I’m going on the record: West Virginia is the friendliest state in the U.S.
This past weekend I did my second visit to West Virginia in the past six months. I’ve probably been there once or twice a year in the last ten years, and my experience is always the same: beautiful scenery, incredibly nice people, and a few chuckling moments.
You see, if you visit any state near West Virginia, you’ll hear them make fun of the state. “They’re backwoods hicks!” “Watch out for those banjo players!” You get the idea.
Yes, West Virginia has it’s share of ‘good ol’ boys,’ and even a handful of folks who seem to be a few fries short of a Happy Meal… but they are the nicest bunch of people you’ll ever encounter.
Allow me to summarize my observations:
1. Plenty of good ol’ boys: There’s a big difference between a ‘good ol’ boy’ and a ‘backwoods hick’ with three teeth! I’ve met plenty of good ol’ boys in West Virginia. I’ve met more backwoods hicks in Rio Linda (about 20 minutes from my house in California). This weekend I was hanging out with a youth worker named Chris. Chris was definitely a ‘good ol’ boy.’ We were starting to unpack some boxes and I asked him, “Isn’t this where a good ol’ boy would have a knife in his pocket to open up these boxes?” He smiled, pulled out a pocket knife and began cutting open the boxes. I laughted and told him, “I knew it! I knew you’d have a knife!” He smirked and said, “You know what we call a man without a knife around here?” I shrugged my shoulders and nodded– no idea. He folded his knife and put it back into his pocket, flashing another smile at me. “A woman!”
2. They know their reputation, and aren’t all bent up about it: I spoke at a conference in Pennsylvania a while back and someone on stage made a comment about “Even some people from West Virginia are here!” The West Viriginia group whooped and hollered. They were West Virginian and proud. People made West Virginian jokes all weekend and no one got worked up about it. Most of them would simply retort, “We’re hicks, and we’re proud of it.” I remember even joking about ‘road-kill’ at the conference. One guy at that conference came up and told me, “You know, they just passed a new law in West Virginia that if you hit a deer with your truck, you can take it home and cook it!” I told him that it had never been a temptation for me.
3. They actually have manners: In California if you bump into someone in a store (particularly this younger generation), they will probably give you a hard look, maybe even flip you off and bark obscenities. In WV, they say, “Excuse me sir.” and smile. I was in Charleston, WV a while back and I was lost. I pulled up to a sidewalk and asked a guy for directions. This guy was ready to hop in my car and show me how to get there! Nicest people you ever will meet. I stopped by an Arby’s to grab a quick bite on the run this past weekend. Let’s be honest. Arby’s isn’t exactly a fine dining establishment. A teenager was walking in the door just before me. He stopped, held the door, then chatted with me about the weather when I walked in. Then the person working the counter smiled, called me sir, thanked me… it was amazing! In California there is only one place that treats you like that: In and Out Burger (They are trained that way). In West Virginia, everyone is like an “In and Out” employee.
If you haven’t been to WV… give it a try.
Don’t believe the hype. They’re not inbred, backwoods hicks. They’re incredibly friendly, they’ve got pocket knives, and they’re ready to cook you up fresh venison at any moment (just don’t ask them where they got it!)