Some of us are forgetting our manners when meeting new neighbors in our town. What happened to our Southern charm?
We all recognize that there has been an influx of newcomers over the past year or so, as people from all over the country have discovered our little piece of paradise.
In a recent social media post, a newcomer made an innocent request for ideas about how he and other newbies could learn more about their new home and be involved in order to not “mess it up.” I believe he was asking how newcomers might assimilate into the community in a positive, meaningful way.
Snarky comments followed, and I won’t repeat them. Rather, I’d like to offer some suggestions that might help those seeking to know more about the vibe of Bluffton and understand why longtime locals seem so protective.
First, understand that, as our unofficial motto says, “Bluffton is a state of mind.” It’s just cool, eclectic and different from Everywhere Else, USA. We are laidback, quirky, a little old school, and a little rock ’n’ roll. To get a taste of this, you must go to the 50th annual Christmas Parade stepping off at 10 a.m. Dec. 4 in Old Town. This is where many of us display – even celebrate – our eccentricities.
You should know that we hold the May River in high esteem – I’ll stop short of saying we worship it, but some folks do. Long ago, this beautiful waterway was the Southernmost deep-water access to the state, and a dock at the end of Calhoun Street was where ships off-loaded goods and supplies. That part of town was the heart of commerce then, and it still flourishes today.
The river has provided sustenance for residents and is a primary source of entertainment – for swimming, floating, sunning, and boating. One look at the sandbar on a warm weekend and you’ll know where most of your neighbors hang out!
For local history, start at the Heyward House on Boundary Street. Look around the displays, hear about history from docents, and take a walking tour around Old Town.
If you’re on Facebook, join the group “You Know You’re From Bluffton When …” Here, you’ll get snippets of the culture from way back to now, relayed in stories by the people who lived it.
Visit the Bluffton Oyster Factory on Wharf Street. Go inside and inhale the aroma of fresh river-caught fish and shrimp, and oysters harvested the old-fashioned way. Make sure to go to an oyster roast. Learn why we eat local oysters only in “R” months.
Get to know longtime residents and ask about growing up here or raising a family here. You’ll hear their names over and over – McCracken, Toomer, Guscio, Frazier, Hamilton, Heyward, Cahill, Ulmer, Reynolds – the list is long.
Visit art galleries in Old Town, especially the co-ops, where resident members display their art. You can learn a lot about a culture from its local art.
You’ve probably found some great restaurants here, and you might not have found your favorite dish in any of them. But you’ll find a plethora of delectable foods, prepared the Southern way. Go with the flow! Try something new, and please don’t complain when the pizza, lasagna or sandwiches aren’t the same as where you came from.
Here are some are other ways to get involved and learn more: support local small business and high school sports; volunteer at a school or a nonprofit; go to town council meetings and get to know our leadership.
Finally, resist the urge to tell us what’s missing and what we “need.” We are aware we don’t have a lot of the chain stores and restaurants with which you are familiar. We’re cool with that.
We might not be like any folks you ever met before, but we are the very heart of the hospitable South, and we welcome you.