Aug 28, 201308:26 AM
Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer
Is New Orleans Welcoming to Outsiders?
I often comment on this blog about the generosity and hospitality of New Orleanians. And it is true: New Orleanians can be some of the nicest people I have ever met. I love all my new friends, the people I work with and my neighbor who always opens the door for me when I'm hobbling through our apartment gate in heels.
But even with new friends in this city, I have recently been feeling that New Orleans newcomers like me are a bit unwanted.
I started thinking about this when I received an email from a guy after my blog post last week about my recent wedding planning and thinking about second lines. The email started with this sentence:
It is not your culture to second line.
The email went on to talk about how some people spontaneously start second lines and that second lining from St. Louis Cathedral is a new thing. But the email ended like this:
Would you go on an Indian Reservation and do a rain dance? If you aren't the real deal, don't be a poser. Let your wedding reflect you and not New Orleans. New Orleans will find its way in without you inserting it.
The email didn't seem mean and I don't think it was supposed to be. And the guy was right: I've decided to get married in New England where my fiance and I are originally from. A second line on the north shore of Boston would be odd.
Even though I'm not a New Orleans native, I'm still living here and enjoying it. But after reading the email, I felt like a true outsider. I have recently been feeling like I will always be an outsider no matter how long I live here and I will always be on the outside of New Orleans culture. I will always be someone just living here, trying to assimilate but I will never be fully integrated.
You might think it's weird that I got all of this from a short email, but this is actually something I've been noticing for a while. As more and more out-of-towners flock to post-Katrina New Orleans, I've been sensing that people who have lived here forever are not fans of the people moving in.
Why do I think this? Take the go-cup controversy. There's been lots of internet chatter about go-cups going away, which fellow MyNewOrleans.com blogger Tim McNally wrote about last week. When reading his post, I came across another post from the blog Kiss Me I'm Cooking. The post about the go-cup controversy included this:
If you haven’t kept up with the situation in one of America’s oldest cities that is doubtless the first music capitol in the nation, after Hurricane Katrina the area was flooded with a second scourge: nouveau riche and whinnying outsiders wanting to turn the city into an amalgam of every boring city they themselves have ever called home, taking advantage of wrecked properties to turn into cash cow.
In some ways, I understand this. No one likes the kid who comes to town and tries to change things.* So I can see why New Orleans lifers are getting frustrated with new people moving in and changing and complaining about things, but it sometimes comes off as not welcoming, like longtime New Orleans residents don't want us here. Even though business is going great, I often get the feeling that people miss the way New Orleans used to be before Katrina and that those of us moving to New Orleans after the storm are another factor leading to the city's changes.
I know I will never be seen as a true New Orleans local, but right now I feel like I'm in a limbo between tourist and resident. I will never be at the same level as a New Orleans native or someone who went to high school here. That's fine, but I don't think I should feel bad about being an out-of-towner. I'm still a New Orleans resident who likes the city. I'm just trying to figure out where I fit into New Orleans culture, which parts of New Orleans culture are appropriate for me to adapt to my every day life and what things I will never get used to.
I think the overall frustration about people moving to New Orleans is part of the huge rebirth New Orleans is going through and I get that. But some of us who have moved here like living here and we don't think crawfish is too spicy and we don't want go-cups to go away. Even if we're not part of the New Orleans culture, we can still appreciate it. I hope longtime New Orleans residents can appreciate us, too.
*UPDATE: An earlier version of this blog post included a story about a man suing over crawfish being too spicy and linked to this story from WeLoveNola.com. The website has now labeled the article as satire and also wrote this reponse saying it was "to poke fun" at the real crackdowns happening throughout the city. I apologize for the confusion. But we all remember the lady who sued McDonald's over the hot coffee, right? Sometimes life really is stranger than fiction. --Haley