It’s been about 11 years since I moved away from my home town, and when I tell people I’m originally from New Orleans, I still get certain reactions. So for my non- NOLA friends, here’s some advice on what not to say when you meet a New Orleanian:
1)You don’t sound like you’re from Orleans. Why don’t you have an accent?
Most of us don’t have accents, and those of us who do, sound more like we’re from New Jersey than from the South. (Although even that is not an apt description.)
What you should say instead: Where ya at? How’s ya mama an’ ’em?
Whatever accent we do have will come out in response to these questions. To my New Orleanian friends, yes, I can hear your collective eye roll. You’re thinking, Oh puleeze, nobody really talks like that. The truth is … some of us kind of do. You just don’t realize it until you don’t hear it anymore, and then you miss it.
2) Have you ever been to the Mardi Gras?
I know the concept of Mardi Gras may be foreign to you, so it’s OK if you have questions, but just know this one thing: Mardi Gras is not a destination. Would you ask, Have you ever been to the Halloween? Much like Halloween, Mardi Gras is a holiday that involves dressing in costumes and getting free stuff. It’s also the most fun when you’re a little kid. (Really!)
What to say instead: What’s your favorite thing about the city?
This may bring up a conversation about Mardi Gras, but it will likely bring up something much more interesting.
3) Is the city back?
New Orleans didn’t actually go anywhere, but I know what you mean by this question. You are dancing around the K-word. Yes, the city went through some very dark days and is forever changed because of it. We really don’t want to talk about that anymore. If you want to know how New Orleans is doing, then plan a trip and see for yourself.
What to say instead: What’s your favorite place to eat?
This will put an instant smile on the face of any New Oleanian, and will get you some useful recommendations for that trip.
4) Oh, so you’re Cajun!
Nope. See earlier blog post, Dear Floridians, for more information on this topic.
What to say instead: Oh, so you’re awesome! Yep. Because we are.
5) I went there once and hated it. I could never live there.
Excuse me while I take this dagger out of my back. As a native New Orleanian, this comment pains me. I can’t help but take it personaly, because the city of New Orleans is like a family member – a big loud, loving family member who wants to feed you and give you gifts and show you a good time. So when you say you had a bad time, you might as well say that you hate my grandmother. If you truly had a bad experience, it hurts my soul to hear that. New Orleanians desperately want you to have a good time and to love the city as much as we do. We want to make it right. We want you to give us another chance. Please!
What to say instead: Teach me to peel crawfish. Or Where’d you go to high school? Or Tell me about sno-balls. Or Let’s go get a drink. Or Let’s go out to eat. Or Show me how to make a roux…
Because just about anything is better than telling us you hate our maw-maw.