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Cultural Faux Pas in New Orleans

January 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Submitted By Phin Upham

Every region has their own set of cultural faux pas (don’t get caught calling San Francisco “Cisco”). These small gaffes immediately designate you as the tourist. If you’re looking for the insider’s experience of New Orleans, avoid these conversational missteps.


It’s not “N’awlins” or “New Or-leens.” The correct pronounciation is hard to convey phonetically, but it sounds like “Nu-ah-luns” and “New Ahr-luns” are more accepted.

“Ya’ll” vs. “You All”

If you don’t want to be branded as the dreaded “Yank,” work “ya’ll” into your conversations. For city folk, the saying might seem odd rolling off the tongue, but it helps you fit in. Most New Orleanians are friendly people, so open with language they are familiar with and they will be more receptive.

Mardi Gras Misconceptions

Everyone has heard the stories about the women who flash for beads on Mardi Gras. They do exist, but outside of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter that behavior is looked down upon. Mardi Gras is actually a family holiday, believe it or not. Cops, bystanders and people on floats tend to look down upon people who expose themselves in front of children. Don’t expect beads, expect cuffs. Instead, try shouting “Hey, throw me something mister!”

Most tourists also incorrectly believe that Mardi Gras lasts for days at a time. In truth, the event spans a single day, but the festivities go from January 6th to “Fat Tuesday.” The season is known as “Carnival” or “Carnival Season.” In the most recent years locals have taken to calling the day before Mardi Gras “Lundi Gras.”

Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.

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