We’re No. 1!
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have noticed all the accolades Charleston has received in recent years. “Friendliest City in the U.S.” (Condé Nast Traveler, 2013)—absolutely. “Most Attractive People” (Travel + Leisure, 2010)—okay, I’ll buy that. “Best City in the U.S.” (Condé Nast Traveler, 2011 and 2012) and “in the U.S. and Canada” (Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, 2013)—you betcha. It’s when I read “No. 10 America’s Snobbiest Cities” (Travel + Leisure, 2013) that I thought, wait a minute—really? Sure, we have our fair share of hometown pride; after all, this is the town that historically claimed its rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, join at the harbor to form the Atlantic Ocean. But snobbishness implies rudeness; and here, in the land where etiquette expert Marjabelle Young Stewart’s “Most Polite City in America” award had to be retired because we’d won it so much, incivility is not tolerated.
Yes, the superlatives have gotten a bit out of hand, but they do bring the eyes of the world (or at least the travel-magazine-reading world) in on our longtime secret. With all this attention from “off,” we thought we’d examine why we love Charleston from a local perspective. In “Our Town” (page 124), photographer Dustin K. Ryan’s evocative images illustrate just a few of the reasons. They have a lot to do with authenticity—a deep-rooted sense of place and cultural mores—in a living, breathing, ever-changing seaside town. That’s not to say we don’t have issues to resolve; like any place else, of course we do. But when it comes to our foundation, we’re set.
As a cum’yah who arrived from another of the world’s gems—Santa Barbara—I knew I had found something special. Thirteen years later, I couldn’t feel more blessed. But I’m not one of those who wants to shut the door behind her. I love hearing about and meeting people who have “discovered” our fair city. However, I do have a few tips for them: read up on the region’s history, the good, bad, and ugly; learn the colloquialisms; cook a Lowcountry receipt (recipe); and adopt the polite mannerisms. And for goodness sake don’t complain about bugs or the weather, because—at the risk of sounding snobbish or rude—with all this good press, there’s surely someone ready to take your place.