Aug 28, 201308:26 AM
Nola Newbie

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

Our intent when we wrote the article was to poke fun at just how absurd and ridiculous the REAL cultural crackdown is on live music, go cups, parade vendors etc. - See more at: http://www.welovenola.com/2013/08/28/crawfish-are-not-in-danger#sthash.4lz1Jt4y.dpuf
Our intent when we wrote the article was to poke fun at just how absurd and ridiculous the REAL cultural crackdown is on live music, go cups, parade vendors etc. What was rather eye opening for us was just how many people thought this article was factual despite it being pretty ludicrous. I mean…a dude sues because his girlfriend felt a turkey neck left in a boil too long was excessively spicy? Come on people! - See more at: http://www.welovenola.com/2013/08/28/crawfish-are-not-in-danger#sthash.4lz1Jt4y.dpuf
Our intent when we wrote the article was to poke fun at just how absurd and ridiculous the REAL cultural crackdown is on live music, go cups, parade vendors etc. What was rather eye opening for us was just how many people thought this article was factual despite it being pretty ludicrous. I mean…a dude sues because his girlfriend felt a turkey neck left in a boil too long was excessively spicy? Come on people! - See more at: http://www.welovenola.com/2013/08/28/crawfish-are-not-in-danger#sthash.4lz1Jt4y.dpuf
Our intent when we wrote the article was to poke fun at just how absurd and ridiculous the REAL cultural crackdown is on live music, go cups, parade vendors etc. What was rather eye opening for us was just how many people thought this article was factual despite it being pretty ludicrous. I mean…a dude sues because his girlfriend felt a turkey neck left in a boil too long was excessively spicy? Come on people! - See more at: http://www.welovenola.com/2013/08/28/crawfish-are-not-in-danger#sthash.4lz1Jt4y.dpuf

 

Our intent when we wrote the article was to poke fun at just how absurd and ridiculous the REAL cultural crackdown is on live music, go cups, parade vendors etc. What was rather eye opening for us was just how many people thought this article was factual despite it being pretty ludicrous. I mean…a dude sues because his girlfriend felt a turkey neck left in a boil too long was excessively spicy? Come on people! - See more at: http://www.welovenola.com/2013/08/28/crawfish-are-not-in-danger#sthash.4lz1Jt4y.dpuf

Reader Comments:
Aug 28, 2013 10:34 am
 Posted by  uptowngrrrl

that article about the guy suing for spicy crawfish is satire - in the same vein as the onion. just an fyi.

Aug 28, 2013 11:01 am
 Posted by  TWomack

My partner and I visit New Orleans 3-4 times/year from South Carolina. We absolutely love the city, the people, culture, music and food. We feel completely accepted. New Orleans is New Orleans because of its people. While many have not returned, the ones who have seem to keep the traditions going. We will continue to use our vacation dollars in a city we have grown to love.

Aug 28, 2013 11:51 am
 Posted by  BRBob

My brother lives in Maine, and he says that people there highly resent New Yorkers because of their gratuitous advice. When the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory, New Orleanians resented the Americans. After all, they didn't even speak French. Give it time and it will work out.

Aug 28, 2013 12:33 pm
 Posted by  pmrichard

I moved to New Orleans as a teenager (from Boston). I will say it was quite a culture shock and I (bold) did not assimilate as quickly as I, and most of my friends, would have liked. This community ABSOLUTELY embraced me and tried to make me one of its own - though I fought against that for quite a while. When I had been living here about 5 years or so, I realized I was thinking of New Orleans as "home" more and more. And by the time I moved to Texas in my late 20's, it was New Orleans I was missing desperately! Fortunately, in my 30's, my husband and I move back to the city we love SO, SO much!

I think what I'm trying to say is, if YOU embrace New Orleans, she (and all her native inhabitants) will embrace you and never let you go! But, you have to accept her, with all her eccentricities and failings. If you do that, you will be appreciated by one and all. I know I have - my "native" friends hardly EVER call me Yankee anymore! :)

Aug 28, 2013 01:00 pm
 Posted by  localbroker

What an honest and intelligent piece! Thank you. As a true native I can assure you that you are not only welcomed, you are a needed part of the culture. That part being the endless stream of incomers that love it here and stay! There have always been many of you for the decades past that I can personally attest to, and we together laugh and love and extoll the virtues of having you here (while respecting the ownership of those priceless cultural gems you mentioned as being our closely guarded birthright).
But again, the many thousands of newcomers that fall in love with the place have always been a constant in New Orleans. Nothing new there. It gives us natives the opportunity to welcome, introduce special places, teach the subtleties, learn about your origins, and experience the joy of the process for both of us.
In my experience, I can say this is truly a part of our culture and we need you here. But we also need you to join us in the fight to preserve go-cups, over-spicy crawfish, etc.

Aug 28, 2013 01:20 pm
 Posted by  Haley A.

Hi guys,

Thanks to uptowngrrrl for alerting me to the satire piece on WeLoveNola.com. I just posted an update to this blog post. It's funny how a lot of people, including me, believed the article. I guess we were all punked.

Thanks for reading!
--Haley

Aug 28, 2013 02:09 pm
 Posted by  PdxtoNola

As a recent expat to New Orleans from Portland, Oregon (another city seemingly overrun by new residents), I'm with you. Briefly, I think you can only do your best to assimilate and embrace the culture and ignore the xenophobic.

I would, however, ask that you not use the example of Stella Liebeck-McDonalds case as an example of frivoulous litigation. You can read a brief legal synopsis at the following link (http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm), or watch the documentary Hot Coffee on Netflix.

Aug 28, 2013 02:09 pm
 Posted by  Patricia O.

I visit New Orleans every 2 months or so. I have been truly accepted by all the people in NO -- from the hotels, restaurants, Walgreen's, Sashay, Gumbo Pot, etc. They have always remembered me and made me feel like a part of the community. The man was correct in is e-mail about NO. New Orleans has to come inside and be a part of you. When I'm in NO I feel like I have returned home.
Just relax, and enjoy NO, and NO will be a part of you -- the way you talk, walk, and think.

Aug 28, 2013 02:11 pm
 Posted by  nola realtor

Haley, I am so sorry for what that email said and how it make you feel.

I am a 4th generation New Orleanian and can assure you many of us love the fact that you and many others just like you, are here...WHY? Because ya'll don't just have a job here, ya'll don't just live here....YA'LL LOVE IT HERE! Ya'll Love our City. And, I, for one, love all of you for that. My thanks to you and all the folks who have come here to help us and thought they would leave but fell in love with the city and stayed.

You are not a visitor, you are not an out-sider, you live here, work here and love and laugh here. Embrace New Orleans as your own and most of New Orleans will embrace you.

Aug 28, 2013 03:42 pm
 Posted by  NOLA_in_MA

Haley!
Oh please...I grew up in Gentilly and went to school Uptown. I might as well as been from another planet to my schoolmates! But only one "notch" above those living on the West Bank...

...but with that being said - the best part of growing up in New Orleans is that you go about your business and just accept what your neighbors are doing...and maybe even join in! You may be styled by Perlis or by a French Quarter Drag show...it's all OK with me! And I credit growing up in New Orleans for allowing me to just accept. That person who sent you that comment isn't a true New Orleanian - or at least the way I think someone from NO should behave.

So second line on the north shore, make sure all the tables have Mardi Gras beads, and make everyone wave their napkin to Irma Thomas for your first dance! Crack open the head of that lobster like a crawfish - that will absolutely horrify them!

Oh and make sure you ask any new person you meet what high school they went to - it will explain everything!

Signed, someone who truly misses living in NO & who currently lives on the southshore of Boston.

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Nola Newbie

Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer

about

Haley AdamsHaley Adams has lived in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Missouri, Indiana and France, but she now calls Louisiana home. After graduating from Indiana University in December 2010, Haley moved back to her home, Columbia, Mo., to work for Inside Columbia magazine and mooch off her parents. After a year and a half at the small city magazine, Haley moved to the South to be the web editor at Renaissance Publishing in August 2012.

In addition to managing MyNewOrleans.com and Renaissance Publishing's social media, Haley is the editor of New Orleans Bride, as well as an associate editor for Renaissance Publishing's other publications.

When Haley is not at the office, she is probably trying a new restaurant, looking for places to shop or exploring the South with her boyfriend, Chris, and their dog, Leila. You can reach Haley at (504) 830-7259 or haley@myneworleans.com.

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