Just Another Generic Southern Town - 4/27/2012
I am originally from northern California and teach at well known college in the area and have lived in the South for over two decades. In truth, Newport News has very little to recommend it. It's your typical car centric, blue collar Southern town. Lots of military, lots of poor blacks and poor whites. Large swaths of the city are rundown, blighted and crime ridden. The murder rate is high. Race relations are not at all good. There are some decent neighborhoods, but these are few and far between. Traffic can be very bad, especially on I-64 at rush hours.
Southerners here are like Southerners everywhere, they profess hospitality, but it's pretty much restricted to their own kind. And it's all bottom up, never trickle down. The term when applied to blue staters should more appropriately be termed Southern Hostility. They really do not care for people like me (Democratic, liberal, live and let live, western accent) and I can't say that they've endeared themselves to me either in all these years. It really is like a different country down here. My advice to anyone who has to move here from the North or Far West is to not get too close to the locals. In the end you'll say something or express an opinion that they don't care for and though they may not do anything about it immediately, they will get back at you eventually. It never fails. It's just the way they are. I call it the Sneaky Mean southern trait. You may think I'm generalizing or being unfair, and I truly wish I was, but my experiences in this regard have been so universally negative that I really think I'm onto something here. And whatever you do, never, ever, make light of their religion or even express the slightest doubts about the truth of their beliefs. This is the quickest way to run afoul these people. They are very insecure about many things and this rises to the top of the list. They will shun you as effectively as Old Order Amish.
Another word of warning to newcomers from outside the South. Be very careful when doing business with local auto shops or any kind of home repair business. Don't display political bumper stickers of any kind. A friend of mine had a NARAL sticker on her car, and took it in for an oil change, and when she drove home the fan belt snapped about five miles down the road. She took it to the nearest garage and was told that the belt had been cut with a very sharp blade about halfway through. Sneaky Mean. And you will be overcharged at every opportunity if they figure they can get away with it. Or they'll charge you for work that was never done at all. That's a favorite trick of theirs. They'll paint over your old muffler pipe or shock absorbers and charge you for new. Double check all of their work. And remember, skin color is still of paramount importance down here. There is no trust at all between the races. I could go on in this vein, but I think the point has been made.
I would like to say a couple of nice things about the area. Spring and autumn, though too short, are lovely around here. Winters can be very cold, and the summers hot and humid. If you live near water, and most of us do, the mosquitoes will keep you indoors from June to September. Hurricanes come through regularly and power outages can be prolonged. Traffic to the beaches can come to standstill at the HRBT and will back up for miles and miles in the summer. I think the beaches are overrated, especially the Outer Banks, but the people here think they are the best in the world. They all have a blue collar feel to them.