How to be a Good Neighbor in Nashville
The south is often stereotyped as being the land of the friendly stranger, where people you’ve never met are eager to hold conversations, open doors for you, and share their recipes. And in Nashville, it holds true. Music City dwellers pride themselves on being laid-back, down-to-earth, and good-humored, always glad to give directions or have a friendly chat in the checkout line. The city is growing and changing fast—growth recently slowed for the first time since 2011, with the daily population influx dropping to fewer than one hundred people)—and all these new neighbors means we could all use a refresher course on how to get along.
Embrace the Nashville spirit with these tips on navigating the city’s culture and making friends like a local in the 615.
Embrace the Lingo
Speaking of Southern stereotypes, the legend of the “y’all” looms large. A handy contraction appropriate for almost every situation, Nashvillians deploy this word at every available opportunity—it’s convenient, folksy, and to the point, so why not? Whether you’re speaking to a group of two or two hundred, “y’all” gets the job done better than any other word or phrase. “Y’all” transcends class, race, and age, and to be honest, will usually get you friendlier service in bars and restaurants as well. Don’t be afraid to give it a try—it may feel funny at first, but we’ll be thrilled you’re trying to speak our language.
Nashvillians are also fond of endearments like “honey,” “sweetie,” and “sugar,” so don’t be alarmed if you hear these terms from strangers. We’re just trying to be nice, and since we tend to think of strangers as friends we haven’t met yet, we’re inclined to be affectionate. A spoonful of “honey” sweetens any request or direction, and we also try to keep it clean with our words in respect of the diverse beliefs Nashvillians hold. Public profanity is a no-go. So if you’ve moved to Nashville, toss in a “y’all” every once in a while to assure us that the things which brought you to Nashville—the friendly laid-back spirit, the Southern hospitality—are the things you hope will stick around as we grow.
Try the Local Institutions
When it comes to restaurants and bars, our city has an embarrassment of riches. Dozens of new places open (and close) every year, and although the restaurant bubble may have reached its peak, many local mom-and-pop institutions have weathered the boom and survived. Don’t be afraid to forego the latest Instagram-famous bistro in favor of a tried-and-true local favorite.
Varallo’s Restaurant in the Arcade Downtown has been serving up chili since 1907, bringing both loyal locals and curious travelers to this classic luncheonette. The Elliston Place Soda Shop opened in 1939 in Midtown, and it’s a true retro dream with neon lights and vinyl booths, not to mention the extensive menu of soda foundation favorites. Arnold’s Country Kitchen in The Gulch has been serving up homecooked “meat & 3” meals since 1982, and even as the neighborhood around it has changed dramatically, it still draws a lunch crowd Monday through Friday. Nashville loves a new concept restaurant as much as the next city, but we also love to support our neighbors who have brought us great food for decades.
Support Your Community Center
Music City has a tremendous network of 19 neighborhood community centers that offer classes, gym and exercise space, and youth programs. These are great places to make friends and learn new skills, and these centers contribute a lot to neighborhood health and livability. Class fees and memberships support their programs, so invest in your community and your health by heading to one of these sites.
McCabe Park Community Center has yoga classes and sports leagues, and it’s located in the heart of Sylvan Park’s restaurant row in case you need to treat yourself after a workout. 12 South residents have Sevier Park Community Center, adjacent to a beautiful greenspace filled with mature trees and open fields. Healthy and happy neighbors are good neighbors, so support the community center in your area.