In case you don’t know, my boyfriend, Nick, is British. We met when I was doing my master’s degree in England and have been dating long-distance for about nine months now. Long-distance is tough for sure, but we make it work by seeing each other as often as possible. We most recently got to see each other for a week back in January when he made his very first trip to America to visit my family and I before I headed off to Nepal to serve in the Peace Corps for two years.
When most foreigners visit America, they head to New York City, Los Angeles or Disney World. Maybe they visit the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains. They might soak up the sun in Hawaii or hit up the casinos in Las Vegas. Most of them, however, don’t venture to the South.
But, that’s exactly where I took Nick! And I’m here to tell you what you do when you bring a Brit to the South.
You Eat Lots and Lots of American Food
I’m not kidding when I say we each probably gained 10 pounds over the week. While Nick has obviously had some American classics, such as burgers, before, he also got to try quite a few new foods for the first time. For example, I introduced him to the iced version of tea and the fluffy goodness that is an American biscuit, both of which threw him for a loop. We went to Hattie B’s for some famous hot chicken, got some key lime pie at Cootie Brown’s and, of course, had a good ‘ole home-style southern BBQ, complete with mac n’ cheese, potato salad, garlic bread and all the smoky meat you can dream of (thanks to my dad!). I took him to Chick-fil-A, Pal’s (an East Tennessee legend) and Dunkin’ Donuts. We feasted at my favorite local Mexican spot, La Caretta, ate at my dad’s favorite restaurant chain, Chili’s, and even found time for a nice dinner date at Tupelo Honey in Asheville, North Carolina. But even after all this incredible American food, what was his favorite? The tater tots.
You Go to Wal-Mart
I’m not going to lie, I’ve never had so much fun at Wal-Mart. We went because Nick forgot his toothbrush, but ended up leaving with everything but a toothbrush. We made our way around the entire store, from cosmetics, to household goods, to toys, to clothes. Nick was particularly shocked by the guns and the fact that anyone can buy a machete at Wal-Mart. We went up and down every food aisle looking for the most American foods we could find and ended up walking out with a bunch of Little Debbie’s, pizza flavored Pringles, Butterfingers and Girl Scout cookies. A very successful Wal-Mart trip if you ask me!
You Go Out in Nashville
Nick and I spent our first two nights together in Nashville, the Tennessee state capitol and home of country music. There’s quite a bit to see and do in Nashville, from exploring the cool, hip neighborhoods, to stopping by the Grand Ole Opry, or even just taking a walk in the park. But probably one of the most famous things to do is go out on Broadway, the main party street lined with countless country music bars. Neither of us like to go out much, but Broadway is something you have to do in Nashville and I wanted Nick to get the full experience. When we got to Broadway that Friday night, we walked up and down the street, determined to find a good bar to check out. There were so many people and the music was so loud, it was just too much for two boring people like us to handle. Instead, we ended up at a nice, quite restaurant a block over where we snacked on nachos and sipped on some wonderful craft beer. Not exactly the authentic Broadway experience, but a great experience nonetheless.
Go to Bristol Motor Speedway
What’s more Southern than NASCAR? I grew up just 30 minutes from the Bristol Motor Speedway and, although I hate NASCAR, it was always a way of life in my small town. We got out of school twice a year for the races, went to the Speedway in Lights and ice-skating rink every Christmas and always dreaded the traffic that came along with race weekend.
So of course, I had to take Nick to see the legendary Speedway. Although NASCAR is definitely not a thing in the UK, he still knew about BMS (it is pretty famous, you know) and was excited to check it out. When we arrived, we found an open door, allowing us to walk right on in. We got great views of the massive Speedway, which dwarfs any football stadium in the UK, and had fun taking lots of photos with the classic “It’s Bristol Baby” sign.
You go to Bass Pro
With its big boats, ample hunting gear and many guns, Bass Pro is another classic southern place for a Brit to visit. Nick was really excited about this one too, since nothing even remotely close to Bass Pro exists in the UK. We checked out the boats first, wondering what it must be like to have one, before making our way over to the camping gear and then the hunting section, where the camouflage was overwhelming. Nick was particularly shocked by the huge selection of guns available for sale, ranging from handguns to rifles. And, just like everyone else in the world, he was amazed by how easy it is to get your hands on a gun in America.
You go Hiking
Okay, hiking in late January wasn’t the best idea. But we gave it a pretty good try. One of my favorite hikes in the area is Roan Mountain. Actually, it’s less of a hike and more of a walk once you drive to the top. However, it’s great when you don’t have much time but still want to get some spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nick and I woke up early and made the drive to Roan Mountain State Park, right on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. The only problem, it was FREEZING. Even though we were bundled up, the cold was too much to handle. We didn’t even make it all the way to the top before I got so cold, I insisted we turn around. However, we still got some great, snowy views of the mountains and, after we both defrosted, we thought it was pretty hilarious.
You Buy Moonshine in Pigeon Forge
I hate Pigeon Forge. There are too many people, too much going on and it’s not my taste, to say the least. However, that didn’t stop me from taking Nick because, let’s be real, it’s a southern classic. While Gatlinburg is well known for being the gateway to the Smokey Mountains, Pigeon Forge doesn’t really have anything going for it (unless you count Dollywood, of course). It’s just one major road lined with all sorts of southern-style shops and attractions, ranging from the hillbilly mini golf, to souvenir shops selling confederate flags. There was even a “Golf & Guns” shop, which Nick had little interest in, despite being a professional golfer himself. The one thing we were interested in, however, was the moonshine. Obviously, a Brit can’t come to the south and leave without some apple pie moonshine!
You Go to Asheville
One of the gems of the South, Asheville is not to be missed! Only an hour and a half from where I live in Tennessee, it was the perfect little escape. After our failed attempt at hiking in the cold, we drove around the mountains, making a stop in Blowing Rock for ice cream and fudge at Kilwin’s (one of my favorites!), before continuing on to Asheville. That evening, we got all dressed up and went downtown for a date night, where we checked out some of the breweries Asheville is known for and enjoyed an incredible southern dinner at Tupelo Honey, complete with delicious flaky biscuits and the best mac n’ cheese either of us had ever had. The next morning, we explored the town a bit and did one of the most Asheville things you can do, have a coffee at a very hipster coffee shop, before heading back to Tennessee.
You Play Pool at a Sketchy Bar
There’s not much going on in my hometown. Like at all, really. If you want to go out for a night of fun, you are pretty limited in options. However, my brother, being the popular guy he is, took Nick and I out for a few drinks and games of pool at one of those limited options. Wanting to pretend we are still young and fun, Nick and I tried our best to keep up his youthful, 21 year-old energy. The bar we went to was everything you would expect a bar in east Tennessee to be – sketchy, full of smoke and blasting country music. It definitely was not my kind of place, but I’m glad Nick got to experience something so Tennessean.
You Sleep in a Tree House
Yes, you read that right! Even in January, Nick and I managed to sleep in the most amazing tree house I’ve ever seen in the middle-of-nowhere Tennessee (shout out to AirBnB)! When we arrived, we found the tree house set back in the woods a bit, complete with a fire pit and hammock. Although small, the tree house had everything you could possibly want – a super comfy bed, a nice bathroom, mini fridge, TV with Netflix, a Keurig and even some fresh muffins! The best part, though, was when it finally got dark and the tree house came to life, illuminated by lights. It was absolutely magical and without a doubt, the highlight of our week together!
So there you have it – that’s what you do when you bring a Brit to the South. It was such a fun week and, although he was in culture shock, I think Nick enjoyed his first trip to America. I’m already looking forward to bringing him back so I can introduce him to even more American classics, such as Thanksgiving and, most importantly, American football!