Things You Need to Explain to Out-of-Towners About Charleston

You live in Charleston, which means that it’s a stone-cold, solid gold, straight-up fact that everyone you know is literally planning on visiting you right at this very moment. And who can blame them! But when they do arrive, there are a few things you’ll need to explain, so here’s a little primer:

We think we’re No. 1 (and for good reason)

Our beer is the best, our food is as good as that of NYC or SF, our people are the nicest, and our town deserves to be the number one tourist destination. Agree with us and let’s be friends.

Charleston has its own extremely specific culture

Not just Southern, or South Carolinian. We’ve been this way for 300 years. Our culture is hugely influential, but never forget that in many ways, we’re still a small town.

People you don’t know WILL talk to you here

They’ll say hello on the street, strike up a conversation while waiting in line, or think you want their opinion on where to eat dinner. It’s called friendliness -- you’ll get used to it.

We talk funny

And I don’t just mean the Southern accent (maybe it’s you who has an accent... think about that). Some local words just aren’t pronounced like they look, cases in point: Legare = lu-gree, Huger = u-gee (both streets), and pilau = pur-loo (which you should definitely order at The Grocery).

There is only one Bridge

Okay fine, there are half a dozen -- but when we say “The Bridge,” you can be damn sure we’re talking about the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

You need to bring a nice outfit

We like to get fancy, and we like to respect the ritual of dinner. To that end, a lot of the best restaurants in town have dress requirements. And even if they formally don’t, when you walk in, you’ll see they basically do.

The humidity will make you its b*tch

There are few places on this earth that are as hot and humid as Charleston in August. If you visit in the summer, don’t do silly things like walk The Battery at midday, and then complain about nearing heatstroke. At some points there are only three options: beach/boat, air conditioning, or porch drinking.

Public transportation can be a challenge...

Bus routes are hard to fathom, there are free bus trolleys running in some -- but not all -- areas of downtown, and traditional cabs can be tough to hail (and have an even tougher to determine rate structure). Downtown, opt for pedicabs when possible, or else thank your lucky stars that the city fiiiinally allowed Uber.

... And your GPS might get confused, too.

Roads aren’t always labeled well, to boot. And some of them have multiple names, such as Ashley River Rd (Highway 61) and The Crosstown (Septima Parkway). And then there’s all that water and all those bridges. Trying to get downtown from James Island or West Ashley might cause a complete meltdown.

The marsh is the beating heart of this region

You should definitely visit, but be reverent and don’t go traipsing about in it. Or do, and learn how hard it is to scrub off pluff mud.

The marsh mud is called “pluff mud”

And it’s supposed to smell that way.

The City Market and the Slave Market are two different things

Slaves were never sold at the city market, and asking for directions to the “slave market where we can go shopping” might as well be an unused Seinfeld episode.

It floods suuuper easily

Some of the city is below sea level, and many streets were once creek beds. If there is a flash flood warning on your phone, get thee to high ground.

We never get tired of oysters or deviled eggs


This is a working city, believe it or not

... And we actually work and live here, so please don’t treat it like Epcot and stand in the street and take pictures, or walk into our courtyards and stare. We’re trying to get the dog to pee before we leave for work.

Brunch is kind of a big deal

Sundays are brunch days, so plan accordingly for wait times and restaurant reservations. And the Bloody Mary is an unofficial drink of Charleston with three companies here producing mixes: Charleston Mix Bloody Mary, Fat and Juicy, and Natural Blonde. Gain local points by asking for one of these.

There is waaay more to see than the peninsula

Take some time to explore other areas, such as Folly Beach, Old Village in Mount Pleasant, or Sullivan's Island. Each little enclave has its own unique flavor, and there’s a ton going on.

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Stephanie Burt has called Charleston, SC home for 10 years, and she is grateful every day she gets to live here, despite too many mosquitos, a really confusing bus transit map, and the lack of good Indian food.