Relationships

Did Your Hometown Shape Your Personality?

Car by Ben Wagner

It’s official: I am a New Yorker. I’ve lived here for more than 10 years (that’s the rule, they say), but this bustling city will never be my true hometown…

New York has infiltrated my core: you’ll often find me debating the sauce-to-crust ratio on a slice of pizza; if you snag my cab you’ll feel my fury; I walk down the sidewalk at record speed. Yet my deepest roots are still firmly planted in the redwood groves of Northern California, where I spent my formative years — and the longer I stay here, 2,300 miles away, the deeper they feel.

Visiting my small town of Fairfax this Thanksgiving, after a rainy night, I walked outside and took a deep breath in. The crisp aroma of pine and wet dirt filled my nose, and I was overwhelmed by a bittersweet sense of home.

Even back in New York, my Northern California-ness pops up in little ways. The first thing I do when searching for an Airbnb is check the hot tub box. I embrace the weirdo in everybody, and believe that a long hike or a ripe avocado can solve most problems — but it goes deeper than that. My childhood friend, Sarah, who now lives in Atlanta, says it well: “I’m not the most outgoing person, but growing up among so many musicians and free thinkers in the Bay Area taught me how to be honest and open about my feelings. I’m comfortable pouring my soul out and believe that nothing should be off limits or shameful among friends.”

Loren took the reverse path — she grew up in Georgia and now calls California home. But her childhood lifestyle has receded since she moved. “I love the sweet tea, dancing, boating and country music of the South. But my life now is all about work and friends on the West Coast, which feels quite different from my church- and family-centric hometown.”

Clare, who’s originally from San Antonio, Texas, tried to curb her Southern vernacular when she moved to New York seven years ago. “I stopped saying ‘y’all’ for a couple years because it was a dead giveaway that I was from Texas,” she explains. “But it’s an excellent word, and I’m proud of my roots, so it’s now back in full force.” Still, she never shed her native instinct for Southern hospitality. “I’ve always tried to help people out and I show up when I say I’m going to,” she says.

Of course, not all people from the same place fall neatly into a formulaic box. But, interestingly, a 2013 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed regional differences in personalities. For example, for people living in the South and north-central Great Plains region, friendly and conventional were the most common traits; while relaxed and creative were the most common traits for those in the Western and Eastern seaboard areas.

“I was born and raised in New Jersey, which, thanks to the Jersey Shore TV show, doesn’t always have the best reputation,” says Maria, a writer living in Manhattan. “There are lots of stereotypes: That we love malls (I’m personally guilty), that we don’t know how to drive (absolutely true), and that we all have terrible accents (not true).”

Minnesota-bred graphic designer, Ben, has also heard all the lines when he tells friends in New York where he’s from. “People are like, ‘Oh yeah, Minnesota?’ Then I say, ‘Yeah sure, you betcha.”
 He’s ditched his accent (except when he’s tipsy), but still identifies as a Midwesterner. “When I first moved to New York, it took me a while to get used to how brusque and fast very fast people are here,” he says. “But I’ve learned that New Yorkers are actually super generous, just more guarded in public because they’re usually on a mission.” Ben admits he’s become more impatient himself, even as he tries to stay laid-back. “Overall I’m still super easygoing — which I think is a Midwestern thing. I’m also very family-oriented and try to be authentic and nice.”

Not everyone leaves their hometown, and many of us are compelled to move primarily by work, school or a relationship, rather than a desire for change. One thing that’s almost universally true: it’s easier to notice the nuances of where you’re from (and which traits rubbed off on you) when you take a step away. The actress Helen Mirren said: “Where you grew up becomes a big part of who you are for the rest of your life. You can’t run away from that. Well, sometimes the running away from it is what makes you who you are.” 

And maybe that’s a good thing. In an Atlantic article about the psychology of home, the environmental psychologist Susan Clayton says: “For better or worse, the place where we grew up usually retains an iconic status.”

At the end of the day, no matter how many pieces of black clothing fill my New York City closet, I’ll always crave my hometown food (burritos), root for my hometown team (49ers!) and really, really love those Redwoods.

Where are you from? Do you still identify with your hometown?

P.S. Deciding where to settle down, and parenting around the world.

(Photo by Ben Wagner.)

  1. Most definitely! Growing up in White Plains, New York, an idyllic suburb of New York City, shaped every bit the person I am today.

  2. Amy says...

    I grew up in Utah, but have lived in New York for 15 years (10 year in Brooklyn and 4 in Westchester), at first I found New York too fast-paced and stressful, but now when I visit Utah I feel bored and anxious at the slowness of the pace and realize why I moved in the first place. While I’ll always love the mountains of Utah and the niceness of its people, New York is really my home now and I feel like I’ve found ‘my people,’ which is an amazing feeling.

    • Kat says...

      I too moved to NYC from Utah (but now live in Oregon :) ). I remember going back to Utah and feeling so strange about how empty the streets were…like SLC was a ghost town to me! It was so odd to feel like my hometown was too slow for me. I get it.

  3. Ashley says...

    It’s so strange, as I was an army brat, so I can’t tell exactly HOW I was shaped by all the places I’ve lived. Without a way to identify with a “home town” –we moved every three years, I feel like an amalgam of so many cultures & perspectives! Do I consider the place I did high school home, or the small town I did college in? I’ve lived in Austin 8 years now, making it longest I’ve ever lived somewhere, so is THIS my hometown (even though I’m moving in a month or so?)!?
    Sometimes I wish for a place to return to–for the nostalgia of walking into the room I was a little girl in, of seeing old posters on the walls, or the history of growth marks on the jamb. I think what it must be like, to have known your best friend since you were both in diapers, or to have let a junior high crush mellow into a good friendship.
    I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that my family is my home–my siblings have been the same in each location, and our bonds are pretty strong. All the in-laws joke about not letting us be on the same team for games, as we have all sorts of inside jokes & nonverbal cues that let us “cheat”! They are the people I’ve always known, that have been on all the adventures with me!

  4. Linda Sand says...

    I spent the first 15 years of my life in central Illinois but the town was not my primary influence–the small church we attended was. We weren’t particularly religious but our social life centered around that church. That’s where I would see my grandparents and cousins. That’s where we attended box socials and square dances and Halloween parties. When we went camping it was with other families from church. In the rest of my teenage years, whenever we would go home the highlight of the trip was attending the Sunday evening youth group where I could catch up with my friends. So, as an adult in Minnesota looking for a new community I, of course, went to church. But, it’s not the same since the people here have not known me since infancy.

  5. Melinda says...

    I love this!! I’m originally from Southern California, studied at the University of Maine and I’ve been living in Switzerland for 14 yrs now! Talk about an adventure. Which one I consider home – not sure? All of them have shaped me into the person I am today.

  6. Sierra says...

    This article found its way to me with the perfect timing. I have been doing a lot of reflecting on this over the last few years and this article really resonated with me. I grew up in a small town in Colorado and moved to Chicago a little over a year ago. In some ways you can blend into your new surroundings, but in other ways you stick out like a sore thumb. But I feel it too – as much as I love the vibration of this big city, I find the longer I am here the more my heart craves and appreciates the quiet mountains.

  7. Erin says...

    I grew up in Traverse City and Grand Haven, Michigan, both small coastal Lake Michigan tourist towns, but have lived in Nashville for the past 20 years. Growing up by the beach and in the northwoods definitely shaped me. I always feel so calm and centered in either setting.

    I would say that much of Michigan definitely falls into the very friendly category, but it’s a different friendliness than the Southern sweetness/politeness of Nashville. It’s a very genuine, open, easy-to-read friendliness (less reserved than some of the other upper midwestern states).

    It took me awhile to learn to navigate the read-between-the-lines way of communicating that happens under the facade of Southern politeness (now I can easily tell who’s being genuine and who’s being “bless your heart” fake (I admit I do kind of love that phrase, though). I ended up marrying a guy from New Jersey, who’s straight-forward to the point of bluntness, but also a total sweetheart who would never mean to be actually rude. It cracks me up to see him interact with Southerners- they’re either slightly horrified at his bluntness, or they absolutely love it.

    There are a lot of Michigan transplants in Nashville and there’s a certain camaraderie when we meet. We all immediately ask “Where are you from??” and proceed to do the “hand map” that all Michiganders do. There’s a very strong state identity. Now that I’ve lived away from it, I can even spot regional differences of accents within the state (I laugh to think that I once thought that people from Michigan don’t have an accent. They have a pretty strong one, haha!). I still catch myself using certain colloquialisms, like “Where at?” and “C’meer!” and I will probably never say “Y’all.” The correct term for me will always be “You guys”

    • Bethany says...

      I grew up in Ohio and now live in Tennessee, and I identify with so much of what you said here, Erin! The reading between the lines here in the South, the different versions of “friendly,” and especially those colloquialisms you mentioned. My husband always teases me about my “where at” and “you guys.” Even when I’ve visited Chicago, I can tell I’m close to home – it’s like a subconscious sigh of relief and familiarity whenever I get to go back to the Midwest.

  8. denise rodriguez says...

    Born and raised in the concrete jungle of NYC. My beloved city definitely shaped me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I decided to bow out of the hard knock life in 2003 and ventured south. I still dream about moving back to NYC but then I visit and remember why I am here and not there. I have lived in the east and west coast and my heart is all over the place. I love fall days in NYC, summers in Northern California, winters in Hawaii and Spring in South Florida.

  9. abrs says...

    Being a San Diegan (born and raised!) was always at the core of my identity. Mostly because, whilst growing up in a beach town in the north county, I looked like the opposite of whatever many considered a someone who lived by the beach. That is, a first generation Indian-American, who was one of 3 immigrant Indian families living in our town. I always felt I had to prove I belonged since I didn’t fit the stereotype. Four years ago, my husband, kids and I moved to Austin, TX. I find I identify more and more with how the SoCal life defined me. I find some aspects of the relaxed/beach life here, but I’m still not at peace with being landlocked. I’m sure I annoy friends on a regular basis comparing life here to San Diego, but I can’t help it. I miss the burritos, beaches and friendly people. And the sunsets…Nice to read that I’m not alone in missing my hometown. People always ask where I’m from and I say “I’m from San Diego, but now I live in Austin.” Wonder if that will ever change?

  10. Arg! I wish I could say my hometown shaped me, if only I knew my hometown! I joke when people ask me where I’m from: “where do you want me to be from?”. Having moved around so much was jarring but ultimately shaped me. So, I love your post. And I’ll continue my quirky use of “y’all” from my Bama days, my creative, wine-fluent, PAC-12 vernacular from the Bay Area, and affiable frontier-ish from Oklahoma. We are who we are!

  11. Jessica says...

    I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and as I get older I realize just how much where I come from has shaped my personality and outlook on life. One eyeopening experience was a photography workshop I attended in California a few years ago. There were people from all over, but mostly the west coast. I was hoping to be broken down, totally inspired, make amazing connections, etc. I’ll first say that I can get along with everyone and I’m pretty laid back and shy for the most part. But there was something about that experience that made me feel SO incredibly different from people in that world. Like a couldn’t allow myself to fully open up, I wanted to call bullshit on things and mostly looked around noting the lack of diversity. I’m sure most of it was my own hang ups but I think so much comes from the area and people I grew up around. People from the South Side can be seen as having a chip on their shoulder, which may be true, but we’ve also been described as keeping it real, and salt of the earth. Funnily enough I ended up feeling most comfortable being myself with small group of people who were from New Jersey, and I’m interested in that comparison to see what those areas have in common!

  12. Gab says...

    I’ll turn 25 in May and will have moved about ten times. I’ve lived in big cities and in villages, in France and in Canada. For a long time the question I feared most was “So, where are you from ?”. It was heartbreaking to have to say (to strangers !) “Nowhere in particular”. I had this feeling that I was putting a lot of myself out there, that I had to justify myself. It was awful especially when meeting in-laws for the first time, I could read in there minds “Oh my god, she’s a girl with family issues !!!”.
    But with time, I have learned to turn this into a strength. I may not have a “home”, but I do carry with me pieces of every places I’ve lived in. I love the sea and I am used to living outside, but I can also navigate in huge cities like Paris, I know skiing and I can understand the Canadian accent of the Maritimes !
    Now, when people ask “where are you from ?”, I just answer “From everywhere !”

  13. Stacey says...

    I grew up in Oregon and it shaped me tremendously. I miss it a lot and am always proud about sharing where I’m from! The fresh air smell after the rain, being so close to massive forests, everyone being polite and down to earth. Then I lived in NYC/Brooklyn for 10 years, and adapted to that big city life, but am so happy to be in San Francisco now where I feel more at home around “west coast” people. Plus there’s sunshine, unlike Oregon! The rain never bothered me growing up, but I don’t think I could handle the dreariness now as an adult. It’s interesting how the pull of hometown nature and values becomes stronger as I get older – maybe it’s a 30s/settling down thing. It’s fun reading how proud other people are of their hometowns too. Where we’re from really does shape us!

    • Savannah says...

      I lived in Portland from 6 to 30 years old. That will always be home. I will always say “back home” and mean Portland, and it has absolutely made me who I am, from the way I interact with people to the way I drive my car to the way I long for cold rainy days in the winter. Oregon forever.

  14. Tara says...

    New Yorker born and raised. Can.t inamgine being anywhere else. I’d love to visit, but New York is where the center is. It’s just that simple.

  15. I was born and raised in New England, went to college close to home in Boston, then spent the next ten years traveling all over the country for work. I got to experience daily life in Chicago, LA, New York, Louisville and New Orleans before moving back home in my early thirties. Before I went, I couldn’t really see the forest for the trees – the accent, the progressive political values, the odd but lovable mashup of our highly intellectual and salt of the earth cultures. Having been the New Englander out of water for so long, I now have a deeper appreciation for how unique and wonderful this place is.

    • freeradicalscavenger says...

      I grew up in Connecticut but lived in other various parts of the country as a child and teenager due to family circumstances. The character of the colonial houses in Connecticut, the glacial rock formations in the woods, the standoffish social facade, all made a deep impression on me and it’s really the only place I feel at home. My husband and I bought one of those antique houses in a nice shoreline town and we’ve been restoring it for several years now. Living where I feel like I belong and the process of restoring a cool old house have helped me in some sense restore a part of my soul that felt inaccessible for a long time.

    • Born, bred, and will never leave Boston. Love what you said about “odd but lovable mashup of our highly intellectual and salt of the earth cultures.” Perfect.

  16. Sara says...

    I’m a true blue valley girl from Los Angeles, and I never felt more of one until I moved to DC for grad school! I miss those stands that sell cut up fruit with chili and lime juice, strip malls, and of course the weather. Everyone in DC teases me because I never jaywalk, haha

  17. Chrissy S. says...

    This is super interesting, because my hometown is Las Vegas, NV and while there is definitely a “feeling” for the personality of the town, I can’t really describe it. Over time, it may cultivate more of a culture, and it looks like I’m missing out on that since I now live in San Antonio, TX, but it’s definitely more of a melting pot. I think I’d say LV has more of a SoCal mindset about most things, with a hint more of a relaxed desert vibe. Anyway, it makes me think of the quiz where you choose which words you use for certain things and it guesses where you’re from. It would NEVER guess Las Vegas. I honestly don’t feel like I’ve found the location I truly feel at home in! One day!

  18. Jeannie says...

    I was born and raised in San Jose, California to Vietnamese American immigrants (so I’m second gen), and it made a WORLD of difference that I grew up in a city where there was major representation of people who looked like me, and shared my culture!! A chunk of my childhood was also spent on Oahu, a region rich with Asians and diversity. Living in an area where people share your identity just made it helpful in myriad of ways. My family faced less discrimination than our relatives on the other coast, or in the south.

    I grew up being proud of not just my culture and heritage, but of how I look. I took that for granted, and didn’t even realize it was a thing until I went to college in nearby city Berkeley and met Asian Americans who grew up in towns/cities with little diversity around the country and that they hated their features, which made me sooo heartbroken.

    Plus, I met love of my life in San Jose, also another second generation Vietnamese American man <3

    All in all, I am deeply appreciative of my West Coast/big city upbringing and after traveling around the country, know that there's nowhere I'd rather settle my own roots and family.

  19. Nicole says...

    Grew up in San Francisco. Have lived in LA for almost 10 years. People say NorCal people hate SoCal and visa versa but I love it down here. Great weather and the beach is my favorite weekend activity. It’s 80 degrees here today. I love San Francisco still but could not afford to move back there even if I wanted to. It’s not the same city I grew up in.

  20. polyana says...

    What a great article!

    I was thinking the other day that I’ve never quite felt “at home” anywhere, mostly because of my confusing upbringing. I grew up in an immigrant household in Connecticut, and went to prep school for high school. It wasn’t until recently that I realized this combination of being Brazilian in preppy, small town Connecticut can be found elsewhere.

    I’m now living in a medium-ish college town in Brazil, so to an extent, I almost feel like I’ve arrived where I feel most “at home.” Somewhere liberal and creative, about the same size as where I grew up, and also surrounded by people who can relate to me when it comes to the culture and family values I grew up with (aka – Brazilian parents). I DO miss clam chowder, though.

  21. This is so true. I grew up in New Jersey… at the shore… but waaay south on a small island and I’ve got the beach in my blood. I call everyone “Dude” and am only forced to wear socks once the weather dips below 30 degrees.

  22. Ahh, I love Fairfax!! I lived in Berkeley for a little while a few years ago and my boyfriend and I used to go hiking in Marin and visit Fairfax and dream about living in a little town like that. I’m from Wisconsin and despite hating it as a teenager, I LOVE it (mostly) now as an adult and I love being from there too. It’s shaped my identity, my Midwest-nice-ness, my love of beer… Now I’m in LA and I’ll be headed back for the holidays and can’t wait to freeze my ass off. :-) (ps – I wrote a script this fall for a movie set in a town that I modeled after Fairfax….not. even. kidding.)

    • Megan Cahn says...

      That is awesome, Fairfax is a pretty sweet little town!

  23. Alyssa says...

    What a fascinating subject! My hometown (where my parents still live) is only about a 90 minute drive away, but it was a typical, small-town suburb. Where I live now is considered a thriving, small-city that has one of the best real estate markets in the country, a thriving arts & culture scene, and some top-rated restaurants. I absolutely feel like my personality is more similar to where I am now. Home is still my house where my parents live and I visit, but my own personal hometown feels most like who I am.

  24. Helga Thomsen says...

    I will be 55 next month and I still live in my hometown (Los Angeles) but my daughter always wanted to move to the East Coast so she goes to college in central New York. Oddly, the move has made her much more of an Angeleno because she defines herself by what she misses – easy access to avacados, delicious ramen, eternal sunshine, Ibarra cocoa, always sleeping with the windows open. I know that she’s happy with her choice but I’m glad that she’s still so attached to her hometown.

  25. Martini says...

    68 years old. Born, raised and lived my entire life in Washington, DC. I’m addicted to American History, with the White House and The Presidents as my drug of choice. Can never have enough of it. Love it.

  26. amber says...

    I’ve never felt like I truly have a hometown and have felt envious of those that do! I’m so interested in the concept of how a hometown can inform aspects of your identity or help you wrap your mind around the passage of time. As someone who does not feel like they have a true hometown, where I derive identity feels complicated and sometimes has made me feel a little bit lost in the world! I’d be curious if anyone out there feels similarly!? I was born in Japan to American parents, lived there for 6 1/2 years and then lived in Connecticut for 3 1/2 years until we moved to England when I was 10. I was there until I was 25 until I left and headed for the Bay Area – I’ve now lived in San Francisco for nearly 6 years and it is starting to feel like home and maybe some day it will give me that hometown nostalgia that I long for!

    • Emma says...

      Amber, I also don’t feel like I have a hometown and are envious of those who do! When people ask where I’m from I tell them the town I spent the longest time in as a kid but I always feel like a bit of a fraud as I don’t really feel like I’m ‘from’ anywhere in particular. I have just moved to my husband’s hometown and thanks to an amazing community and a brilliant (and large) in-law family I am finally beginning to feel I have roots somewhere. It’s the people, not the place that has done it for me I guess :-)

    • kate says...

      me three. an outsider identity is the result to some degree. it’s made me an observer: warm but removed. I’m not comfortable being known. I love the idea of small towns but balk at being recognised. I love world cities where no one knows quite who you are but they make you feel like you belong and are ready to treat you kindly.

  27. Chelsea says...

    I grew up in Texas and after graduating from college moved to New Mexico. I stopped saying y’all for awhile, but finally decided that was ridiculous, and 12 years later I proudly say y’all all the time and hope my kids pick it up too. And it’s not gender exclusive like “you guys,” so shouldn’t the rest of the country say it too? ;)

    • Helga Thomsen says...

      Ha ha. Keep it. I’m from LA and I will never stop calling people ‘Dude.’

  28. jen says...

    I grew up in a small border town in AZ and now live in Phoenix, I truthfully only miss the real Mexican food–the small town conformity, the racism on both sides, glad to be in a big anonymous and diverse place.

  29. Anna says...

    My home town, where I was born and raised and finished my student years is Maribor (2nd biggest city in Slovenia, btw we have the oldest wine in the world :). I moved to Ljubljana (ljubleeanah), the capital, 9 years ago. I found a job and the love of my life was from there…we live here, have a kid. My accent is completly different from my partners and I often joke how inncorect he speaks, cause in his accent people speak leaving almost all vowels in words. And I find it annoying (not that serious) that our toddler will speak like this,so I try each moment to correct him while I hear those words from central Slovenia haha … one day I heard our 2 y old sweetheart how he corrected himself for saying a word in a “wrong” way haha I would love to hear my accent in his language too.
    anyway, I love urban life in our metropola, but I can not express my feelings enough, what is goibg on inside of me, when I travel to Maribor once per month to my parents…the air, the atmosphere, the mood…is completly different, this coziness and really crazy to hear that, but I feel more confident and I suddenly become the queen on my “territory” 😁 The weather is almost all of the year better that in central part, in metropola. I joke and often write or tell people “i am off to hawaii”. I think I will move back once with my family…

  30. Elizabeth says...

    Living in New York but being from Denver means that never know how long it takes anything to cook at sea level (pasta is NOT a fast cooking meal at 5,280 feet). But my Coloradoan really comes out when it’s humid and I’ll say things like “I can feel the air. Why?” and around outdoor activities. To New Yorkers, I seem like an REI spokesperson and the modern day moutain-woman, but in Denver, it sometimes feels like I barely know what a mountain is.

    • Stacey says...

      Too funny as someone who’s lived in both places too!

  31. Both my husband and I are from and live in Queens, NY – and are fiercely proud. In a big city that’s changing to much, Queens still feels like a “neighborhood.” I only left to go away to college in upstate New York. My husband went away to college and then lived in Boston for several years. When he left for Boston, his grandmother gave him a dish that said “When you live New York, you’re going nowhere.” I often think about how I’ve only lived here and get wanderlust, but at the same time I can’t imagine ever leaving.
    On a different note, people are sometimes fascinated to hear we’re both native New Yorkers. The other day someone said to me “you’re like to unicorns who found each other!’

  32. Megan says...

    I once was told, “but you don’t seem live you are from New Jersey.” Not too sure if it was a compliment or insult.

    • Megan says...

      “Like, not live.” Ugh.

    • Katie says...

      Haha! I am from New Jersey… and while I have no desire to live there again, it has shaped me so much and I am kind of proud of its wackiness, diversity of cultures, and unabashed attitude. I also realized that I probably couldn’t have been born anywhere else (where else is being half Polish, a quarter Italian, and a quarter Portuguese a likely combo? Have I mentioned I love NJ’s immigrant cultures?). Now my job has me living abroad most of the time and moving every few years, and I am worried my future kids won’t have a sense of home… which may be liberating but also weird!

  33. Eliza says...

    What a great topic! I was born and raised in Monrovia, California (The Gem City of the Foothills to be more specific). I went to college and worked in Utah (one of those Mormons) and met my husband there. When we finished grad school, I was about 6 months pregnant with our first child, neither of us had jobs or any money, and we decided to move to DC. Which… was a completely insane thing to do, but we have now lived in Northern Virginia for 11 years and we have 4 kids. (Also we have jobs. :)

    I love where I grew up, and I love the thought that my roots there continue to grow even as I continue to live so far away. That is exactly how I feel!

    I never would have thought I would call the east coast my home, and for years we have talked about moving closer to family, but it doesn’t seem to be happening; instead, life just moves forward. My 5th-grader has lots of challenges including autism and has an amazing support system at school and in private therapy that I can’t fathom leaving. Fairfax County, for all its flaws, has an unparalleled special ed system in its public schools. Funny how life turns out!

    We fly back west to visit at least once a year, and my husband and I go more often individually or with one child for special events. This year we are taking a month to drive across the country and see family. We’re hoping it goes well (knock wood) because this could be a fun future vacation for us–I’m tired of taking 4 kids on airplanes!! Regardless of where we live, we probably won’t see our extended families often enough. So we’ll do it as much as we can, whenever we can.

    • Born and raised in Fairfax County, and I still live here!

      It’s definitely not too bad of a place to call home. <3

  34. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with it, but I don’t actually have a hometown. I moved around a lot as a kid (still do) and I definitely think the “lack” of one singular hometown has impressed most of my personality upon me. I could probably pinpoint which homes, cities, towns, countries even gave me which personality quirk (my penchant to walk around barefoot and shower outdoors definitely comes from the beach town I spent a few elementary years in while my love for mojitos and traveling to places where I can only communicate in smiles definitely from my years in Asia) but I think my most prominent (and, modestly, best) personality traits coming from not having one single place to call home.

    xx

  35. Having grown up in small-town Eastern Pennsylvania, I still crave autumn and have to recreate it in food and rituals every year. But most strongly, even though I’m coming up on nine years in Los Angeles, I need the woods – we certainly retreat to woods at every opportunity even though the beach is so close.

  36. Emily says...

    I spent the first 18 years of my life in a small town in Lancaster County Pennsylvania where my mother, her father, his parents, and their parents before him had all grown up. And I bolted as soon as I could. Growing up, my town felt like it was suffocating me. After attending college outside NYC and living in NYC for a few years during school, I settled in Boston. I married a Nova Scotian (talk about pride of place) and we regularly visit my hometown, where my parents still live, and laugh at the newspaper (talk about fake news) and I am now able to enjoy the many charms of a tiny town. But I could never live there again. While I appreciate having grown up in a farming community and the work ethic that pervades there, the political and religious views of many of the people I grew up with simply do not hold true for me. Luckily my parents are both progressive, as were their parents, and I was always encouraged to find my own way. I appreciate the beauty of Lancaster County for sure–and it was not until I had lived in urban areas that I grew to love the farm fields and rolling hills and quiet pace of life in the country. I think more than anything, I feel a deep pride that I come from a long tradition of people who held onto progressive ideas about people and politics despite living in an extremely conservative and religious area. My ancestors were all Mennonites and they truly held on to what I now believe are the core values of that religion-kindness, service and peace. If anything, I am most proud of those values and they resonate most with me.

    • Emily, as soon as I read you’re from Lancaster County I thought ah…I wonder if her family is Mennonite. Although I grew up in Arlington, VA, less than 1/2 mile outside DC, and absolutely consider that “home”, my parents were both raised in small Mennonite communities (my dad’s family is from Harleysville, PA, about 1.5 hr east of Lancaster) and my mom is from an even tinier town outside of Buffalo. We were basically the family that “moved away to the big city” on both sides, so although I grew up very much as a city kid, the Mennonite small-town heritage definitely rubbed off on me too, both in the values I was taught as well as spending lots of time visiting. It has been even more interesting now that I’ve lived in Atlanta for the last 5 years; I grew up thinking my religious upbringing was small-minded and conservative (living in DC), but I’ve realized now compared to Atlanta and southern heritage it’s actually focused on exactly what you said – kindness, service and peace, and those values are what I’m also most proud of. Nice to hear from another person with this interesting background…know anyone with the last name Alderfer? We might be related haha. Eat some shoo-fly pie for me if you go home for Christmas!

    • Alyssa says...

      Wow! I now live in Lancaster and feel like this IS home to me!

      And Caitlin (comment below) – I’m from Sellersville. Near Harleysville! What a small, sweet world we do live in.

  37. MJay says...

    After 20 years away, St. Paul still is home. People ask me where I’m from and I say, “I’m from St. Paul but live in X.” Home is home <3

  38. Lisa says...

    I grew up in Johannesburg in South Africa, and now live in London. It’s hard to say the extent to which the shaped me, beyond knowing that London weather is terrible and there is much better out there (Johannesburg has an amazing climate). I have a cousin who lives there now (she grew up in a different part of the country), so I do get an idea of what my life could be like if I’d stayed.
    I’ve always missed it, and now I have children I can see all the wonderful things about growing up there. Great weather (so you can spend lots of time outside), much more space (big houses and gardens are the norm, if you’re middle class of course) and a more laidback lifestyle. I would go back, but there are also a lot of downsides (insane crime rate) and my husband wouldn’t want to live there

  39. liz says...

    Having grown up 40 minutes north of NYC and now living in NC, I still think the only real food is NY food. Having lived a number of places, my accent is not heavily New York unless Im trying to speak French – then I sound like a real New Yorker with a really heavy accent. Probably because I took my first French class in junior high when I was settled comfortably in the belief that NY is the best place to be.

  40. Lori says...

    P.S. LOVED this article! So very interesting!

    • Megan Cahn says...

      Thanks so much, Lori!

  41. Lori says...

    Minnesota Nice!

  42. Caroline says...

    The hometown feeling is a complicated one for me! I moved lived in Philly until I was 7 and then moved to Naples, FL. Very few of my friends (and literally none of their parents) were actually born in Naples – most came down in the early 90s and everyone is “from” somewhere else and no one ever even considered staying in Naples past high school (but let me tell you – visiting my hometown during the holidays is now THE BEST). Because of that transplant feeling, I thought that by going to college in San Diego, I might find my new hometown – I couldn’t have been more wrong! While I loved it there, it never felt permanent or a place I would ever truly call home. Finally I landed in DC where I’ve been for nearly 8 years and after less than a year here I finally felt like I was in a place that could be home forever. I may move one day but the Midatlantic is definitely where I feel most at home.

  43. HB says...

    I grew up in a teeny tiny (we’re talking 200 people) farm town in Eastern Missouri, and I rebelled against it from a young age–it never really felt like “home” to me. When I met my British husband a few years ago and moved to Cambridge to be with him, I finally felt a sense of being “home” for the first time in my life. We’re moving to Glasgow in a few weeks, and I find I’m even more at home there–the people are more friendly and less pretentious, and the politics strongly align with what I believe.

    Honestly though, I think that I’m the type of person where home doesn’t necessarily have to be a particular place, but rather, who I’m with. A few years ago, I had to spend 3 months in my hometown without my husband, and I’ve never felt further away from home. It doesn’t matter where I am, but as long as I’m with my husband and our cat, I can make anywhere my home.

  44. Ashley says...

    I’ll feel my “hometown is showing” when I sometimes, without thinking, exclaim, “we’re neighbors!” or “I live right by there!” to someone or about something 20 blocks away in the city where I currently live. I grew up in a very rural area, where everything was an hour or two away, and ‘neighbors’ were anyone in your township (ie within 10 miles of you).

    I also have noticed that my Fargooo accent shows up mainly when I want to soften things that are mildly confrontational or uncomfortable. For example, in line at the airport to a stranger, “Excuse me there, your soootcase is, uh, pokin’ my leg there, oop, thank you, sorry!” It’s not parochial, it’s very calculated. (haha)

    I just adore this post, and all the comments! I’m reading them all!

    • Eliza says...

      Lol this is amazing!!! I have never been to Fargo but my husband lived there for a few years as a kid and claims it as part of his childhood, so I feel like we should visit it someday. But anyway… You sound like a completely charming person, and I love that you can pull out the ND accent when needed!!

  45. Larry says...

    On the opposite side, whenever my Dad heard that someone was leaving New York City, he would say “Where are they going to go? What are they going to do?”. He didn’t live to see his grandchildren, but three out of four live in NYC, and the fourth goes to college not far away.