How long do you need to live here before feeling like a local?
Usually a few minutes after getting the key, Washington transplants look at anyone arriving after them as non-locals. You would think physically being here and paying taxes is enough. Not so.
According to a recent poll conducted by Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance, a whopping 20 percent believe you need to live here your entire life to be considered a local, while 26 percent think just half your life. One day those standards may become so exclusive that only one 100-year-old person qualifies.
“The sentiment seems to be that you could live here for 15 or 20 years,” said KIRO Radio’s John Curley. “But if you weren’t born here, you’re not really a local and you don’t get the local badge.”
It clearly takes way more than simply avoiding umbrellas. Still, regardless of what the great gatekeepers of locality say, the question of interest to KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney is how people seem themselves.
“I am definitely a local, and I think it’s more interesting to ask the people living in Seattle how long they needed to live here before they started feeling like a local,” Tom said. “Not how we see them, but how you see yourself.”
Tom asked co-host John Curely, who’s been in Seattle for 20 years, whether he feels like a local.
“Nope,” Curley said.
“As a local myself,” responded Tom, laughing, “I would bequeath you the high honor of being a local in the Pacific Northwest. And yet you don’t feel that way. Why is that?”
“Because I didn’t go to school here, and my memories weren’t formed here. It was not the tree that I was swinging on,” joked Curley. “This was not the lake I played in, this was not the country club that I went through hard times in.”
Locals gradually getting outnumbered by Washington transplants
True locals may want to relax their admissions standards a little, since they’re gradually becoming outnumbered by non-locals. Census data indicates that Washington-born residents in King and Snohomish counties declined from 48 percent in 1980 to 44 percent in 2013, and another 2 percent between 2014 and 2015.
Locals have long griped about swarms of invaders, whether it’s Californians or tech workers or bargain-hunting Canadians. Based on data from the Washington State Department of Licensing, 16,155 Californians moved to King County in 2016, followed by 4,727 from Texas and 3,312 from Oregon. Not one would be considered a local, not that it bothers them.
For 20-year resident and self-described non-local Curley, “I don’t feel like there’s a Northwest culture that I’m walled off from, but this does not feel like my home.”
“But a lot of people that grew up here grew up with you,” Tom responded. “And so they see that you’re part of their childhood, even though they’re not part of yours.”
“That’s what makes me so interesting,” joked Curley.