Sometime in the last six months I really started to feel the traffic here in Nashville.
I knew that a crazy number of people (85+) are moving here every day, but it didn't really hit home until it took me twenty minutes to get through three blocks on Franklin road in Brentwood. I've lived here for thirteen years now and I remember when you could make it anywhere in the city limits in twenty minutes.
I started noticing other things too. For instance, people are driving crazier and flipping each other off more often. People grouse at their servers.
So for all you new folks, this is a little primer on what Nashville is really about, direct from a native, and how you can be a part of what makes this town great.
1) If you want to fit in, be ridiculously kind.
True Nashvillians are the nicest people you'll ever meet.
Southern hospitality meets open-mindedness. Seriously, it's almost too good to be true. People say hello, smile at strangers and actually care how you are when they ask. If someone sees another person who needs a hand, it doesn't matter how busy they are- they help. It's so unusual that it doesn't seem real or genuine, but it is.
This goes for driving, too. We do not flip people off. We do not cut people off. We do not do road rage. We do not speed. We do not tailgate. We do not zoom up past a line of cars. WE DO NOT. Please stop. I'm looking at you, people-from-LA. Seriously. That may fly in California, but here we understand that we are all just trying to get to a destination.
2) If you see a celebrity, do not approach.
It's always been an unspoken rule that if we see a celebrity out in public, we do not talk to them. We do not ask for their photo. We do not take their photo stalker-style. We do not scream. We do not attempt eye contact. We do not follow them.
We tweet about it ("Oh my gosh I just saw Johnny Depp in Whole Foods! It could be John Paul White though!") think "Nashville is so cool!" and get on about our day. Because celebrities are people too.
3) Support local and pay for what you consume.
Did your friend start a band? Go to their show already. Did you enjoy the show? Buy the cd already, it cost them thousands to produce. You can pry $20 out of your wallet.
Did you find out about a wonderful new clothing company in Nashville? (Imogene + Willie, Elizabeth Suzann and Nisolo are some of my favorites.) Save your money and buy thoughtfully; don't shop the mall. Buy less and consume for a purpose; they are providing well-paid local jobs to artists who need them. It supports our economy!
Did you locate a new local restaurant, or even an old local favorite that's new to you? Go there instead of to a national chain. The chefs here are ridiculously talented and we love their passion for feeding us.
Did you find a wonderful craftsperson, painter, skilled laborer or any other kind of artist? Don't haggle too much. They are trying to make a living and gosh, taxes are high.
Artists are the lifeblood of Nashville. They are what keep us unique, colorful and creative. From the start, this town has been about creative people. And they are having a really hard time making rent right now due to rising housing costs. If we show them love, we can keep what makes this town so special.
4) Agree to disagree.
Nashville is terrifically diverse. You're going to see a wild variety of cultures, ethnicities and religions. We have large minority populations; especially Kurdish and Hispanic populations.
There's a smorgasbord of religions here; enough Christian churches that if you throw a stone in any direction, you'll hit one. A huge Christian Science Center. A dozen Jewish temples. Several large mosques. Many meditation centers for Buddhists. So many religions!
You'll meet people from every political background here, too. Somehow we all get along, though it's been a bit tense this autumn. You'll still find Republicans and Democrats clinking mugs at the newest coffee shop.
Welcome to Nashville. You'll love it here. We are so happy to have you!