children how to say ma'am and sir. I don't find the people here particularly friendly though, compared to the Midwest. (Compared to the NE, the people are definitely kinder.) But, the aggressive driving, machismo swagger, and degradation/objectification of women combined with a strident racism....eh, I'm not convinced that the South is kind. A Southern will offer you iced tea and bless your heart and then run over you with their monster truck in the HEB parking lot.

I wonder if you live near me. When I moved here, everyone said Southerners are nice, until they get in their cars.

 

I've lived here for 16 years. Insincerity is rampant.

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I was talking to someone recently who had a temporary relocation of 9 months from here (Houston, TX-ish) to a state way up north. He called me ma'am and we were joking around that he was making me feel old and he started telling me that people up north reacted to him addressing most people as ma'am or sir, or opening doors for people at stores almost as if he were from another planet. He said he got asked where he was from a LOT when he did these things, or if he was in the military. I found that hard to believe as to be honest, that seems to be the way more people I know around here act than do not. Is mean that's just how it is *most* of the time. Not 100% of people do, but I would say most. You hold the door open at a store/public place for people coming in or out around you, you address people you aren't close with- or at a minimum, people clearly older than yourself- as sir or ma'am in most day to day encounters, you chat with waitstaff or store employees, and you just generally be polite. Is this seriously a regional thing? I am not a well traveled person so I might be missing the obvious, but I felt like this guy HAD to be exaggerating. Is he pulling my leg or was maybe in an odd little pocket town or do people really have different norms on this stuff as you get north of the hot humid states?

 

I think what is considered "polite" varies by region. As a southerner, I observe the same general manners that you have described here, however I do know some people who think it's intrusive to be asked "How is your day?"

 

Pssst: They aren't from around here.... :leaving:

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Holding a door open you were going through anyway or for someone with a stroller, lots of small children or handicap is not unusual anywhere but walking ahead to do it because someone is female would be. You do not hear sir and ma'am in the north. I would have a hard time living in the south and having my kids being expected to say it. It sounds subservient to me. I know it is common in the south so I would think the person is from the south if I heard it which would probably be obvious by the accent anyway.

 

I visited the south a lot and I do not find people more polite. In some areas people of the north people do have less of a filter and that can be a little hard but that is not everywhere. Sometimes in the south people will do niceties or say things like bless your heart but it is obvious they are judging you.

 

I agree that being more chatty is common in more rural areas and not in suburbs or cities.

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I'm from the south and spent this past summer living in MO. I found that the people up there were "rude" as all get out by Southern standards. I loved a lot of things about this past summer, but the "rude" culture of the locals was not one of them. I'm happy to be back home.

 

 

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I grew up here in NC and have always lived here. For me, this is not an age or class or power issue, it's simple politeness. I say "ma'am" or "sir" most of the time to other adults, including to store clerks much younger than me. I frequently reply "Sir?" when my husband calls my name to get my attention or if I realize he's said something to me I didn't catch, not out of any subservience, just as something better than "Hunh?" or "What?" (I'll do the same to others). It's an acknowledgement that I've heard him and am paying full attention to what he's getting ready to say.

 

There's also the "ma'am" or "sir" used for emphasis, where the stress is on the "ma'am/sir" portion of the phrase, or the more casual "yes'm" (usually from kids to adults).

 

There's also a difference between "ma'am" and "madam"---the second would be very odd and out of place. I've only heard that in older movies.

 

I hold doors for anyone coming through after me, male/female/young/old, and will get up to open a door if someone seems to be having trouble, likely to have trouble, or has their hands full. I also thank anyone who holds a door for me and I talk to everybody. :)

 

I heard the most overt racist talk I'd ever heard when I was in Los Angeles in the late 80s/early 90s for my cousin's wedding--much worse, honestly, than I heard on any regular basis growing up here in the 60s and 70s.

 

It's interesting. When my daughter was in preschool, they had the woman who founded the school come to talk to parents, as she was considered a guru in child-raising by the school. She was actively discouraging us from saying "thank you" to our children when they did something for us or the family. As I remember, she thought it was distancing them and not treating them like family. To me, that's basic politeness, and family deserves it as much as any stranger. She was also vehemently against "ma'am/sir," almost militantly so. This was in a UU church preschool, so many of the folks there were from somewhere else, often outside of the South, as I think was she (UU's are not very thick on the ground around here ;) and the denomination is a relatively recent transplant--I think the main one was started in the 50s in our area). It seemed very tone-deaf to the cultural norms. I had to say that I was a Southern woman raising a Southern child who was attending this school in a Southern city, so they were likely to hear "ma'am/sir" from her. I didn't ask them to demand it of her or correct her if she didn't, but I certainly didn't want her chastised if she did.

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I live in the NE. Polite, yes. Hold doors? Yes...even in (gasp) NYC.  In fact, I have always found the people in NYC to be extremely polite and super helpful.  But I don't live in NYC, not by a long shot. I live in a small city and people are generally very polite, say good morning when you walk past them on the street, nod hello when you see someone on their porch, wave thank you to people who kindly give you the right of way when they don't have to etc. People will go out of their way to help someone with a stroller etc.

 

But no ma'am, miss, or sir unless someone works in a store or is a senior citizen. I think that's why it hits my ears wrong. It either sounds like you think I am a waitress or am 95 years old. It is generally not said to anyone you are remotely familiar with.

 

And kids call the parents of their friends by their first name. They are expected to mind their manners and say thank you, excuse me, may I, and all of that. But we're all on a first name basis.

 

 

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In our state (way up North!) people are generally very nice and friendly, will hold the door, and chat with you at the grocery store check-out, etc.  No one says "ma'am," but if a Southerner happened to visit here and call me ma'am, I wouldn't mind it at all.  Why would I mind it?  I think it sounds polite.

 

 

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I have heard that it's insulting in some places to use ma'am and sir.  That makes me a bit afraid to use it without knowing for sure how it's understood in a given place.

 

Where I live, it would be an oddity but not an insult.  I think "ma'am" is more common than "sir" here.  I use "ma'am" when I want to get the attention of a woman whose name I don't know, i.e., "excuse me ma'am, you dropped something" or "excuse me ma'am, can you tell me where the shoe department is?"

 

Sometimes I call my kids "ma'am."  I'm not really sure why I do that.  Maybe it's because it takes me too long to remember their names.  :P

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Oh, and we certainly hold the door for each other and stuff like that.  I think that's pretty universal in the USA.

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These things are definitely regional. The first time I visited California from England to visit my brother and sister in law, one night we went out for dinner. The server came and started a conversation with us. I was so confused by the extreme familiarity with which they chitchatted that I had to ask my brother and sister in law if they knew her, to which they replied they had never met her before! They were, that's just how it is here!

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Where I live (middle of Indiana)---people will generally hold the door open behind them (as in keep a hand on it til you grab it), but won't hold it open for you to walk through and then they walk through. Ma'am/Sir isn't really heard here aside from the occassional person shouting "ma'am/sir you dropped your wallet" or whatever.

 

As far as chatting w/ store employees/wait staff--some do, some don't. I really don't chat--I'll say hello and thanks, but I don't like getting into conversations with random people, plus it just slows things down.

I do the door thing here in NYC but the chatting totally freaks me out. Esp when they're commenting on my groceries "that yogurt is SO good" like I need confidence in my dairy choices. I don't do small talk though...so when I do go to (say) Indiana I mostly hide in the car or appear rude.

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Polite, friendly, holding doors - yes, that is universal in my experience.

Ma'am and Sir - no, that is definitely a Southern idiosyncrasy. I hate being ma'amed; thankfully it happens only rarely here in the Midwest, and never when I travel in CO or PNW.

 

For the UK experience: the same as described by Regentrude, with an addition that 'Ma'am' and 'Sir' tend to sound sarcastic, as they are not normally used.

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I'm originally from the south, moved to the southwest in my late teens, then gradually migrated northwest until I found myself in the Pac NW in my 40s. This is my personal take, of course, but I find the overt politeness of the south almost passive agressive. Sure, they hold doors and say sir and ma'am, but god forbid that you forget. your entire family plus half gthe town will know of your faux pas by nightfall.

 

Desert southwest -- nice to hold doors, about 50 percent do (usually the 50 percent you judged to be drug dealer or worse end up being the politest. Book, cover, judging --  we all know we shouldn't and then we still do....).Sir and ma'am only used towards those obviously older than you.

 

Gateway states, like Colorado -- doors, yes. Sir and ma'am, actually offensive unless obviously a little ol' granny. Still, friendly is really friendly and they don't care a whit about family history, unlike all those folks I grew up with in Texas who judged us for the behavior of relatives we didn't even know we had.

 

Far northwest (WA) -- holding doors -- absolutely. Seriously, is this not normal to an extent just about anywhere? Everyone I meet holds doors. They could care less about formalities. Excuse me is normal verbiage. Ma'am and sir are reserved for older peeps (which fortunately I still don't qualify as. Did I mention that I was in my 40s?) Younger people (ME ME ME, yay!) are still addressed as " hey man," or "excuse me, miss" if it's a stranger trying to get my attention.

 

 

Overall viewpoint. Yes, southern hospitality is a thing. But, it isn't necessarily genuine if you are born and bred to it. Much of it is purely show. Basic manners, though, tend to be present everywhere.

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I live in the Philadelphia area.  Holding doors, letting others go first, etc is pretty normal around here.   It's been normal in the 4 states in which I've lived (besides PA:  NY, CA, and OR).

 

I've never lived in the south but I have always considered ma'am and sir to be polite forms of address.  If I am out and a man holds a door for me or does some other little kindness, I may say "thank you, sir."  I've never noticed a negative reaction.  I don't tend to use ma'am as much because women seem to see it as a negative.  I am sometimes called ma'am and I don't care.  It is better than someone who is 40 years younger than me saying "miss." 

 

I don't understand why anyone would be offended by these things.  The US is a big country and people move around.  It seems like people could get it that customs differ in areas other than their own.  Life is better when people don't assume the worst of others, particularly when it's something as innocuous as a form of address to a stranger.

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I'm from the northeast and have family in the South. They say mam/sir as a habit, but I mostly hear it said around here ironically. I wouldn't be offended but would be surprised if someone said it to me seriously.

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I have lived in the South many years now but lived in two other regions of the country before landing here.  I regularly spend a part of my summer in New England.

 

I too find most people to be polite.  Saying "ma'am" or "sir" is not a measure of manners in my opinion.  It is simply done in some places--not in others.  For example, when a Midwestern family member worked as a bank teller, she always used "ma'am" or "sir" or addressed the customers by name if she knew them.  But her children did not use "ma'am" or "sir" around the neighborhood.  It was not the cultural norm.

 

The area in which I live is also home to a number of retirees--youthful retirees if you know what I mean.  The most rude behavior I witness is from this lot who often seem oblivious to the world around them.  These are not the frail elderly, rather people who who might be late for their golf outing.

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Definitely regional.

 

People aren't being rude by not chit chatting.

 

I live in the South now (NC) and I am amazed that everyone needs to talk to me all the time.  I went back West to visit and I walked into stores and wasn't followed around, wasn't talked to, and to be honest, I found it very refreshing.   I don't like strangers asking me personal questions.  I never have.

 

They ARE NOT being RUDE!  They are just not into your person space.

 

And as for ma'am and sir, I felt old when people said it to me, at least for a while.  Now I am ok with it.  I can remember in CA if someone said ma'am it was almost rude.  You might get a  "don't you ma'am me! " reply.  It can either be a jab at age or a feeling like the person was bossing you around and you were following orders.

 

 

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