Moving to Louisiana? You and I need to talk! They say the seasons of the year are even different in Louisiana. Most people have Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. We have Carnival, Snoball, Football, and Crawfish Seasons.
I moved here from Texas in 2000 and suffered severe culture shock. As it goes, I was more reasonably prepared for the change than the average person; I was from a hot, humid area (Houston), my stepmother was French-Italian from New Orleans originally, and I had studied foreign languages in school. Even so, nothing prepared me for the sight of drive-thru daiquiri huts and the Avoyelles Parish patois.
Over the years, I have enjoyed this area and believe that I would find life elsewhere mundane. This Texan can now cook basic Cajun dishes and cheers for LSU football (when they are not playing against my traditional family favorite Texas A&M.
Things I have learned since moving to Louisiana:
If you aren’t from SEC country you probably do not know about the extreme betrayal that LSU fans felt and the grudge that is harbored against Nick Saban who now coaches some other football team. That being said, Louisiana roots for all SEC teams over any other teams out there when it comes to the championship and bowl games.
1) Commenting on people’s college sports gear is required, whether it is “nice LSU shirt” or “dear lord why did you have to wear that crimson?” You do not have to have graduated from Louisiana State University to own every piece of “officially licensed” LSU gear and/or decorate your house completely in purple and gold.
2) There always seems to be fried chicken at funerals/visitations. When in doubt, bring some and leave it for the family in the funeral home kitchen. Especially if it is a long visitation time.
3) When you begin to make friends and wonder where everyone is most of the time…people tend to gather in their homes, the children play together while adults eat, drink, and visit. The kids never want to leave…
4) Adults are not addressed by their last name as I was taught as a child. Mr. or Mrs. Smith is reserved for school. Most of the time people call their elders Ms. Sue or Mr. Bob, regardless of age.
5) There are at least 3 different Louisianas- South Louisiana (Catholic & totally different accent), Central Louisiana (good mix of Protestant, Catholic, and Pentecostal & accents), North Louisiana (might as well be Texas, Arkansas, or Mississippi). Most Louisianans don’t really enjoy going to New Orleans very often and definitely only go to Bourbon Street when they feel compelled to take a curious visitor.
6) People will tell you when you look awful. I dearly don’t believe they mean harm, but hearing “you look awful today, what is the matter?” is commonplace. (I would have been beaten as a child for making personal comments)
7) Mardi Gras does not equal Bourbon Street. The Mardi Gras that tourists do and the Mardi Gras that Louisianans do is VERY different.
8) Louisiana people are very caring and there is a tight knit community feel (at least what I have experienced). If you open your heart to them, the gesture will be returned.
9) Mardi Gras is just one day, but Carnival Season actually begins on Epiphany in January and lasts through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras).
10) Mardi Gras krewes are a status symbol and a source of friends, connections, and entertainment ALL YEAR LONG. It is kind of like a Greek letter organization, but without the hazing (I believe). Every year each krewe elects a royal court and this person reigns over the krewe for the rest of the year. It is serious business y’all.
11) On weekends people go to their camps. This does not mean a rustic, tent camping site. These camps can be larger and more luxurious than some people’s homes. In fact, many times people’s camps are larger and more luxurious than THEIR home.
12) All the men tend to disappear during hunting season…literally and because they are constantly wearing camouflage. Hunting is serious business…it is the Sportsman’s Paradise here after all.
13) Weather… don’t plant anything until after Easter- there will always be one more cold snap before then. Don’t even bother getting excited about the cold weather until it is Thanksgiving or afterwards. We get snow every once in a while, but no one knows how to drive in it and everything closes. Just stay home and enjoy the family…
Hurricane season is another one you need to know about- the good thing is there is plenty of warning. Clear out the pantry and have room to shelter in case there are tornado warnings. Get the items on the emergency preparedness list, but add things that will entertain you if the power is out for extended periods of time. All in all, hurricanes are just opportunities for family bonding.
14) If you don’t put the straw through the slot of the lid, it isn’t an open container. Therefore daiquiris can be sold through drive thru windows. They are a mother’s best friend. (So I am told)
15) A crawfish boil is an amazing thing. The best kinds are where the host puts a folding table outside covered with plastic or newspapers and simply dumps the finished product on the table for guests to stand around and peel, eat, and talk. Shells are put to the side and occasionally swiped into a large trash can.
Some tips for newbies:
- ask for someone to show you their technique
- whatever you do- don’t touch your eyes
- sucking the head is optional and 4) the first batch is the mildest and it gets hotter as it goes on!
Oh, one more thing, if you are still hanging out when everyone is full you will be asked to help finish peeling the tails. These will be placed in a plastic zipper bag and will be frozen to be used in recipes at a later date like jambalaya, crawfish pie, or etoufee. This is where you earn your meal.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Heather Matlock, 318-229-7613, firstname.lastname@example.org