When I decided to move from a small town in New Hampshire to Charleston, the Holy City of South Carolina, I knew it would be “hot down there.” That seemed to be the biggest piece of knowledge I obtained from the millions of Q&A sessions I endured regarding my college decision in the months prior to my departure. “Oh, Charleston,” they said, “It’s hot down there.” The conversation usually continued from that hard-hitting fact with comments on Rainbow Row, the Battery and Folly Beach. It was true, what they said about the heat. So I sweat my eager little heart out as I lugged what I realized was an unnecessary amount up too many stairs. They really weren't joking around. I kept sweating down Rainbow Row, around the Battery and all the way to Folly Beach. As the weeks and months blurred into one short year in the most gorgeous city in America, I stopped caring about the heat. I found that there were seven things nobody told me about living in Charleston.
1. The Smell
Is it low tide? Did someone slow roast a carton of milk in the oven? Both at once? No, it’s just the smell of Charleston. The Kapstone Paper Mill isn’t located downtown on the peninsula, but winds carry a nose-scrunching smell of sulfur from North Charleston to King Street. I haven’t lived here long enough to get used to it…
2. The Sidewalks
Walking through downtown is a humbling experience. It is so easy to get lost in the beautiful architecture and the view of a sunset between sailboat masts that you might miss the challenge of uneven bricks below your feet. If you trip on a protruding obstacle made of the broken bits of Charleston’s sidewalks, do not fret! It’s called “The Charleston Shuffle” because even when you live here you catch yourself doing it.
3. The Rats
I saw my first rat running around the siding of a building. I saw the second when it fell from a tree before my eyes and the third was staring me in the face when I turned on the lights after spring break. Other rat sightings include locations like my dining hall and Chick-Fil-A. In their defense, it gets pretty rainy on the ground. In my defense, they’re just really gross.
4. The Church Bells
While in Charleston, it’s nearly impossible to travel more than one block without encountering another elaborately beautiful church. With that, it is definitely impossible to live for more than fifteen minutes without hearing a church bell. Especially on Sunday when bells erupt everywhere, all day on the peninsula. The church closest to my bedroom rings my new favorite spirited bell song at nine in the morning.
5. The Sirens
There are alarms and sirens constantly in any city, but there's something about the way the shrieks of horns on fire trucks and ambulances bounce off of the narrow streets that make Charleston unique. Reasons for such sirens include burnt popcorn, burnt Easy Mac and the occasional smoker in the dorms at the College of Charleston.
6. The Puddles
The rain isn’t hard to overcome with an umbrella and raincoat, but what’s leftover is the hard part. Even if it has rained days before you decide to leave the house, daunting puddles left sitting in the streets and sidewalks can ruin your favorite pair of shoes if you're not careful.
7. Tourist O’Clock
If you're planning on walking down King Street to admire the city you call home, plan a detour. The clock that the tourists use is different than local time; the folks with bucket hats and cameras strapped to their backs don’t have anywhere to be but the beach or their reservation. Learn to politely pass people while they trip on the uneven sidewalks for best results.