Sep 4, 201309:10 AM
Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer
Learning to Embrace New Orleans
I was really excited about all of the responses to my blog post last week, which was about New Orleanians being cold to outsiders. I received lots of comments, tweets, emails and even a nice voicemail. You all seemed passionate about the topic. There were those of you who agreed with me that New Orleanians can be less-than-friendly to new residents, but there were also those of you who thought New Orleans is very friendly to out-of-towners.
But despite all of the differing opinions, I noticed a theme in the general response. Here’s how one commenter put it:
… 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.
“If YOU embrace New Orleans, she will embrace you.” That was the echoing thought I learned while reading all of your comments and it’s an idea I’ve heard a few times since moving here. The concept seems like an easy piece of advice, but fully embracing a new place can be hard, especially a place as unique as New Orleans.
With all the fun things to do in New Orleans, all the food to eat and all the shows to see, you would think New Orleans would be an easy place to love. And usually I do love it and I love the people that live here. But then there are those times when I have a bad day in New Orleans, like when I get lost looking for a new doctor's office or when I miss snow around Christmas, and I instantly feel the culture shock and homesickness that comes with moving to a new city. It is then when I feel like a true outsider.
On those days I feel the culture shock of New Orleans, I have a fear of not being accepted, and I think that was the root of my blog post last week. To be fair to New Orleans, the fear of not being accepted can happen to anyone after moving to any city, and that's a lesson I learned way back in fifth grade.
It was in fifth grade when my parents told my brother and me that we were leaving Massachusetts to move to Missouri. Being the New England snob that I was, I was skeptical about life in the Midwest and I was so upset that I had to leave my friends. I even found a book called The Year My Parents Ruined My Life and I read it on the plane to Missouri. I thought the world was ending.
But a few months after moving to the Midwest, I was fine. There were some days I felt lonely and I missed my New England friends and family, but I soon found new soccer teams, new pizza places and new pals. There were the days my family had to deal with Midwest culture shock – like that first tornado warning… not fun – but all of those experiences made for good stories that we still tell today.
Now as a new Louisiana resident, I sometimes find myself missing Missouri, the state my fifth-grade self thought I would hate for the rest of my life. Even though I’m now a twenty-something, sometimes I have the same feelings I did in fifth grade, when I felt left out and I missed home, but I knew deep down I was fine. I know I'm beginning to feel like less of an outsider in New Orleans because I've started to feel at home here. I’ve found new doctors, new bars and new friends. I have a place to get my haircut, a favorite dry cleaner and favorite routes to take for a run. There has still been plenty of culture shock – Hurricane Isaac, the bumpy roads of Lakeview, the cockroaches... – but the experiences have all turned into stories I can tell my family and friends in Missouri and New England.
So I just wanted to thank you guys for the nice internet pep talks last week and for the advice about embracing New Orleans, both the good and the bad, in order to feel at home in this city. I will always miss the cities and states I’ve called home in the past, but as long as New Orleans is happy to have me, I’m happy to be here. I hope other New Orleans newcomers are happy to be here, too.