From the Blog

Always a Newcomer

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Where I grew up, most people stayed put. You didn’t really move more than a town or two from you grew up.It could be a regional thing. It seems as though New Englanders are a fairly “rooted” type. But then, I imagine this is the case in small towns in any part of the country. I think I have family members who have never been on a plane.

I’ve moved around a bit. I know that there are plenty of other people who have relocated more than I have. And people who have lived in more exotic places. Or people who have moved someplace where they didn’t know anyone. I bet these people have better stories. I’m sure they have better shoes, a faster car and a cat that doesn’t claw furniture.

It’s been easier moving around to different parts of the country because my parents are also aimless drifters. They have moved around a bit as well They wanted to avoid cold weather, so they moved to Florida, then California. If my parents had stayed in Massachusetts, it may have been harder for me to leave the state.

I was the first in my family to move to California. My sister moved out a year later. Then my parents moved a few years after that. I’ve been dodging and weaving to see where they follow me next. Since it has snowed here in the past couple of days, I don’t think any of them will move to Oregon.

It wasn’t a big deal in southern California to be from some other part of the country. It was expected. When meeting new people in LA, it was surely among the first five questions you would ask a person. “Where are you from?” It was rare to meet a person who was actually from California. Most often, native Californians where nice, normal people. I think it is the influx from other parts of the country who were the silly people.

In my brief stay in Hawaii, it was to your benefit to try to blend in with existing residents. There is a lot of historical tension between native Hawaiians and newcomers. I never felt unwelcome, but I did everything I could to learn correct pronunciation of Hawaiian names and phrases. And I certainly did not tell people I was from California.

Oregon also has an element of fatigue when it comes to new residents. All predictions say that Portland is poised to grow to a million people, like, soon. There is a lot of buzzing and activity and development in Portland. There’s a lot of pride in the quality of life. Here, I also don’t tell people that I am from California.

I am coming to understand that there are levels of “nativeness” in Oregon. You could have lived here all your life, but if you were not BORN in the state, you are not a true native. Unfortunately, since I have just arrived, and I could only hope to live in Oregon for the remainder of my life, I will always be considered a newcomer.

I was informed of this in grave tones, as though I have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. “You will always be a newcomer,” sounded like: “You have horrible cancer. There’s no cure. You have 3 hours to live.”


  1. Just read up on this site:

    For Portlanders Only

    You’ll be passing for a native in no time!

  2. Yes, saying I was from MA & NH seems very honorable. People look at you different if you say you’re not from CA.

  3. We moved to rural Eastern Oregon about 2 years ago from Northern California. At first, folks were curious and fairly friendly. It has gotten worse instead of better. We are critiqued for everything we do. Comments like “that’s the way we do it here in Wallowa County” or “you don’t understand, being from California”. Plus, people in Oregon think all kids from California are gangsters. It is absolutely crazy! Consequently “outsiders” become social with other “outsiders” while the locals form their own little circle. It is quite sad and childish.

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