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College Issue: Live local and prosper 

New to town?

Before you start putting moves on her, there is something you should know about Savannah first ... she's pretty crazy.

Savannah isn't your typical Southern belle — she has too much of a personality to be categorized so easily.

Which makes her a little harder to get. But, trust me, it's worth the effort to get to know her.

Savannah may seem strange, but that's only because she is. To an out-of-towner it may feel like culture shock to go from a Northern city (let's say Chicago), and to move to a Southern city that he/she had never visited (like Savannah), and it may have made him/her feel foreign and out of the loop.

This may have made me, I mean, him/her, question everything about themselves.

The day I met Savannah was the day I moved here, years ago. And boy, did she seem cuckoo. There were a few things that, as an outsider at the time, I couldn't quite wrap my head around.

Like, why didn't anyone warn me about what the paper mill smells like?

Why can't I pull down the Spanish moss?

Or even, why is there a man dressed as Forrest Gump walking around and never breaking character? (And he never breaks character. I know now because I lived next to him.)

So, for all of the newcomers, there are a few things that you might want to know in order to get along with the Port City. Starting with the fact that the Port of Savannah is key to local economy.

Another key to local economy is tourism. And while you may want to sound like a local by complaining about all of the tourists and tour buses constantly moving through the city — know that actual locals appreciate these profiteering peoples. We like our local businesses' ratings on Tripadvisor, and we'd like to keep it that way. So, give them a smile or a wave when those buses drive by — be a model citizen of good ol' Southern hospitality.

And be ready to smile and wave constantly, to everyone, everywhere, all the time. In places like Chicago, I may have been able to get away with avoiding eye contact and not interacting with anyone at the grocery store line — but not here. It's good manners to greet strangers as they walk by — and besides, in due time there will be hardly any strangers left.

Once you've interacted with a handful of residents in Savannah, you're already linked in some way to half of the city. I'm talking, your roommate's coworker is the boyfriend of the girl who is friends with your first one-night-stand. (True story.)

And there will be no escaping it. Don't fight it, we will find you, and we will get to know you and ask you how your day is going.

There is a good amount of merit to reputations here. So, just know that "bless your heart" isn't a compliment.

Getting to know Savannah is easiest when you're open to her quirks. When you see adults drawing with chalk on sidewalks, or puppy parades, or humongous roaches scampering across your foot, you may want to turn the other way and run. But the only good reason to do that would probably be the roaches.

As for everything else, soak it in. The crazy may be contagious, but it's for your own good to contract the character. You won't survive otherwise.

And while you're charming Savannah, know to take things slow. It's actually the norm to get your coffee "for here." And with eclectic local coffee places like The Coffee Fox, or Gallery Espresso, brewing locally ground PERC coffee beans, it's easy to want to take your time and stick around, locally. (Am I saying "local" enough?)

Local businesses are where the good stuff's at. From the Forsyth Farmer's Market to boutiques on Broughton, there is local loot everywhere you look. Embrace the coastal creative and it will make you that much more cultured.

Despite the misconception of Southern cities, this isn't where culture becomes limited. Some of the best sushi I've ever had came from here. And, have you tried Zunzi's yet?

Savannah is a bustling place that is as sweet as Savannah Bee Company honey, and as complex as the locally brewed Southbound IPA, and it's as strange as the hauntings in the area.

Yes, one of the most well-known aspects of the Hostess City is that it hosts ghostly tenants. Believe what you will, but this detail makes Halloween an exceptionally fun holiday in this town. Speaking of exceptionally fun holidays, St. Patrick's Day can turn into the blurred memory of one. You'll get to that bridge when you cross it. (And only when you're 21 —I know you college kids these days.)

Being from out of town doesn't make you an outsider. It just means you have to spend some quality time with the city before you can call yourself a Savannahian.

Hiding in your dorm rooms or apartments won't get you far in this town. It does no good to avoid the oddities of Savannah — it may even have been the reason you chose to live here. She may be crazy, but she's a character people want to be around.

cs

Chrystal Arboleda Lopez is a Writing student at SCAD. As an editorial intern for Connect, she also waits tables to finance her appreciation for good wine and coffee.

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