Trading in the Big Apple for Southern hospitality.

One friendly gesture showed Dr. Pankaj Amin and his wife, Neena, how common kindness is at Reynolds Lake Oconee. Now, they have left the big city to enjoy a gentler way of life.

After nearly 30 years in “The City That Never Sleeps,” Dr. Pankaj Amin and his wife, Neena, decided it was time for a complete lifestyle change. As frequent travelers and part-time residents of Baroda, India, where both grew up, the Amins had seen much of the world. Just not as much of the southern part of the United States.

“I had heard so much about ‘Southern Hospitality,’ but never actually experienced it,” Neena says. “We had never driven south of (Washington) D.C.”

When Dr. Amin retired after 24 years in a solo private practice in both Brooklyn and New York City, where Neena was the office manager, they wanted to find a way to enjoy life and, most importantly, relax. Their home in Sandy Point, New York, was not the answer. Both avid golfers, the Amins were first intrigued by Reynolds Lake Oconee after seeing the golf community featured in a magazine. They decided to pay the community a visit in 2003.

After enjoying a round of golf on the Great Waters course, the Amins needed transportation back to their cottage. Some Reynolds members struck up a conversation and offered them a ride — in their boat, which provided an authentic introduction to “Reynolds hospitality.” Although they didn’t purchase a home right away, this experience at the Lake Oconee community stayed with them.

While they were leaving their New York home, the Amins were determined to remain close to their family. At the time, their son, Anand, was living in Atlanta and attending Emory University, while their daughter Kavita lived in New Jersey with her husband, Brian, and the Amins’ young grandchildren, Calvin and Jaya.

In the end, it boiled down to the people. I think that's just what makes this community so special.

Given their previous experience at Reynolds, its proximity to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and their appreciation for the luxurious golf community, the Amins knew their search for a new home in the U.S. was over. A move to the South, which they made in 2005, might seem like a culture shock for those who have never experienced the Southern lifestyle. Learning to say “y’all” and having complete strangers wave to you — nicely — can be a shock to the system. Then there’s the food — and there's always plenty of it. Sweet tea, shrimp and grits or fried green tomatoes are unheard of to many, while to Southerners, they’re a part of culinary living.

There is much more to the Southern way of life, however, than the table fare for those that live south of the Mason-Dixon. There’s a culture. A deep-seeded idea of being “good” to strangers, partnered with long-standing traditions of delicious food, architectural gems and rich history. And for the Amins, it was just the right recipe.

“In the end, it boiled down to the people,” Dr. Amin says. “I think that’s just what makes this community so special.” Although the Amins are “truly enjoying winding down at Reynolds,” you can find Neena at her weekly yoga class and taking part in her international book club. She is also interested in sparking interest in her native culture within the Reynolds community (she is founder and former president of the Five Towns Indian Association in New York).

As for Dr. Amin, when he’s not enjoying the spoils of retirement, he can be found enjoying the spoils of nature. Two of his favorite hobbies — gardening and bird watching — keep him occupied most days. He hopes to reenergize and take on a new challenge, but for now, he is working on his golf game.

All of their friendly neighbors ... well, they’re just a bonus.

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