(I'm fairly inexperienced with the American South, too, but I try to look at it through the filters of people I'm fond of who live or have lived there. I listen to their experiences. Or try my best to.)
Poppy Z. Brite's stories about Rickey and G-Man, longtime partners who cook in the city, give me some of my inherited image of New Orleans, and Brite knew what he was talking about when he wrote these. (Those stories are some of my favorite writing by Brite, period, but keep in mind I'm a fan of Brite's. Have been for over a decade.) It's a more religious city than I'm used to, but it seems like New Orleans doesn't mind if its residents and visitors are religious or not as long as they respect the city. (I got a different vibe about religion when I moved to Hermiston, Oregon, the first genuine and non-suburban small town I lived in, in 1997: I think some who met me expected me to join a church and do so in a high-profile way, and didn't know what to make of me when I didn't. I remember feeling like one church I visited for a Hermiston Herald article was selling itself to me, seemingly hoping I'd become a member, and that rubbed me the wrong way. This was likely more a small-town issue, and obviously New Orleans is not a small town.)
(I did not expect this entry to go there just now.)
Respect. I like the idea, and appreciating the act, of respecting a place. There's a stereotype of a tourist who does not respect where they visit, instead just loudly barreling through a place, and I cringe at that stereotypical image. I hope those who live where I visit don't ever cringe at me as I pass through.
So. New Orleans. I would not be completely sure what to expect, but I look forward to the time I can try the city, see what I think of it and what it thinks of me.