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. After realizing I’ve never lived anywhere more than 8 years (I may skew that 10 year thing back a little), I find myself in an odd predicament. Spending about my first 8 years in the Midwest (Chicago, Wheaton and Lexington) I really feel my ability to talk to anyone shine thru. Especially at the grocery store, I could talk to those cashiers and deli people for days.

    The next 8 were in a little northern California town (3 hours north of SF and 1.5 hours north of Sacrament), Chico. Here is where I feel my “hippie” vibes and Birkenstocks shine thru.

    The next 8 were in Los Angeles (my love). Here I feel my independence, dream big mentality and lover of all small plates and el pastor on a spit.

    I’m currently living one year in Austin, Texas and then moving to Denver in the next couple of months for maybe a year. Then who knows. Who ever thought a man who manages and opens Whiskey, Rum and Agave bars could take me on such a fun adventure. Maybe my next 8 years while be in 4 new cities. Oh . . . and GO BEARS!

    • Christine says...

      I love this! What a fun life adventure. Thanks for sharing. Happy Holidays!

  2. teeny says...

    I grew up outside of Pittsburgh but have lived in NYC for 11+ years. Even after earning my official “New Yorker” stripes, I still consider Pittsburgh my home.

  3. anon says...

    i used to really love my hometown and considered moving back to a neighboring town (to be close, but not too close). during the recession, jobs left, drugs came in, and it is unrecognizable to me now. additionally, the political climate has shifted immensely “red” and “pro-trump”. i cannot go back now. my hometown shaped me but now has changed it’s own shape.

  4. Alice says...

    I’m from Bristol, in the South West of England, and it definitely shaped me. It’s a city of music, art, grass-roots activism, community spirit, and left politics. I’m a writer of storybooks and plays, and formerly worked in arts in the community/education. I think my politics, my career, my interests, and my cultural tastes have all been shaped by Bristol and Bristolians who are a diverse, engaged but easy-going, bunch. I feel so lucky my parents chose it (they are from different places and we moved around til I was 5).
    Later I lived in an industrial Northern city for 8 years, then Beijing for 13 years, before moving to Edinburgh, my husband’s hometown, in order to give my kids a hometown. I love travelling so much, I hope my kids do too, but I think a hometown is important – it gives solid stable roots from which to adventure from.

  5. Olivia DiGiorno says...

    As a native Minnesotan who’s since moved to Seattle…Minnesotan accents are hardly a real thing unless you were raised in rural or northern Minnesota (I was born and raised in the Twin Cities and have a neutral accent…my west coast friends can vouch for that). I realize that probably sounds a little defensive, but I the Minnesota accent jokes get old when there are so many other things to love!

  6. Living as an expat for 10+ years, it’s not only a sense of detaching from a specific city/state, but also a country. With things in the US as they are, I find myself pulling back as an American and as of now, do not feel any need to move back or identify anytime soon (our last visit was in June 2016). I suppose once my parents move from my childhood home outside Atlanta I’ll have more of an emotional response, but as of now, I’m quite happy with my adoptive city and country!

  7. Ashley says...

    I love this topic! So interesting to read everyone’s stories and also to think about what ‘home’ means and what we carry with us from it.
    I grew up in the countryside in the north of Scotland and studied in the nearest city (Aberdeen) which was 50miles away. After that I moved to New Zealand for a couple of years (the most beautiful country) but the distance from my family was something I couldn’t come to terms with for a permanent move. I came home and have now been based in Edinburgh for 2 years.
    Although I don’t think I could see myself moving back to the exact area where I grew up, I’m fiercely protective over my ‘teuchter’ upbringing (Scottish for highlander/rural farmer, pronounced tju-kter) and the identity that comes along with that. There’s a particular dialect and certain words that are local to the area and I’ve grown to love my accent, dry sense of humour and strong work ethic. I think I’ve found the best of both worlds in Edinburgh- much more diverse but still only 30min drive either direction to the sea or hills.
    I still get itchy feet and would love to live in Canada for a year, or maybe Denmark but I think Scotland will always remain home.

  8. Aileen Johnston says...

    I was born in the Outer Hebrides of the West Coast of Scotland (Gods own country in my humble opinion! https://www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk/our-islands ) and although I never grew up there, I still have family there and my mum grew up there so a lot of the culture is in me. It is a very different part of Scotland. Everyone is very laid back, it has a different language (Gaelic) and a lot of different priorities (for example, everyone is obsessed about the weather as they need to know if the ferries are running otherwise they will be cut off!). I think this way of life has shaped me as although I absolutely adore living in a city, I am lot more laid back than my friends who grew up in the city. I love being near sea and thats definitely an island thing so I am very happy that I live in a city by the sea and I open my home to anyone in my circle (and in their circles too) who needs a bite to eat, a cup of tea, a shoulder to cry on or a bed for the night. I never say to someone in my house, would you like a glass of wine/cup of tea/lunch as people from the islands would think that you didn’t really want to feed and water them. I always say “you will be having a glass of wine/cup of tea/lunch”. Its a subtle difference but us West Coasters pick up on it!!

    • Sharon in Scotland says...

      I lived in the Outer Hebrides for nearly 6 years and I loved it. I bought my first house there, had my first cat there, had grown-up fun there, ate my heart out there. I saw the Northern Lights there and loved the long dark winters and the long long summer days. The people were lovely and welcoming, although I do remember sprinting across my garden on a Sunday to get the washing in because I lived opposite the Manse!
      It is remote, bleak, wided skyed and beautiful.

  9. R says...

    I grew up in a big suburb of Dallas, TX, but lived in Boston for 5 years before moving to Germany. The “yall” tried leaving for a bit, but my Texan roots definitely show — and I am proud of that. :)

  10. Andrea says...

    I’ve lived outside Atlanta for 25 years now and absolutely love it, I never would have believed I’d end up cross country from where I grew up. I’m from a tiny mountain mining town in Arizona and although I didn’t appreciate it growing up it did give me an absolute love of the Mexican culture and food, being how this was most of the population there. I actually went back last month and took some amazing photos, I can appreciate the history and such now being away so long! And I love the red vintage bug in the photo, I drive one too!!!!!

  11. Alice says...

    I’m from a small village in rural Devon (south-west England), out on Dartmoor (look it up!!) and I now live in London. When I go home, I feel myself really slow down- you aren’t going anywhere fast there- there’s a maximum of four buses an hour (one an hour after 6pm or on Sundays), and there’s a long drive to anything sensible. In London, everything is fast- the tubes, the walking pace, the service… everything. I LOVE living in London but I know that being in the countryside is a biiiig part of who I am, and I 100% will be leaving London in the next few years to head back to fresh air and the sea, cattle grids, and enormous skies. I do like the anonymity of London, though- at home (which I still do, and always will, call it), everyone knows EVERYTHING about EVERYONE, and while there’s a real sense of community in that, it’s really hard to have privacy!

    What makes me laugh most though is how almost EVERYONE I speak to at home goes “Oooh, I could never live in London. It’s so BUSY and LOUD and I couldn’t possibly understand the tube!”. But you get used to it, and not all parts of London are like Oxford Street or Piccadilly Circus!

    I’ve never had much of a Devon accent- but apparently a little lilt really comes out when I say any word with an “ow” sound (cow, loud, now, shower, pound…)! It makes me smile to think that I’m mostly accent-free, but there’s a little hint in there which gives me away :)

  12.  Natalie says...

    We moved a bit as a kid but more than anything I identify as a country person rather than a city person. I had to leave home at 18 to go to university and have now lived in the city longer than I lived I the country but man, those roots are strong. And I’m so very proud of them. I credit so much of what is good and true in me to growing up in rural towns, though I’m sure city living has also contributed. Like so many here I love the feeling of going “home” and while I may not live there now (or have immediate plans to return), there’s something about your soul just breathing a deep breath when you’re back where you’re from.

  13. Grace says...

    I grew up and still live in So Cal. Even though I’ve traveled all over the country, I gotta say, the west coast is the best coast ;p

  14. Such a touching post Jo. I am originally from the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota and have spent the last 8 years living in Minneapolis proper. After YEARS of deliberation on where to move, my husband and I moved our family of two little girls (3.5 and 2) to the south of France, and come march we will be making Manhattan our (hopefully!) forever home. I have felt for most of my life that Minneapolis was too small, too slow, too… midwest for me. And my husband has felt the same. While I always felt that getting out of Minneapolis would be such a relief in ways, I have found myself defending it over and over again from people who joke about what a small town it is or how lame the midwest can be. Minneapolis is actually amazing! The food is great, the people are friendly and it is clean and SO green!

    While I am excited about starting our life in a new place, and I truly do feel that it is the right decision for us, I still love and cherish where I came from. The midwest taught me to be kind, friendly and thoughtful. To see the good in people and to always trust that we are all good at heart. To work hard and keep an open mind. I’m proud to be a Minnesotan!

  15. Kimberley says...

    In this post: https://cupofjo.com/2013/07/10-surprising-things-about-parenting-in-japan/ which I’m only realising now was 4.5years ago… the author says “I always felt like I was born in the wrong country”.

    I could not agree more, and have thought often about this since. Born in the UK, I do sometimes strongly associate with being British, but having travelled lots, and now studying for my PhD in the Netherlands, I’m not sure where I want to settle – or even just move after this.

    Jobs/being near family and friends/other life criteria don’t always match up and it’s hard to know which to prioritise.

  16. I havent been home for 7 years and I am what I am now because of the place where I grew up. I ache to go home. And yet I am so scared to go home because what if that homesickness is a fallacy. What if I go home and not feel like home anymore because I have been away for so long?

    If I go home and not feel like home and I feel like where I am now is not home. Where is it? This is such a lovely post. Given me so much to ponder on.

    • KC says...

      I grew up in Seattle and loved it – but in the last decade or so it’s had way more population growth than comfortably fits, so traffic is nuts, people are crankier (stressier? more aggressive? more brusquely professional and not-my-problem-ish?), housing is sky-high, and a ton of the old, quirky things and diverse house-based neighborhoods have been torn down to be replaced with giant condos/apartment buildings, so you also have fewer trees and gardens, less sky, more of a boxed-in feeling on the sidewalk, fewer views of the sea from the street, etc. It’s more of a sprawling Generic Big City in a lot of ways, with a lot less of what I loved about Seattle. I mean, better that than what’s happened to Detroit (or Syria!), but it still isn’t home anymore, except for the friends and family that remain (although some that are still in the general area have moved to the outskirts where things are less boxed-in, and others have moved away entirely).

      I guess in some ways it’s perhaps useful to not be desperately longing to go back, but I’d rather have it still be there. Oh, well.

  17. Julia says...

    I‘m not from the US at all nor do I live there. I am from and live in Germany. However, what I do feel is that your home country shapes you in the profoundest way. I have lived both in the US and in Australia and nothing mirrors how German I am more than being abroad. Both Americans and Australians are so friendly! (Germans are often not, to be quite frank – at least not when you first meet someone.) This welcoming and open attitude warms my heart every time I experience it because Germans are so different.

    I also do feel that my hometown in the north of Germany has shaped me, but not as profoundly as my home country.

  18. MB says...

    I’m proudly from the suburbs of Detroit and have lived abroad for the last 10 years. No matter what, if I see someone wearing a Michigan/Detroit jersey I run up to them and pull up my hand (the mitten) to ask where they’re from. Even my English husband can now tell you bits of MI geography by pointing at his hand! I love Michigan through and through and even though I left when I was 18 and have no intention of ever moving back, it holds a big piece of my heart and definitely shaped who I am.

  19. On a similar but different note, my husband and I are full-time travelers, and have been traveling throughout Europe for the last 18 months. It’s been incredible to experience, because it’s really made me look at what it means to be an American, and how proud I am of where I came from – despite our current political climate. I used to put Europe on a pedestal (so posh! so cultured!), and while everything we’ve seen and everyone we’ve met and made friends with are absolutely wonderful, there are so many things that are just very, very different. Americans are diverse, problem-solving, quick to make jokes, and rebellious (try jay-walking in Germany – ha! You WILL get told off by that friendly looking elderly gentleman). Despite stereotypes and what is happening in our government, America is full of good, open people, and I’m quite proud to be one.

  20. I’m from the Netherlands, and although the country is tiny there’s a very distinct difference between the major cities (and other provincial regions). I grew up in Rotterdam, a city that traditionally has sturdy, straight-forward people with a no-nonsense attitude. Although I moved to the countryside when I neared my thirties (I felt it was time for some healthier, more rural surroundings) I’m often confronted that “going back to the city” isn’t equal to going back to my hometown; for instance, the attitude from people from Amsterdam is much different. I too fall back to my city’s accent when I had a few drinks; especially when I end up in a cab in my city with one of those heavy, familiar accents!

  21. nellie says...

    As an Australian this is so interesting to read! We don’t have the same small town/home town thing going on. Maybe more country/city divide or state to state (and even then that’s very big and generalised) . I love reading these sorts of articles… piques my curiosity from the other side of the world!

  22. Emma says...

    I’ve never strayed from my hometown (Los Angeles) for more than 5 months so I’d love to know if this is true of other places or just L.A.: I feel like I can always spot the native l.a. folks from the those who’ve moved here. The ones who moved here act like they have something to prove. People who move here talk about L.A. and people who’ve lived here their whole lives just live. Do you think this is true of any city?

    A positive to a big city with lots of transplants is the rich assortment of personalities you get.

  23. Jamie C says...

    I was born and raised in a small town outside Houston and always wanted to move away. I went to college in Austin then moved to San Francisco and I loved living there in my 20s. I feel the exact same way that Clare and Loren feel about their hometowns and where they are now. I love things about Texas, I miss my family and the food. But I love Northern California even more and feel that this is where I was always destined to be. I”m lucky I married a fellow Houstonian so I have someone who will always understand!

  24. Anna says...

    I grew up in Hong Kong, Toronto, Shanghai (spending roughly half of my life in Toronto). Then I went to college in upstate NY in a tiny town and started working in NYC right after. It’s now been 6 years in NYC and I can pretty much come up with a plan B, C and D for unexpected subway reroutes.

    I love NYC because I can find people or places or experiences that bring me back to my memories of Hong Kong (dim sum!), Toronto (maple anything, fall hikes in the Catskills, hockey games), Shanghai (fresh soy milk and fried dough for breakfast and soup dumplings for dinner! also hearing Shanghaiese randomly on the street). NYC is so beautiful to me because of the diverse communities and experiences it offers.

    How and where I grew up helped shaped “home” or “hometown” as a concept for me where I strongly feel that home is where my family is, and isn’t bound to a specific geographic place. I’d love to find a romantic partner who is willing to live in various places and let love build a home wherever we may be.

  25. Teresa says...

    My husband and I both grew up in Northern California. For me this question wasn’t just about us and our hometowns, it was about embracing the idea of raising our children as Midwesterners. This actually influenced our decision to move.

    Even though they were all babies here, they are hybrids. Like we Californians, they don’t ice skate because we don’t ice skate (which is the preferred weekend winter activity in our town), they eat avocados nearly daily and love persimmons and can sing “I Love You, California” and “Hail to California” like natives. But they *love* the cold and snow (I don’t), they don’t understand traffic (a daily reality in the Bay Area), and think playrooms belong in basements becuase that is where all their friends have them (whereas I find even the brightest basement a bit creepy).

    I loved growing up in my hometown (which has changed dramatically since I was a child) and hope that by moving from California to the Midwest I actually captured for my kids the things I liked best about my hometown when I was a kid — community, safety and fun.

    • Katie says...

      I’d love to hear more about your process if you happen to read this! We’re Coloradans considering moving to the MidWest. So many people think we’re crazy, but the cost and crowdedness of life here feels like it’s preventing us from enjoying a lot of the great parts of the Front Range. A slower, simpler pace (even with some obvious trade-offs) is sounding good these days…

    • Shannon says...

      I’d love to know how this turns out for you! As Coloradans, this is something my husband and I talk about endlessly. Good luck!

    • Kirsten says...

      So surprised to see all these comments from Coloradans! I’m a Coloradan that has lived in the Midwest for the past 8 years. I left for college and I will say that the first few years were tough–so much of my identity was wrapped up in the mountains and outdoors(wo)manship. But I’ve fallen totally in love with the landscape and way of life here and feel completely connected with the place. I never want to leave and I definitely don’t want to move back to Colorado after visiting the past couple of years. With the huge influx of people there the scene has really changed and it simply doesn’t feel like home for me anymore.

  26. Tabby says...

    You’re from Fairfax?! How did I not know that?! No wonder I love this blog. -fellow NorCal gal here

  27. Shannon says...

    I grew up in a very rural, remote, and rugged part of Colorado While I left after high school and never moved back, that little corner of the world gave me a sturdiness and resolve that has served me well in all of the other places life has taken me. It gave me an appreciation for truly hard work and a simpler way of life. It broadened my understanding of people and things quite different from my current day-to-day and it instilled in me humility, like only the wildest places can.

    • Ashley says...

      Beautiful. <3

  28. Daynna Shannon says...

    Such a great post Meghan. You’re a terrific writer. Thank you for this article. I enjoyed it immensely.

  29. Anela says...

    Any military brats here? We grew up everywhere which was my hometown. It gave me a sense of adventure and appreciation of meeting new people and trying new things. In Alabama we wore huge hats on Easter. In Maine, I made amazing snow caves. In Ohio I rode my bide through fields all summer, and then in Hawaii, the beach was my happy place of course. My mom always made our moves special and exciting which I hope remains a part of me as I now have my own little ones.

  30. Janine says...

    New Yorker, born and bred. When traveling, I definitely get impatient when people take forever to do things, especially order something! How do you not know your coffee order by the time you get to the front of the line?!

  31. Jillian says...

    I was born and grew up in Austin, TX; I live in San Francisco now (with my sister! so our home feels like Austin), but have lived in New York, DC, and Chicago along the way.

    Austin is a diverse, liberal, young city in a big, traditional, red Southern state, which taught me to look at, appreciate, and listen to both sides of just about everything (even when I ultimately end up strongly on one side).

    Other than that, the things people comment on most often (beyond my indelible use of ‘y’all’) are: smiling at everyone, always (when I’m in NYC, this still garners strange looks … and then, typically, smiles), the thought that there’s little sunshine and being outside can’t fix; for everything else, there’s a cold margarita, guacamole, queso, and salsa; mostly, it’s that my vibe in all things, always, is a warm, genuine blend of “welcome–I’m so happy you are you!!” & “come when you can; leave when you must.”

    • R says...

      I grew up in the Dallas area, but I can sooooo relate to what you love most about home. love this!! Texas (love) forever. :)

  32. Becca says...

    I have a mixed relationship with my hometown of Salt Lake City. I left without a backwards glance after high school and ended up living in New Haven, CT for 10 years. The longer I was in Connecticut, the more I embraced my Western identity than ever before. But, I liked being a Utahn on my terms. I’m Mormon and for most people in my neighborhood, the first Mormon they had met. I loved introducing friends to that part of me while reveling in the diverse backgrounds in our away-from-home family.
    Three years ago, our family of five moved back to SLC. I have loved the close vicinity to family and the skiing, of course. But, sigh, I can’t get into it. I’m forever a stranger here, since my experiences away have deeply changed who I am. I’m handling things ok, but if someone asked me to move, I would in a heartbeat!

  33. Dana says...

    I’ve been living in NYC for 13.5 years (!), but I’ll never be a New Yorker. I was born and bred in SoCal. I’m just a Californian living in NY. City life suits me and I’m probably never moving home, now that I’ve married a Mid-Westerner and our children are growing up in Manhattan, and they throw-up every time they ride in a rental car. But when I land in LA, something still feels a bit like home. To tell you the truth, though, I kind of feel like I don’t really fit in on either coast. Home is wherever I (and my family) happen to be.

  34. Cindy says...

    I grew up in Seattle and I miss the rain, mountains, and ocean more than I can put into words. It’s been too long since I’ve been back, and now even thinking about it makes my heart physically hurt. The air smells different out there. I live in Minnesota now, and I’m learning to love it, too. But the PNW will always have my heart.

    Plus, it’s COLD here!!

  35. Chester Avenue says...

    I read the headline to this post and thought, “Hometowns, how nice, mine is really excellent and I’ll love it forever,” because I grew up in Fairfax, California. Imagine my shock when I realized that Fairfax is the author’s hometown, too! It’s so tiny! The odds are crazy! Fairfax forever!

  36. Elise says...

    This is so interesting. I believe that we carry our “homes” in our hearts. I grew up in Northern California, and I know that I carry the need to live near water with me from my childhood. I lived in Colorado for 9 years, and have a desperate need to be near the mountains from there. Now I live in Seattle, where I have the best of both worlds! I will always appreciate CA for being my first home, but Colorado and now Seattle are the homes I chose for myself. I carry CA and CO with me wherever I go.

  37. Sarah says...

    I grew up in a small town in western NC but now live in Michigan. Growing up in the mountains I loved being part of a small town community- my parents were always super involved and it seems like in a small town you can really have an impact and feel a part of something good. As I plan my trip home this holidays I realized that I may never live in my hometown ever again as it increasingly becomes a place I visit once or twice a year and less like home. A hometown, city, or suburb (no matter where) is a place full of precious memories and “firsts.” It’s the foundation of our personal geographies. Hometowns absolutely shape us. I will forever love old hardware stores, long hikes in the forest, banjo music and a sudden summer thunderstorm. Thanks Cup of Jo for this platform for wonderful hometown stories!
    Stories

  38. Sharon in Scotland says...

    My parents are from the West Indies and we came to Essex, England when I was 3 after my dad came out of the army in Germany.
    I don’t know why we didn’t go to London, instead we settled in a small seaside estuary town with the longest pleasure pier in the world. Essex is a very old county but it has the reputation in England for being a bit common and flash. I have always wanted to live somewhere remote and rural and dreamt about living in Scotland. I knew I would not make my home in Essex, even though most of my family are there, So here I am in Scotland…………..via Leeds, Hastings, London, Isle of Mann, Outer Hebrides, Far North of Scotland and now the north-east Highlands. Scotland is my home, I can always spot a Scottish landscape in films and pictures, I love the scenery, the accent, the people, the distances. I don’t feel much nostalgia when I go back, but i do smile if I see places I know in Essex on films, referenced in books etc, I think home is where my mutti is, but true home for me is Scotland……………I don’t know why!??

  39. Ae says...

    One of the things that drives me the most crazy as a native New Yorker are people who think that living here makes them a New Yorker. So much of who are is defined by where we spent our earliest/ formative years. No amount of time here will ever lay that foundation- the experience of hailing a cab or taking the train alone as a kid, having your weekends be filled with places you also saw on TV, seeing immense diversity even if you ended and started your day in a homogenous neighborhood. Living or moving here when you’re 20 just isn’t the same. I can almost always point out “people who are new here”, “people who aren’t *from* here but who have lived here for ever” vs actual New Yorkers.

    • Melanie says...

      I have to disagree with you, at least in some respects. I do think the place you grows up has an effect on you, but I do think a chosen city can be more “you” – a better fit – than the city in which you were born or grew up.

      After graduating from college and again after grad school I lived for a number of years in the Washington, DC area and absolutely loved every minute of it. I never lost my of sense of awe for the city, even as I daily rode my bike past the Lincoln Memorial or frequently walked by the White House on my way from one place to another. I even – especially – loved all of the A-type personalities the city attracts. I grew up in Southern California, but DC fits my personality in a way San Diego never did. I love to visit San Diego, but I really don’t have any drive to move back there. I moved away from DC a few years ago (cost of living + not-high-paying-profession) and I think often about moving back. DC is the city where I really started my adult life, so in many respects it does feel as though I grew up there.

  40. I grew up in Canada, have lived in the US for the last (almost) 10 years. I don’t identify AT ALL with my hometown. My family has heavy, stereotypical Canadian accents that some how I have never had. I have zero desire go back. I learned to make the best foods from friends’ family recipes (Oma’s perogies!)
    My hometown has little to do with who I am or the things I enjoy. I hate hockey, beer and have never, in my life, said “eh”.

    • Joss says...

      What about that universal healthcare though, eh?

    • Universal health care is great until you need it. I was a child needing an mri and an appointment with a neurologist. I had to wait more than 6 months. My mother was an OR nurse, the stores she could tell you about people DYING waiting for care. Universal health care doesn’t work just as the US health care system doesn’t work.

  41. Beth says...

    I have lived in New England for over 30 years but my heart still longs for the high desert town of Las Cruces, New Mexico I miss the big sky and the grand Organ Mountains that stand over the fertile Mesilla Valley. There is no fresher fragrance than the desert after a rainstorm. I long for the sunsets, red enchiladas, cotton fields, pecan orchards and fiestas.

    • Annie says...

      I grew up in Las Cruces too and am now in the Midwest after 10 years in Seattle, and I miss all the same things! Hard to beat the quiet majesty of our desert home.

    • Jessica says...

      I’m living in New Mexico right now and you captured it so brilliantly that I teared up. I, however, miss the changing trees, summer humidity, water, and ‘hotdishes’ of my MN hometown.

  42. jac says...

    I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan (pop. 356). I have since moved to San Francisco, NYC, and now Sacramento. I like being a Midwesterner. People say I still have an accent! They usually think I am Canadian. I think my small town made me nice and chill and down for cold weather (And nosy LOL).

  43. Growing up in Chicago, when I visited Los Angeles for the first time in middle school it became my dream to live in the warm sun near the beach. When I got into college in Southern California I could not wait to embrace the laid back vibe of my new city. I of course had my complaints about living in Chicago, and while I have fully embraced the LA culture, as I spend more time in LA I find myself letting go of the negatives about my hometown and try to hold on to some of the Chicago aspects I loved. I reminisce about the changing seasons, scoff at any deep dish pizza sold on the west coast as if I’m the expert, and use the phrase “well in Chicago…” every once in a while. I think if you’ve had fond memories in your hometown then you are more likely to be nostalgic. But even with the good memories I hold on to it never crossed my mind to move back.

  44. Grace says...

    I’ve been told that I have a very strong midwestern handshake. Something my grandfather taught me when I was 5: “Always look someone in the eye and give them a firm handshake or no one will respect you.” I feel like that mindset has stayed with me.
    I could never imagine moving back to my hometown in Iowa, but I am a bit envious of how tightknit the community is. My mom has had the same 2 best friends since before I was born and I grew up going over to their houses all the time and playing with their kids. They both came to my wedding. They’re all still great friends and have supported each other through the highs and lows. There are so many community groups through the university, churches and other clubs that make it a warm place to live.
    I live in a ski town in Colorado now, and while the lifestyle is amazing, it’s a very transient community. I still have trouble making close friends. It feels like everyone is a bit guarded and the long term locals are sort of cliquey and resistant to let new people in their group.

  45. I’m from Montclair, New Jersey and I feel so lucky to be from such a wonderful home town! It’s home to a community of amazing people from all over the world, many ex New Yorkers, and is a beautiful place. Growing up there was delightful. I took for granted how safe it is, how well connected it is to New York and other cultures, and how very privileged I was to be from such a nice pocket of Jersey. It made me open minded, but not particularly trusting (I think that’s a New Jersey thing), and definitely shaped my personality.

    http://www.shessobright.com

    • I lived in Montclair for 8 years (as an adult, moved there from LA when my son was 6 weeks old) and I LOVED IT. It’s the best town ever. When we moved from LA 20 years ago we lived in NYC for 4 months in corporate housing while looking for a place to live. We looked on the Upper West Side, Park Slope – so many neighborhoods in NYC but didn’t find anything and I was discouraged. I was certain that I didn’t want to live in NJ – I wanted to live in NYC! One Saturday in the fall my cousin insisted on driving us out to Montclair and I will never forget driving down Grove St with the fall colored trees. I found my town! I made the best friends, my kids went to the best schools and I felt a sense of community. Since then I have lived in Atlanta for 13 years and now back in LA for a year – and still Montclair is the best place that I have ever lived and I miss it so.

  46. Emma says...

    Just moved to Hawaii which is SO completely different from anywhere else I have lived (weather, culture, new words, etc). I think politeness is really highly valued, even more than my midwestern hometown. Like saying “thank you” back and forth a few times frequently happens, even for simple things. I actually have been missing the cold weather – it definitely doesn’t “feel” like December!

  47. Callie says...

    I grew up as the youngest of six in a small Kansas town (population 600) where my family had lived for generations. When I was 18 and in college, my parents moved away. I was devastated. Partially, I felt forcibly uprooted from over 100 years of family history. I mean, my mom used an outhouse! An OUTHOUSE! And my grandma’s stories of the Dust Bowl, recorded on cassette before she died… the grit and determination she had was flooring. How could I possibly leave behind the same fields my great grandparents ran through as children? I felt like that past AND my own past had been stolen from me.

    But then came the pride a college girl/post college girl feels being out on her own, and how quickly that yearning for my roots turned into the desire to be independent and make my way in the world, which could only happen in a big city. (I don’t need my small town past! I only need this new me! Me, me, me!) Then, as two family homesteads, TRUE century old homesteads, were swept away by a tornado when I was in my mid-20s, that yearning returned. Yearning for not just the past of my ancestors and their dusty, memory filled attics and haylofts, but yearning for my OWN past, followed by the realization that despite my best efforts, I truly missed that ME from the past. Now, in my 30s, I take pride in it and embrace it. And I make sure to tell everyone: I grew up as the youngest of six in a small Kansas town (population 600).

  48. My hometown scared me for life. I cant imagine going back. The cast based segregation, the skin color obsession with fairness, the way women were treated, the greed, the religious extremism, the way traditions were forced upon the younger generations, … I hated the place.
    I hope they didnt shape me or prejudice me against people from the region. But I couldnt wait to grow old enough to get out of there. I did and landed in sunny California.

    • Emma says...

      where are you from??

  49. Ivy says...

    I come from a tiny Midwestern town – I’m talking tiny. Fifty four kids in my graduating class tiny. Growing up, I didn’t realize how small-minded the people in my community were. While I praise them for their friendliness and willingness to band together during tough times (there were more waffle benefit breakfasts than you can imagine), there is a lot I feel they are missing. I deeply connect to the way I grew up and wouldn’t change it for the world, but I have an entirely new perspective because I now live in a larger city. This especially shines through when it comes to politics, which makes for interesting trips to dad’s house.

  50. Leigh says...

    Being from Iowa has shaped how I see the world. Take rabbits for example- in Iowa all rabbits are small, cute, and cotton-tailed. Over the summer we went hiking near my husband’s hometown of Calgary, AB, and I saw a jack rabbit for the very first time. Let me tell you, I freaked out. I have NEVER seen a rabbit that BIG! I called it a mutant bunny! my husband thought it was hilarious, saying “you know bugs bunny is a jack rabbit, right?” he told me he had the opposite reaction when he first saw a bunny in Iowa. He didn’t know rabbits could be so small, cotton-tailed, and cute!

    • Kim says...

      Love this reoly, made me lol

    • Tracey says...

      Haha! I’m from Australia, our possums are adorable. American ones – um, ARE NOT!

    • KylieO says...

      Yes Tracey!! I’m Australian too, and while visiting America I casually mentioned my dad feeds the cute possum which lives in the garage roof. My American friend was mortified. It was only after we googled pictures we realised they are VERY different LOL!!

    • Melanie says...

      Ha! I just Googled Australian possum and they are, in fact, much cuter than the ones here in the US.

  51. Becky says...

    Oh man, this post resonates with me so much. I grew up in Connecticut, but left home for school in Pittsburgh and continued to move to Baltimore, then Nashville, and finally San Francisco! I’ve been here for a few years and it still does not feel like home. I talk a lot about this with my boyfriend and his family (also in Northern California!) and I wonder if I’ll always just be more “east coast.” I miss the seasons, good bagels, and the proximity to so many other cities and states. It is BEAUTIFUL here, but my heart is totally split in two.

    • I love hearing this, being a Connecticut gal myself. I was actually born in Los Angeles and lived there until I was 7, but living in a small town in central Connecticut, going to school in CT and continuing to live here after college and getting married – CT is who I am! I dream of living other places (and still might) but then I really think about CT and don’t want to leave!

  52. DIANA says...

    I’m from a pretty suburban part of Queens and I love running into people who grew up near me. There’s always such a kinship or an immediate shorthand. Queens is huge and obviously full of different experiences but I would venture to say that its a mix of early independence and being around different cultures and having an immigrant/working class background that defines our childhood.

  53. Lindsay says...

    Love this post! I live in San Anselmo close to the Fairfax border. Just bought a house here and never thought I would end up back in the town I grew up in.

  54. Being from New Orleans, I will NEVER stop saying “y’all”. I cringe when I hear my California-born kindergartner saying “guys”. I try to get him to say “y’all” but I think he just wants to speak like his friends :(

  55. My husband and I moved to Wisconsin from Massachusetts almost ten years ago and, although we love where we live and harbor no fantasies of moving back, I still feel like an East Coast girl living in the Midwest most days. When I need a vacation now, I crave being near water and eating sea food. I feel a little bit more at home every time I walk into a Dunkin Donuts and I can tell I’m getting closer to “home” as the trees get taller and the mountains come into view.

  56. JB says...

    I spent a lot of time thinking about this in my 20’s. My now-husband is born and bred Torontonian and never wants to leave. That surety in knowing what he wants without having tried anything else is mystifying to me (in a good way!). I grew up in a small town in BC and KNEW from the age of SEVEN that I was leaving. I love my family and the farm and the mountains and living far away is so hard, but I needed a big city, culture, the theater, art galleries, cafes, transit, opportunity.

    Being “from” somewhere for me has meant having the courage to strike out on my own, to figure out what is important to me, to find my space in the world. It is a quest and I’m not sure I’m done yet :)

  57. Rachel Elise Simmons says...

    i LLOOVVEE this post!!! I can absolutely identify with you about the scents of Northern California! I grew up in the bay area and although the town i grew up in has quite a reputation for being snooty and over priced, I don’t see it that way. My home town is small town America, to me. The Christmas parade the first weekend in December, the large looming oak trees, the tree crowded streets, the coffee shop i’ve gone to my entire life, the people who have known me since I was a baby. That’s my home town. Although it’s changed a lot over the years because of the silicon valley surge, ( computer company CEO’s knocking down old classic homes to build new gaudy homes), i still long for the nostalgia of my classic home town, and it still peeks out, all over the place! ( Ignore the BMW’s and Mercedes owners)

    • Erin LaDue says...

      I grew up in the East bay area and miss Northern California so much. I def. embrace my California side when I am around people in upstate NY. We are the way more relaxed about stuff and I think healthier!

  58. Stephi B says...

    Yay for Marin! It’s one of my favorite places in the world. I grew up on the SF Peninsula but my grandparents lived in Larkspur. I miss the Bay Area but I think my adopted city of Denver has taught me to be nicer to strangers and my style is a lot more laid back now :)

  59. Elizabeth says...

    I can’t relate! I feel neutral at BEST about my hometown of Toledo, Ohio. I was born and raised there, but neither of my parents is from Ohio – or even the Midwest – so I didn’t have any family from there, and my mother in particular was always very vocal about disliking Toledo. I haven’t been back since they moved to be near my brothers and me in Northern California six years ago, and doubt I will ever go back. My siblings moved to liberal cities on the west coast and to Austin, so I don’t have any other family there. I went to school in other cities that always felt temporary. I found home when I moved to San Francisco well over a decade ago, and even though it is expensive, dirty and competitive, it is also everything good and amazing I treasure. I don’t think I will ever live anywhere else in the US (although living abroad is something I hope to do one day). My children are native San Franciscans, and I intend to keep them here. I do say, if asked, that I grew up in Toledo, but usually the only response that elicits is the other person saying they have been to or know someone from [insert name of different Ohio city]. I’m sure it influenced my personality in many ways, but I don’t ever feel a pull to it, or nostalgia, or a particular sense of pride. It just is, and was, but will never be again.

    LOL, my Midwestern niceness is doing battle with my SF frankness, but SF is winning, and I am just going to say it: I HATE Cleveland. I temporarily had to work for a Cleveland-based company and it was the most miserable time of my adult life. I felt like I was in a cultural time warp, and it was the only time in 13 years of working that I experienced gender discrimination. YUCK.

    • Jess says...

      Ditto. Sub in Huntington, WV (oh, hey, I’ve been to Richmond, close, right?) and Los Angeles.

  60. jules says...

    The culture of my hometown shaped me like a father figure – or maybe an abusive stepfather – heh heh. It was a tough, working class drinking town in the middle of the woods that I “escaped.” Yet the further I get in time, space and socioeconomics I realize it’s a huge part of me. How I think, my values, my perceptions of social justice and privilege. Hillbilly Elegy stuff. I’m there in my dreams once a week.

    My hometown instilled a real survivor and fighter mentality. That’s gotten me into trouble after a few drinks more than once.

    •  Natalie says...

      I dream all the time of being in the house I grew up in, which sadly doesn’t exist any more. If I’m in a house in a dream, it’s usually that one.

  61. Alexandra says...

    I spent the first 29 years of my life in Germany, but have lived for 18 years now in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Northern California is my home. I love the Redwoods, San Francisco, still get goosebumps crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. As long as I remember I wanted to at least visit California, but ultimately I moved there and love it. Of course, I hate the cost of housing, the traffic, the drought. But I LOVE living near the ocean, walking along beaches in winter and again, redwood forests. I enjoy visiting Germany, because my family is there, and I miss German bread and the dry German sense of humor. But after two weeks there, I miss the diversity and friendliness of California, as well as the good weather.

  62. steph says...

    Yes! I am from Charleston, SC and am a true southerner! I lived in MD/DC for college and grad school. My friends thought it was the north. A good friend was from NJ and his friends considered it the South ;) I tried living in NM and it did not agree with me. I’m now in KY. I think it’s a perfect place for a GRITS (girl raised in the south) with a midwestern heart :)

  63. Christina Copp says...

    My hometown is Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – a small city of roughly 400,000. I’ve lived in Toronto, but currently live in London, UK (8 million-ish) and will soon be moving to Australia. What’s never left me, I’m proud to say, is being nice, being welcoming, and being polite. A smile and a good morning to a stranger goes a long way in making me feel nice. Though Halifax may not be my current home, and I’m very happy I get to embrace two other countries. And I don’t hate not living in snow anymore either :)

  64. Em says...

    As someone from New Jersey, can I take this opportunity to share with all my fellow COJ readers a few fun facts about my home state? I may sound a bit defensive, but I hope you understand :P

    1. NJ is not one big highway or one big sewage treatment plant, like everyone thinks. Those things are definitely clustered around the turnpike and the airports, so you see them (and smell them) when you land here or when you drive through. But they aren’t indicative of the rest of the state.

    2. We’re a top exporter of blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes, and corn, among many other things. And much of the state is beautiful farmland with delightful farm stands on the side of the road. (It is the “Garden State” after all!)

    3. The northern portion of the state has small mountains, and is actually incredibly (spookily) rural. You can go skiing there and breathe the fresh air. And get very lost on back roads.

    4. The beaches are safe and very pretty (I’ve never once seen a hypodermic needle, as many people claim.) And the boardwalk is full of fun, quirky things you can’t find anywhere else.

    5. Speaking of the beach, those ‘Jersey Shore’ folks were all from New York, so those accents you heard weren’t NJ accents. I actually have a bit of a newscaster accent, with nothing special about it, and so does everyone I know.

    6. NJ drivers aren’t bad. If you come in from out of state and don’t know how a traffic circle works, it might feel that way. But really, everything is happening with great safety and efficiency. :P

    7. We have excellent food due to all the different people in this area, from Italian food to Indian food and everything in between.

    8. Our bagels and pizza are excellent, and when I leave the area I always crave them. (Lots of other states have what I’d call “cheesy bread.”)

    9. We are very densely populated, and that can lead to traffic. But that’s just because so many people want to live near Philly or NYC, which are great perks!

    10. The people are really nice. Yes, we have jerks just like everywhere else. And people sure do say what they think. But it can be refreshing and I often miss it when I go somewhere else, where people aren’t as “real.”

    I could go on, but these cover the biggest misconceptions about NJ. Just my two cents in an effort to change people’s perception of my
    state. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this, em!

    • Emily says...

      I lived in Central New Jersey for 5 years (my husband was pursuing his PhD) and I can completely agree with all the above statements! I’m originally from Southern California and now live in Austin, TX, and I still miss NJ all the time! It is a gorgeous special place and I’m happy to be reminded of how lovely it truly is!

    • Katie says...

      I love this comment and you’re right! The rest of us have no idea what it’s like there. I had no ideas of New Jersey till I dated a guy from there. When I asked him my list of first date trivia questions, he answered “what was your first job?” with: a blueberry picker. WHAT? I had no idea it was rural and was shocked. That prompted wonderful stories of his pig following him on the school bus and lots of stories that take place in diners.

    • Anna says...

      I love this! I’m from Reno, Nevada and we also have terrible stereotypes to combat – thanks Reno 911! But really is a lovely place to live – 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe, 3 hours to Yosemite, and 4 hours to San Francisco. And there’s tons to do if you’re an outdoors person. I’d move back in a heartbeat if there was any work in my field there!

    • MM says...

      I am from central Jersey, and can confirm that this list is so true. I’d also add that people from NJ tend to have a great sense of sarcastic/snarky humor and don’t take themselves too seriously.

    • Marcella says...

      Interesting! I live in San Antonio, TX and my faaaavorite pizza place is called Florio’s, it’s run by people from New Jersey and it’s SO GOOD. TBH I’m in NYC right now and I had Joe’s pizza the other night and I would dare say Florio’s is better.

  65. Marlena says...

    I am a born and raised Vegas baby. The other night my kids and I were talking about colleges and the first thing that came up as a very important thing to consider when they choose where to go is “What time does everything close there?”. Ha! We are so used to not having to worry about when something is open that I can just imagine the utter shock and devastation on their faces finding out they can’t grab snacks while cramming late at night. Yikes!
    Also, nothing fazes me or my family in terms of, well… anything. We’ve seen it all, heard it all. Vegas has a beautiful way of showcasing the good, bad, and ugly in people in such a marvelously tacky fabulous beautiful way. I rarely find myself categorizing other people because Vegas has taught me that there are too many categories to choose from and that is just a boring thing to do anyway.

    • Gaby says...

      I love this comment! I’m also from Vegas and was having a hard time coming up with how that has shaped me as a person. The only thing that really came to mind was not being judgmental because we see all walks of life here. My husband and I were recently in LA and felt overwhelmed by every conversation we overheard, it seemed like everyone was just trying to one-up each other! To be fair we were at a very trendy hotel, but we both felt a relief that normal conversations don’t sound like that where we’re from.

  66. Roz says...

    I just moved from my hometown of Los Angeles, to a town in Ohio so small (pop. 2500) they call it a village!
    Besides getting to used to having four seasons, I’m still surprised how nice mid-westerners truly are! Cashiers really do care how you are doing. Servers will share in detail how they are doing. Your neighbors will introduce themselves and really mean it when they offer you help.
    I lived in the same apartment for 5 years in LA and don’t know any of my neighbors, and rushed through my errands and interactions with people cause everyone was just so busy.
    Not here. Everyone is nice and ready to take their time enjoying life.
    I still say Dude and “you guys”, hate all the food (sorry!), and complain about how pale I am daily.
    I’m adjusting and love it here. But I do think daily about fake eyelashes, tanning, manicures, and mexican food.
    :)

    • Rachel Elise Simmons says...

      that sounds so charming and lovely…. I wish more people valued simple and meaningful interactions, like you describe. I lived in Montana, and it felt WAY more like that, then California ever will.

  67. t says...

    For me hometowns are like family in that they can feel simultaneously suffocating and comfortable. Other families and places are exciting and new but also do things wrong.

  68. Anne says...

    I grew up in small towns in Iowa and spent my college years and early twenties in Minneapolis (I now live in Austin, TX, but it doesn’t really feel like home). Both Iowa and Minnesota feel like places that I did a lot of growing up in so I claim both as hometown territory. My partner is from a suburb of London and it’s been a game changer viewing my home state through his eyes. He LOVES Iowa and finds it incredibly charming. I’ve mostly been ambivalent, but it’s interesting what a fresh perspective can do (I’d also note that it goes both ways: I find his London burb endlessly charming and adorable, him to a lesser degree). I don’t think I’ll ever move back to Iowa, but I do find myself feeling more nostalgic for elements of home. We are getting married next year and one of our receptions will be in Iowa (the other in the UK). I’m actually really looking forward to celebrating with my extended family and introducing my coastal friends to the charming, odd, and delightful parts of Iowa . It won’t hurt that the date falls during the Iowa State Fair, my #1 favorite part of my home state and an event I insist everyone visit at least once in their lifetime :)

    • Grace says...

      Yes, the Iowa State Fair is epic and should be on everyone’s bucket list. If only the summers weren’t so humid. I survived it for 18 years, but now it seems unbearable when I come home. Such a wimp!

  69. Los Angeles native here! When I had a Minnesotan roommate in grad school, she thought I was so Californian because I ate avocado with almost every meal!

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because my sister lives in Albany, NY, and has been trying to get my other sister and I to move there with our families! Lower cost of living, no traffic, no earthquakes or drought or wildfires…it’s tempting! But as I thought about it, I thought about how truly Californian I am. I’ve lived in Europe and Colorado, and still, I love the dry, Mediterranean climate, I love oak trees and eucalyptus trees and olive trees. I love that some of the most creative people in the world move here, I love that dressed up means black jeans, that a full face of makeup isn’t required and neither are nylons. I love the Hollywood Bowl and Palm Springs and the Griffith Observatory. I love yoga and hiking and knowing I can go to the beach if I want to, even though I never brave the traffic to go. :p I love that I know people on TV or see celebrities in random places and it’s not a big deal if you’re a native.

    But a friend and I have also talked about how growing up in California has made us see life as a little more unstable than someone who might have grown up in a place with four predictable seasons. We have crazy, unpredictable weather, wildfires, and earthquakes–literally, the earth beneath our feet cannot be counted on! That has definitely shaped how I see the world and how I move through life.

    • Jane says...

      “…and still, I love the dry, Mediterranean climate, I love oak trees and eucalyptus trees and olive trees. ”

      I love that! I’ve lived in Utah most of my life, but I feel like that sentence perfectly describes me. Sounds like heaven. Maybe I should be living in California! We’re still waiting for The Big Quake here, so I’m already accustomed to worrying about earthquakes… :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s funny how you can feel so comfortable in a certain climate. alex loves dry desert heat, and i love rainy wet days and the sound of seagulls.

    • Michelle says...

      The climate thing is so real. As a native Atlantan who has lived in Los Angeles for going on six years, I am still not used to warm winters (it’s 83 degrees right now! As much as I generally love the weather here, I’m still finding myself expecting something else half the time.

    • laura says...

      Haha I feel the opposite about LA weather! It’s so predictable. Not really crazy compared to 4 season cities.

    • Kelly says...

      I’m a tried and true Californian too. Not sure if others have this issue, but for me, I secretly think California is the center of the universe (well, plus New York, Denver, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, etc. etc.) and I have a hard time relating to “middle America.” I swear I’d never met a Republican until I was in my twenties and can’t help but have a viscerally negative reaction. I have mid-western colleagues who are total NRA right wingers and I can’t help but silently judge them (well especially after the Vegas shooting.) Anyway, I wish I didn’t get so bent out of shape by them — sometimes I wonder if maybe I grew up with some neighbors or friends or family members who are conservative maybe I’d be less judgmental? I dunno…sometimes I think there’s just a cultural divide and when they talk about the West Coast seceding I’m like yeah for sure!!!

  70. Jane says...

    During college, I moved from Utah to the east coast. I was happy to get some new scenery (and see a real deciduous forest for the first time!) but one thing that stoked a sense of pride was when people got Western place names wrong. I don’t say “New Yerk,” so please don’t say “Nevahda,” you know?

    Also, a dead giveaway that you’re from the East is when you call it “The Salt Lake.” It’s called Great Salt Lake. Don’t know why it’s so common for easterners to remove the Great from our Lake, but it’s definitely a thing. It’s the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere, I think it deserves its title :)

    Some things that followed me back east were:
    -Mopping the floor with the same amount of water I would’ve used in Utah, having it finally evaporate about 8 hours later
    -Being “old school nice” which I’ve heard is a Utah thing? (but I’m pretty fiery underneath that ;) Kind of the opposite of what the Bostonians here are saying, haha.

  71. Colleen S. says...

    I was raised in San Diego County for sixteen years, lived in New Hampshire for eight years, lived in Oregon for two, and have lived in Northern California for six years. San Diego has and always will be so familiar. It changes frequently, but still feels and smells the same.

  72. Suze says...

    I grew up in Chicago (20 min west to be exact in Elmhurst). The midwestern is strong in me. I went to college and married in Texas and we live in oklahoma now. But this fall I went to Chicago to watch my brother run the marathon. I visited old friends and drove past my childhood home. I was overwhelmed with a sense of longing to be there and raise my kids there. I say “crah-kpot” instead of crockpot and “aig” instead of egg. And I always feel like a fast walker, no nonsense, giant pizza eating Chicagoan at heart. Thanks for posting. I totally understand.

  73. Spent my formative years in Brooklyn and then Northern New Jersey and gotta disagree about the driving, haha I think I drive quite well thanks! (Though I did get a lot of city driving experience since I lived less than 5 miles from Manhattan.) And the Jersey accent thing is soo true! (though it does depend which part of the state you’re from.) Because I’m bilingual I never quite picked up the full on Jersey accent but get a few drinks in me and they definitely start to come out! I also notice it A LOT more now that I haven’t lived there for over a decade.
    Also, I think North and South Jersey are extremely different they might as well be different states honestly.

    I live in the Bay Area now and it doesn’t feel like home but the older I get I wonder if anything ever truly will? Home can mean so many things, since none of my family lives in our hometown anymore I’ve shifted my definition of that word to mean that home is where your family is, wherever that may be.

  74. Cindy says...

    I was raised in Southern California but have lived in Texas for the past 20 years. I fought incorporating “y’all” into my vocabulary, but now I can’t imagine speaking without it. It’s so helpful!

    But I still feel like a Californian. I’m far more liberal than most of my midwestern friends, for example. And hand to my heart, when people are giving me directions and use “east” and “west,” the first thing I do is envision a map of the US and think, “Is that toward the Pacific Ocean, or away from it?” All these years later, that ocean is still my frame of reference.

    • Jeanne says...

      Omg yes on the ocean directions! That’s such a part of California life.

  75. I was born and raised in LA. I think this city has made me patient — the constant traffic, circling for parking, etc., — and optimistic. It’s hard to be pessimistic when it’s 70 degrees in December!

  76. Danielle says...

    I’m from Staten Island, N.Y. It’s a place often referred to as the ‘Forgotten Borough’, is filled with lots of Italians and for better or worse, a place I will always gladly call home.

    And, even though I no longer live there and didn’t always feel this way, I do feel like it’s shaped who I am as a person. I will always love Staten Island’s bagels, pizzerias and how almost everyone seems to have a similar upbringing/family values.

    • Barbara Jane says...

      I literally searched for Staten Island in the comments to see if any hometown friends were here! I also grew up on Staten Island, and I think everyone has strong feelings about SI being home. I work in New Jersey, and I’m such a snob about bagels and pizza, and the WATER! yuck!
      I left for college but moved back home after, and now live in my grandparents house, only a mile away from my parents (and my in-laws too!). It’s safe to say Staten Island is a part of me!

  77. Anna says...

    I’m a born and raised North Carolinian and think my upbringing definitely shaped my personality! I’m always smiling, complimenting, and saying ‘hi’ to strangers, which is normal for me but apparently uncommon for the rest of the country. I have friends who, when they moved to NC from up north, were initially taken aback and a little wary of how friendly everyone was.
    This summer I travelled to Southern California for the first time and was reminded of the South while there. From the lineman in In-n-Out who told us where the best seafood was (Mitch’s, if you’re wondering), to the barista who befriended my dad, people were more outgoing and friendly than I expected and made me feel at home on an opposite coast.

    • Lia says...

      I’m a native NC-er but I left at 18, then spent 8 years in Atlanta before moving to San Diego almost 8 years ago. While I think of NC as home, I haven’t lived there for almost half my life, and I don’t go back enough, so I am feeling less connected to it. Politics aside, I love NC and think it is a great place to have grown up. It is weird to me that my kids are Californians. I secretly cherish the dream we will end up back in NC or at least on the East Coast but not sure my husband (a native Michigander) would be on board…plus it is hard to leave San Diego with its perfect weather and beautiful beaches…and cheap, plentiful avocados

  78. Nicole says...

    I grew in South Florida, but was never much of a beach-goer. Actually, I never really identified with any of the many Floridian subcultures. I visited a friend who was going to college in Portland, OR when I was 17 & fell in love. It took 10 years, but I finally made the move out here & have never felt so at home. Fortunately, my husband (who I met working at Universal Studios of all places!) was just as in love with the Pacific NW & was down to make the move. Whenever we go back to visit family in FL, we’re reminded of all the reasons why we wanted to leave that state. I would never go back, but now that we have a toddler & another kiddo on the way, I realize how hard it is to raise children without any nearby family. I keep hoping they’ll join us out here someday!

  79. Mary says...

    I love this article so much! I’ve been thinking about this topic quite a lot since moving town and country a couple of years ago. I’m originally from Ireland, lived in the UK for 14years and then more recently moved to Munich in Germany. I noticed on first moving to the UK I was hilariously Irish in ways but now my friendliness and openness to strangers seem to be even more obvious again in Germany! It could be worse couldn’t it! I find it fascinating how towns, cities, even areas within within these places have palpable atmospheres and personalities. Variety is definitely the spice of life!

  80. Becca says...

    I’ve lived in Austin my entire life, even through college and grad school at UT. The “Keep Austin Weird” slogan is meant to encourage supporting local businesses over chains, and that has definitely rubbed off on me. I cannot stand going to chain stores/restaurants! :) Beyond that, growing up in Austin has made me feel like being “weird” is actually cool, since everyone here seems to take a lot of pride in the city’s weirdest characters, events, etc.

  81. Meghan says...

    Wow – I love this post. I grew up in the Bay Area, went to high school in Sacramento (Lady Bird made me cry), and college in Los Angeles. My husband and I have lived in Nashville for a few years, but my heart will always, always be in California.

    We have photographs of my great-aunt hanging laundry on her San Francisco rooftop with the Golden Gate behind her, and my great-grandparents walked it the day it opened. They were just dating at the time, of course, which makes it even more romantic. The California Bay Area is in my blood, and it always will be.

    • That’s so amazing!! :)

    • Ileana says...

      This gave me chills! :)

  82. As a Minnesotan now in New York the last 4 years, I can relate to what Ben said. I do find that New Yorkers are nice like Minnesotans but just always so rushed (which often seems pretty pointless to me). I have also found myself learning to be more impatient but I am trying to fight it. A big thing I feel that is different is that the East Coast in general, is a bit more into status symbols than Minnesota. Who cares about designer clothes and which Ivy league you went to? Like seriously, I don’t get it. Minnesotans care more that you’re out having fun and enjoying friends and family than busting your behind for things that won’t really matter. I am happy with my Minnesota State education, it got me employed at Columbia University and later a spot in the PhD program out here. What it didn’t get me was the mound of debt (0 undergrad debt in fact) that the Ivy Leaguers have.

  83. refugee/immigrant from Vietnam who landed in Takoma Park, MD, a suburb of DC. it was a very poor, immigrant community we lived in for about 11 years. then my dad got a job as a Foreign Service Officer (for the US) and we moved around every 2-3 years across two continents. i came back to the states for college and now reside in Baltimore, MD. been here for 15 years. i always knew i’d come back to MD and as it were, the neighborhood i live in has a great immigrant population. i haven’t been back to takoma park in years, but in my heart, this is where i am from.

  84. Katie says...

    I’m from Tavernier, Florida – a small island in the Upper Florida Keys. I live in Tampa now, and while I love the tall trees and the city life, a part of me will always be on that island. Growing up, we made tree forts in the mangroves and went swimming in the bay almost daily. I will always love a Florida Keys sunset, the sound of the boat skimming over crystal waters, and my hometown radio station SUN103.1 :)

  85. I’m from Pittsburgh, PA. I lived here for most of my childhood, through high school, and college but moved away to Seattle and then Asheville for awhile. Now I’m back living in Pittsburgh and I’m still adjusting. My experience growing up here absolutely helped to shape who I am today. Being back “home” after being away for so long has been hard. It doesn’t feel like home and I’m struggling to identify with the city as I once did.

  86. Annika says...

    Born and raised in Southern California! I have lived in Seattle since I was 21 (15 years ago), but without a doubt I still feel like a beach girl at heart- the smell of eucalyptus brings back all of the memories, and I think a good oversized hoodie is always a perfect fashion choice. Also, I still can’t seem to figure out how to properly wear a scarf to keep warm!

  87. Tara says...

    I live about twenty minutes from my hometown, but teach at the middle school I went to! Many of my now colleagues were once my teachers, and there are other former students who have returned as teachers. The experience highlights how strong the community is, and how inspiring good teachers can be.

  88. Lorraine says...

    I’m originally from Jersey City, and I live there now. My hometown is kind of a NY non-borough even though I’m technically “bridge and tunnel” (lol). I lived in Manhattan/Brooklyn for many years as well, so the NY identity is there. However I never really felt that New Yorky until I moved out west – I lived in Portland, OR for 5 years and had never felt more East Coast. So for me it does ring true that you feel your roots more when you leave the nest.

  89. SM says...

    This is so funny! I grew up in the Bay Area – left for Boston for college then grad school (8 years); then LA ( 9mos); then upstate NY (2.5years). In Boston, I felt at home, I fell in love with LA eventually and never really felt the at peace/ home-y feeling in Saratoga.

    Finally, after almost 12 years, I just moved back to the Bay and I LOVE IT. I’m home. Boston could’ve been home but these are my people and that’s that.

    Its true about Bostonians, they’re tough nuts to crack but once you do they’re your friends for LIFE. I love them deeply and truly and miss them always.

  90. Maywyn says...

    Over 30 years in Vermont, the Boston area still feels like home. Moving back is always a dream, but that’ll probably happen when I eat dirt/pass away.

  91. My childhood was split it half. I was born in “the middle of nowhere New York” (middle of the state, on the PA border, had goats and chickens) and moved to the NC coast when I was 9. I loved my time in North Carolina, and I went to college there as well, but it never felt like home to me. The focus on religion always felt a little uncomfortable, and while I loved grits and sweet tea, it just never fit. Western NY felt more comfortable. I moved to Boston 18 years ago, so I’ve lived longer here than anywhere else – to me, this is home. I knew the moment I got here that it felt right to me.

  92. I’m was born/raised in a TINY town in North Dakota – population 500. I HATED it. I do identify as a Midwestern but ND does not feel like home to me. I moved to Minneapolis after college which was a FAR better fit for me. I need to live in a diverse, vibrant and open-minded place. I think it’s been 7-8 years since I’ve been back to my hometown and I don’t know that I’ll ever visit it again (my parents have a lake home in Minnesota so all our family get togethers are at the lake). There was a safety and simplicity to small-town life, but I honestly pretty much hated growing up there. There were 28 people in my graduating class so it was just waaay too small and encouraged a lot of gossip.

    But I LOVE Minnesota and feel like a Minnesotan through and through. I think of Minnesotans as being practical and stoic. It can be a tough place to move to, though, as people really keep to themselves here and while we are known for our ‘Minnesota Nice’ – it’s more so on the surface (like we’ll hold a door for you and or give directions). It can take awhile to really break in and make friends here if you didn’t grow up in the region.

    • TJ says...

      I’m curious where you are from in ND! I grew up in MN, but on the border of ND and now also live in Minneapolis. Yes, small, rural towns are brutal…enough said. Also? Uffda! haha

  93. Lauren says...

    It’s become an ongoing joke with my husband: Whenever I find something I really love in a new place, we realize it’s because it reminds me of my little hometown in Eastern Washington. I was born in Walla Walla, WA, and didn’t move away until I got married. (Yep, elementary school, high school, and college all in a place called Walla Walla). My husband and I taught in a small town in Georgia, where I loved the short stretch of downtown (because of my love for Walla Walla’s downtown). Now, we teach in Northern California (Hello from Sacramento!). When I commented, just the other day, about how beautiful the orchard rows looked as we drove down I-5, I realized . . . I did it again, didn’t I?

    • Mia says...

      I’m from Roseville, born and raised! One thing I always notice when traveling is how so many other places look and feel like different pockets of California – orchards, deserts, vineyards, beaches, mountains… I’d imagine that so many others can be reminded of their home somewhere in California.

    • Rachel says...

      I’m from Richland (a city near Walla Walla) and love this comment. Walla Walla is such a pretty and little-known place!

  94. Christina says...

    YES! I grew up in Pittsburgh and always wanted to get to LA or New York for my career (and honestly for the food), but after four years of college in Ohio and now four years in New York, I have become fiercely loyal to and defensive of the place where I grew up and (now) love so much that I plan to move back eventually. Every time I visit, which is pretty frequently, I am calmer and so appreciative to see a new side of it through a cool restaurant or driving through a neighborhood I somehow never visited. Whether it’s because most of my family is still there or I was too young to understand that glamour isn’t the only factor in a dynamic place, it feels like I still belong there, even if I do love NYC. On the days when too many people bump into me on the subway or it takes four hours to go grocery shopping, I feel a sense of relief that one day I can go home where everything is easier. New York is magic, but so is returning to the place that had a big part in shaping you and discovering that it is actually way cooler than you gave it credit for.

    • Meghan says...

      This makes me so happy! I’m a transplant to Pittsburgh (and you’re right, it is way cooler than people give it credit for). There’s no doubt being born and raised as a small-town Michigander has shaped me, and I still get homesick for the Great Lakes State at times. But now I’m raising little Pittsburghers. So as a mama, it makes me happy to read that even if one day my daughters think their hometown isn’t as cool as the big cities, perhaps they will eventually come to appreciate it.

  95. Abi says...

    I grew up in Québec City, Canada, so people always assume that I identify as Canadian (I don’t) or that I say “eh.” (Does anyone?)
    To this day, although I’ve lived in the States for five years, I’m still in love with musty old Catholic churches, real maple syrup, crazy long winters, and getting glimpses of the St. Laurence river wherever I go. I’m thrilled whenever I hear French being spoken (even France-french). I miss the feeling of being “in-the-know,” of being a member of a very selective club, that came with living there. I’m learning that it’s okay both to grieve for the things I lost and to feel joy when I notice another detail about myself that was unquestionably formed by where I grew up. It’s bittersweet – but mostly sweet.

    • Nina Nattiv says...

      ha, I lived in Canada until I was only 7 years old and I still say ‘eh?’

    • My family says “eh” in their heavy Canadian accent. I even drop any time I hear people speaking French. When my husband asks what people are saying I have tell the truth and half make up outlandish stories.

  96. Iva says...

    I grew up in a very small town in an even smaller European country. Now I live in the biggest city here, but it’s still very small compared to cities in US. I am about to become an MD in a few months (my fiance too, we met in college) and we already planned everything – where we are going to live, work etc. But then -bam!- a few days ago he received an offer to go and do a postdoc in Wisconsin for 2-3 years! Now we are confused and don’t know what to do, especially because my work options are very limited in US (non-existent without passing your exams if I am correct, but I still need to look it up in more detail), even though I’ll be a fully licensed MD here in Europe. We are excited for the opportunity, but scared because it changes our plans completely. And don’t get me started on the cultural aspect – you guys are big! :D

    • Marianne says...

      Take the jump! It’s one big adventure. When we moved to Wisconsin 6 years ago, all our friends told me how lucky I was to get this chance. I was mainly nervous moving so far away with 2 little kids and sad to leave my family and friends. Now I’m so happy we did. Living abroad and exploring this country is such a great experience.

  97. Abby says...

    I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. Almost anytime I tell someone they respond with, “Cleveland rocks!” to which I retort, “when I’m there it does.” Though the reputation of the “mistake on the lake” often lends itself to the idea of a typical rust-belt town full of the simple minded and often naive, it has an incredible amount to offer with good restaurants, impressive museums, beautiful parks, an enormous lake! and some of the kindest people I have ever met. And even if it didn’t, I would still be proud of my roots. My hometown taught me to be genuine, down-to earth, friendly, caring, how to drink beer out of the can in the backyard by a bonfire and if nothing else, how to remain loyal to the losingest football team of all time. As Bob Dylan once said about Minnesota, “It’s a good place to be from.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “when I’m there it does” = LOVE that.

      love this whole comment.

    • Fellow Clevelander here! I agree that there’s no one so loyal as a Browns fan. But, that’s Cleveland. You’ve gotta be tough!

      I’ve never visited a city that I’ve loved as much as Cleveland. The pride that people have for this city and the commitment (especially in recent years) to dusting off the old reputation and making the CLE shine is inspiring. It’s such a good time to be here!

  98. Lucy in England says...

    I grew up in a London commuter town, and I ran away as soon as I could- it’s like Wisteria Lane where everyone is gossiping about who is having an affair with who’s tennis coach and everything is defined by money. It wasn’t like that when we first moved there when I was a kid but it gets worse and worse each time I go back- very materialistic and judgemental. My parents feel like they don’t fit there either but won’t move as it is super convenient for the city.

    I ran away to a scruffy noisy diverse port city and stayed there just under 10 years- I loved the relaxed attitude and the new people you would meet all the time, but in the end I knew I needed to be somewhere rural, and having married a Cornishman he couldn’t resist the call of the south west.

    We moved here to Devon 5 years ago as “blow ins” and it is such a part of who I am now. I think my home town makes me appreciate it enormously. People are friendly and welcoming, you can get to the sea in half an hour, the land envelops you with love.

    Every time I come over the ridge and see the valley and our village I am filled with a deep and peaceful joy.

    • Anna says...

      This is so beautiful, Lucy! x

  99. Jessica says...

    I lived in three very different places during my childhood, because of that, I’ve never felt a tie to any place. Now that I say that, that probably shaped me into the wanderlust I am today. My husband and I have moved nine times in our fourteen years of marriage, including two international moves. I never found myself yearning for a place, more for people that I missed. And those people are spread out all across the globe.

  100. Amanda G says...

    As a child of a National Park Service ranger with a huge case of wanderlust, I hopped around quite a lot as a kid. Born in CT, I also lived in VA, NM, and WY before coming to Colorado in 4th grade. My parents settled into a cozy house in Estes Park, on the fringe of Rocky Mountain N.P., and we lived there for four years before moving to Denver. I’ve collectively lived in three Colorado towns/cities for over twenty years of my life, and I feel like a Coloradoan. The funny thing is, though, even though I only lived there for 4 years, Estes Park always feels like my true hometown. Every time I drive into the valley it’s nestled in, I get a lump in my throat and breathe a sigh of contentment as I see my first glimpse of the mountains. It always feels like a warm and comfortable homecoming, and I know both the town and the trails of the park like the back of my hand. I think there are so many things that shape us in these lives of ours, and your version of “hometown” isn’t necessarily where you were born. Because aside from always wanting to pronounce “aunt” as “aah-nt” (Coloradoans seem to prefer “ant”) and my eternal love for cold, rocky beaches, I’m a CO girl through and through :)

  101. Anna says...

    I grew up in Northern California (near Tahoe) but left for Southern California 15 years ago. Although in the same state North and South California are vastly different. I find it interesting that although the beaches of Southern California are now home two of my closest friends here are both from the Northern California foothills region that I grew up in. We didn’t met until we all migrated south and yet we were instantly drawn to each other.

    • mallory says...

      This exact same thing happened to me when I moved from the Bay Area to San Diego for college. Most of my closest friends ended up being NorCal natives!

    • Katie says...

      I’m always explaining to people that Northern and Southern California are 2 different states. I’m from Northern and I’ve only been to Southern once and in my mind I think of going there the same way as I do when I think about the fact that I’ve been to Europe once.

  102. Kathryn says...

    My Dad was in the military when I was growing up, so we moved around the country every 3-5 years. We moved to the Oregon coast when I was 5 and lived there until I was 9. I have always considered it my hometown, despite not really being “from” there (or anywhere, for that matter). I’ve had 18 addresses in eight different states and moved across the country five separate times.

    More than I think my hometown influences who I am and my personality, I think the Pacific Northwest has. I have always felt most my self when surrounded by evergreens and moss. The Cascade Volcanos make my heart flutter. I don’t believe in umbrellas and most of my clothes are fleece or goretex. I haven’t gotten a single use cup in years. If I forget my reusable shopping bags, I carry my groceries in my arms. I just upgraded my 312,000 mile Subaru to a Subaru with 37,000 miles (because the greenest car you can buy is one already on the road). I get antsy and frustrated when it’s gone too long without raining. I am a Pacific Northwesterner, thru and thru.

  103. Joanna says...

    I’ve never heard of the 10 year rule. To be a New Yorker, my rule is that you either have to be born here, or had to attend high school here.

  104. brianna says...

    I spent the first 9.5 years of my life in Los Angeles and then from age 9.5 to 31 I lived in Las Vegas. Now I live in Reno, Nevada (across the state from Vegas – no, they’re not next to each other). None of those places feel like home to me. I’m hoping to move in the next two years, but I’m not sure where. I feel like Portland, OR would be a good fit, but I don’t really know. I think I’m more likely to end up wherever I can find a job in my field.

    • Mariel says...

      I live in Reno too! I grew up here mostly, and this place has grown on me, but I feel you. I love Seattle and the PNW in general. I hope maybe one day to call a place like that home, but at the end of the day, my friends are my family and I have a close group of them here which I think would make moving hard.

  105. edie says...

    I grew up in a small Iowa town and have lived here in Iowa, for the most part, my entire life. I yearn to live in another state or even another country, but I have to confess, I’m beginning to become so familiar with this portion of the world that it would actually be hard to leave now.

    I don’t think I’d ever say it out loud, but I’ve been here long enough that now it feels like my forever home. It also feels like it’s too much work to move and start a new life at this point. Ugh. Maybe it’s the Midwesterner in me? But I know, I know, I know at some point I’ll need to go elsewhere. It would be good for my soul….

    Reminds me of that Hawthorne quote, “Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.”

    • Xana says...

      EDIE! fellow iowa-dweller, here.

      Move away! Go find adventure elsewhere. Iowa (Midwest in gen) is a great home base because people are kind and things tend to change slowly here. So go seek new things…everything here will remain as it is for the most part :)

    • Great quote!

  106. Megan says...

    I loved this post, but it also made me a little sad, because I’ve never felt that deep connection to a place. I grew up in a military family, and for most of my childhood, we moved every 3 or so years to a new base. I’ve continued a similar pattern of moving in my adult life, going to college in St. Louis, graduate school in New Orleans, and working for a few years in Massachusetts and Tennessee. My family teases me that I’m the “anywhere but here girl”, because I’m always dreaming up where I will move to next, but really, I’m just trying to find a place that finally feels like home.

    • Emily Crowder says...

      Aw, Megan, this set off a pang of recognition and sadness for me. My dad was in the military and while we didn’t move as often as you did, I feel this too. I spent all of university and college in one place and since then have moved every two years, if not cities than at least apartments. My boyfriend and I have made so many lists of “possible homes”, places we hope will hold us and make us stop wandering. We have a toddler now and I feel conflicted about moving. I want to stay still for her, so she can not feel like this, so she can grow up with a core group of friends and family. I also want to feel free to take her around the country, the world, to try everything until we find that one place that fits. Sometimes I think that place is a myth, other times I think it might grow up around us if we would just hold still.

    • Megan says...

      Hi, Megan — another Megan here who grew up in a similar situation! My family moved every few years, too. I never really felt like I had a hometown. It does make me a little sad, but mostly I like being different. I feel like it’s made me adaptable and open to change, and like I could fit in almost anywhere. And I feel like I’m a product of so many different places, people and ideas, and not just one place.

    • Kathryn says...

      My fiancé and I both grew up in families that moved a lot (mine military, his IBM) and the wanderlust runs deep for both of us. I am so thankful for all the places I lived and experiences I had, but I long to set down roots.

      Looking at the places you’ve lived, can you name the things you loved about each? The things you loved? Where are the commonalities between each place? Maybe use that as a jumping off point for finding your home.

      Sending love.

  107. Alison Briggs says...

    Its so true that you don’t realize how your home town affects you until you leave it. I am from a small beach town on the East Coast of Florida (Hobe Sound). Its so small and charming and the beach is never more than a 5 minute drive away. Of course I didn’t find it charming while living there – ha! Only now that I live in Raleigh (2.5 hours from the closest beach) do I realize how amazing it was growing up there! The constant smell of salt and ocean breeze and the laid back surfer vibe. I miss it but do cherish it so much more when I go back. I find myself trying to bring those aspects that I love into my children’s lives. Shoes are optional in the summer, being in the ocean and salt water as much as possible, and just embracing the hippie surfer in all of us. As a result my 4 year old son is never without a hemp ankle bracelet and shares my deep love of the surf and sand, which makes the beach bum in me so very happy!

  108. Carrie says...

    I grew up in Oregon. Aside from my love for lush green forests, I’m really unsure of how it shaped me as a person. In terms of little quirks (and even the accent) I feel like Oregon is very… neutral.

  109. Omaya says...

    Domestically, we tend to think of ourselves based on what state we grew up in because we mostly communicate these differences with other Americans who are also familiar with our shared geographic context. When I first traveled outside the country as a college student, I remember noticing that people’s eyes would glaze over if I described myself as from “Arizona”. That experience altered how I self identify, especially in a global sense. I hold so many more cultural norms as American rather than an Arizonan, and I think it’s important to recognize that to be able to communicate those qualities to people outside our country as well.

    • JR says...

      This is *so* true. Well said.

  110. I moved around quite a bit growing up, but Houston is home. I lived here until I was 15 and moved back at 22 (I’m 34 now). I had absolutely no desire to come back here. I grew up in the suburbs and our suburbs are BLAND. When I lived in other cities, the suburbs felt like quaint little towns, but here they’re all sprawl and strip malls. It took me a long time, but I love this city so much now. It’s incredibly diverse, our winters are amazing, the food is the best of any city I have lived in, real estate is fairly affordable (although that’s changing fast), and despite our reputation Houston proper is very liberal. Yes the traffic and mosquitoes are brutal and we get hit with the occasional hurricane, but we also have patio weather year-round, we spend our summers pool-side (at home!), and we get to be friends with people from all over the world. We have all of the energy and excitement and amenities befitting the fourth largest city in the country, but still maintain a pretty laid-back vibe. I wouldn’t live anywhere else at this point (in the US, anyway).

    The culture of this city has really defined who I am. The mind-blowingly conservative Christian suburban upbringing where I was miserable and didn’t fit in shaped me just as much as the liberal urban life I lead here now. When I moved to Philadelphia, I fit in there as well. It was amazing and I loved it. The suburbs of Chicago were a huge culture shock, and I was miserable. There really is a unique culture to every place, and I think it’s really interesting how that shapes who we are. We either absorb it, or rebel against it. There isn’t much middle ground.

  111. I love this article! I am someone who traveled a lot in my teen and younger 20s and no matter what when someone asks where home is, it is always small town Vermont, nestled in the Green Mountains. I dream of returning to my hometown, I am so proud of the state and the people who reside in it. The saying “home is where your heart is” Vermont will always have a piece of my heart.

  112. Cindy D. says...

    Yes, you definitely do recognize the traits and staples of your home town when you aren’t there any more. I’m a Buffalonian. But in my twenties I lived in Orlando for 4 years and then in Vail for 4 years before moving back to Buffalo. My husband (who’s also from Buffalo) and I couldn’t imagine having kids anywhere else, is what it came down to. However, I can’t tell you how many cities I’ve visited that have Buffalo transplants. In almost every major city there’s a Buffalo Bar that serves wings, pizza, beef on weck and the best bloody mary’s in town. They’re usually huge Bill’s fanatics. The sad truth is once a Buffalo Bill’s fan always a Buffalo Bill’s fan! Also, as a side note, we always find if you tell people you’re from Niagara Falls (which btw the city of Niagara Falls state-side is disgusting and has been a mess since the 1950’s) they’re so enticed and think it’s great, but if you tell them you’re from Buffalo they only make cracks about the snow or the Bills. It’s so annoying because we have amazing public schools, affordable living, many colleges, art galleries, parks, water, an amazing downtown and are a quick flight away from NY or Boston and Canada. We also have four seasons so people can ski, do water sports, and all sorts of other things that you can’t do if you don’t have 4 seasons.

    • allison says...

      Bills fans are the best :-)

  113. Becca says...

    I grew up in a Maryland suburb of DC, then moved to DC proper for my swinging single years, and am now raising my family in a Virginia suburb of DC. So DC all the way! Yes people want to know what you do for a living (dare I suggest it’s because people here have such cool jobs?) and after marrying a Midwesterner and working with Midwesterners I can admit that DC folks can be pretty brusque sometimes. BUT we are different – all of us, in all the ways, and I think that is INVALUABLE. It is without a doubt my favorite thing about the DC area and a huge reason why I never want to leave.

  114. Olivia says...

    I was raised in southeastern Connecticut and still live here. I simultaneously think it’s a beautiful part of the country to live in, right on the ocean, so close to so so many beautiful things, and best of all my husband and I are close to family – but when I read these comments, it honestly blows my mind that people are from other places. Maybe I’m biased (probably), but some part of me feels like the northeast is the “norm” in the country – seasons, lack of regional accent, lots of news/shows/culturally relevant stuff is based out of Boston or NYC…am I crazy??? I literally cannot even imagine calling a place home that has sun/nice weather/long days the majority of the time. I would absolutely love to be able to walk outside to the beach every day and never have to worry about a coat ever again.

    • Rosalie says...

      Whatever you grow up with is what you see as the “norm”. :)
      I do have to say that it made me giggle that you think North-Easterners don’t have a regional accent. I think it’s more likely that you just haven’t noticed because you’ve always lived there.

    • t says...

      “lack of regional accent”? in the northeast? Maybe a typo?

    • Olivia says...

      Hahaha I guess I really am biased. It just seems that in Connecticut we talk so…plainly. The only thing that feels unique is “grinder” instead of sub or hoagie.

  115. ALV says...

    Born and bred NYer here. Still live here and doubt I’ll ever leave. My favorite question people ask me when they found out I grew up in the city: “Wow! That’s a rare breed! Do you know a lot of other New Yorkers?”. Usually it takes a second before they realize the obvious answer to that question.

  116. Veronica says...

    I moved from Indiana to Florida right after college. Scored a job in TV and said buh-bye fam! Well, I didn’t know I was homesick until … THIS song played on my iPod during a flight home for Christmas: “She grew up in an Indiana town, had a good lookin’ mama who never was around. But she grew up tall and she grew up right, with them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights.” Immediately moved back to Indiana and forever grateful to Tom Petty!

  117. michaela says...

    My husband teases me that I wear flip flops every day, even when it is cold and rainy outside. I’ll be wearing a big puffy jacket, sweater, pants… and flip flops. You can take the girl out of San Diego but you can’t take the San Diego out of the girl. Ha!

    And lets be real – Fairfax Scoops is THE BEST ice cream in the world!

  118. Lisa says...

    It has absolutely shaped me! I’m a native Seattleite and proud to have lived here my entire life. I truly feel we have the best of all worlds tucked up here in the PNW. I had a brief period in my 30’s where I thought about moving to Chicago or New York. But Seattle has my heart. Make no mistake, the “Seattle Freeze” can be real, our housing prices are insane and pricing us natives out of our city, but there is nothing like a Seattle summer with the Puget Sound or Lake Washington glistening in the sun. Or the joy of the first fall rain. You definitely have to be a pluviophile to love living here – winters can make or break out-of-towners!

  119. Moo says...

    I grew in Sacramento, CA and had the pleasure of watching Lady Bird at Tower Theater. I never thought much of Sac until I moved away, too (Japan to teach English for a year, over 15 years ago!). And my East Coast bf talks about moving to a place where our money could go a little further with a little more land, but this place will always be home. I love its diversity and that it’s not too far from the beach or snow or beautiful red woods.

    • Christie says...

      Born and raised the SF Bay Area, but I moved to the Sacramento area last year and it has captured my heart! And you gotta love Tower Theater. :-)

  120. Laura C. says...

    I’m from Southern Spain and I have lived in Northern Italy for almost eight years. The thing is that sometimes I don’t really feel very close to the culture of my own country. For example, I love Scotland and their culture and their way of life, and here I find sometimes a lack of a sort of standards that I would like to see. Does it sound weird? Maybe I am a lunatic, I don’t know. Do we belong to a city, a country, a home? Do we change every time we move?

  121. I grew up on LI and lived in Queens, NY for 10 years before leaving. I first moved to Broward country, FL (aka, the 6th boro of NYC) where I was still able to find a decent bagel and hear a familiar accent.

    I’ve been in LA for the last 2 years and that was a bit of a shift. The time difference made a big difference. I’ve got to plan my calls back home a bit more (thankfully my oldest sister is a night owl). In my heart, I still identify as a New Yorker, but I see differences, too. I’m not sure how much of that is LA and how much is me getting older.

  122. Emma says...

    I have so many (metaphorical) homes I often feel like I don’t quite belong anywhere anymore. I grew in Suburban Los Angeles, went to school in New England, moved to SF, then now I work in SF and live in DC— this has been going on nearly 15 years and it definitely takes a mental toll.
    That said, in CA I’m considered super uptight/type A and on the east coast I always feel like people see me as Spicoli in fast times.

    • Emily says...

      Haha!!! Your last sentence killed me! I’m from LA, but lived in Boston and New Jersey in my 20’s and this exactly. Never in my entire life was I considered laid back until I lived on the East Coast!

    • Dani says...

      Yes, your last sentence brilliantly sums up my experience as a suburban LA native who lived in DC for many years. Well said!

  123. laura says...

    I love my small hometown in the southwest but don’t see myself going back. I still say ya’ll and like country music and go to Target for fun. LA people seem to be flakier which I’m not a fan of but I’m also learning to deal with it and have noticed “hella” making an appearance in my dialect. And though I don’t see myself going back, I like still brag about my hometown to all these Californians (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4347ZE0NQM).

    • My hairdresser in LA gave me good advice. When you ask someone to make plans, “yes” means maybe, “maybe” means no and “no” means why did you ask. It’s kept me saner.

    • laura says...

      Haha yes that is definitely a frame of reference I should use for the future.

  124. tricia says...

    I envy people that retain a soft-spot for their hometowns! I grew up in Texas, and lived between Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin until I was 26, before moving to Mass. for grad school. My family seems so Texan whenever I visit back home, and many of my friends that also moved away say they can imagine returning or will still wear boots, etc. and try to represent that part of themselves. As for me, aside from using the word “y’all,” I don’t think there is a Texas bone in my body, haha.

  125. Cait says...

    My husband and I are proud Pittsburgh-ers who moved to Boston not long after college for my job offer. We’ve now been here for 7 years. While we do love it (cannot beat the geographical location – gorgeous beaches, mountains, Vermont, NH, Maine!), it took me a long time to get over how seemingly “cold” everyone is. It’s not that there aren’t wonderfully lovely people here – because there are, loads of them – it just takes a little while for a lot of them to warm up. Not a whole lot of small talk and exchanging of pleasantries here, which is way different than Pittsburgh where we both grew up. Instead, strangers seem to think you have some ulterior motive here if you try striking up small talk. I’ve noticed in myself that I’ve become more like that since living here, which bums me out a bit. But overall it really is a fantastic city; we’ll just always hold Pittsburgh in such a special light being from there. (Oh and don’t even get me started on the drivers here! #massholes)

    • Laura says...

      I grew up in Boston, went to Pittsburgh 5 years for grad school, and just moved back to Boston a year ago! We loved Pittsburgh and my husband still says buggy and yinz n’at (he’s from Montana!). Pittsburghers are absolutely some of the most polite drivers around; I have to remind myself not to be offended when I don’t get a wave after letting someone pull through these days. We miss PGH and it’s small-town in a big city vibe, but it is comforting to be back home. Except when I find myself slipping into the Boston accent here, that is Horrifying!

    • Sarah says...

      I was reading through the comments to see if anyone has left or moved to Boston and what they thought of its residents. I’ve lived in or around Boston for my whole life. I’ve heard before that Bostonians are cold and it’s hard to disagree with. I definitely always assume that a stranger is about to try to sell me something if they strike up small talk and I will end the conversation quickly! I think there is probably some pride in being tough. Adam Sandler tweeted after the Marathon Bombings, “Boston is probably the only major city that if you f— with them, they will shut down the whole city, stop everything and find you,” which might be true. I think once you break through the icy exterior though, you become family, and Bostonians fiercely defend family. I’m interested in other people’s thoughts on Boston!

    • Lauren says...

      Born and raised in Massachusetts just outside of Boston – agree with all of the above. I would agree we are the best drivers, though (better than New Yorkers). the outwards “coldness” later turns into loyalty and a friend for life. #Bostonstrong

    • Kristyn says...

      Couldn’t have said it any better, Cait!! Eight years ago I moved from Chicago/Naperville (holla back fellow commenter Kelly!) to Boston for grad school and for about the entire first year I kept getting, “You’re not from around here are you? You smile too much!”
      I’m afraid the constant smile has been replaced by a furrowed brow, though. Whether that’s from becoming a Bostonian or adulthood, we’ll never know ;)

    • Love these Boston comments. I do agree with the initial “coldness” of Bostonians, but I also agree that there is so much warmth and loyalty underneath its gruff exterior. Actually, it’s one of the things I found comforting about moving here. Living in the South, everyone wanted to know everything and I felt a constant pressure to be chatty and willing to talk to anyone. I’m a private person, and I never felt comfortable with that. It may take a while to get to know me, but I live in an amazing community of supportive people and have wonderful friends here in the Boston suburbs, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

    • Dana says...

      I grew up in Virginia, and although I’ve been in Boston for almost 5 years (plus a 3-year stint in Amherst), I can’t say I’ve ever gotten used to how abrupt and cold people are here. I’ve made some great friends for sure (and my fiance! who is from North Carolina, ha), but very few are actually from the Boston area. Do people who grew up here feel it is more insular than other places?

    • Betsie says...

      I love this thread! I just moved back to Northern California after five years in the Boston area (preceded by three years in D.C.), and man I really loved it there. All my growing up in CA I felt like the strongest parts of my personality – being focused and intense, addressing rather than avoiding conflict, distrusting small talk, being rather private – were character flaws that I needed to fix. But in New England, I felt like these parts of me were appreciated as strengths. I will forever be grateful that I had those years in Boston to learn to embrace those qualities about myself.

    • Vanessa says...

      I was born in Santa Monica, but for the most part grew up in Oklahoma (and lived in Arkansas for 8 years), but have been in Boston for three! I get such a thrill when Bostonians take me on as a friend–it feels like a true accomplishment, haha!!! Tough nuts to crack as another commentor said, but so deeply loyal when it counts. My best friend here told me she thought something was amiss when she met met because “no one could possibly be this nice,” but then she realized…I actually am this nice! Ha!!

      You have to talk to/ run into someone 15 times before they will acknowledge you’re familiar. It took me a year of almost-weekly visits to my neighborhood pub for any of the bartenders to admit that they knew my name and order, haha!! Ironically, by contrast after one or two visits to Soundpony in Tulsa it feels like Cheers, where you’re part of the gang.

      Bostonians are also very interested in how I like New England, and more importantly, am I going to stay??? Have I been converted??? Very few have visited other parts of the country. I can’t quite admit that I really long for the friendly comforts and ease of, say, Chicago or Nashville.

      Dating here is SO HARD. Everyone has their gaurd up!

      As an aside, I also agree there’s something to be said for feeling like a certain climate is “home.” I will never get used to the seasons feeling “off” for example–in Oklahoma is it HOT from April through October, whereas it finally begins to warm in NE in like….June.

    • alice says...

      Dana, I am a Virginian living in Boston too!! I completely agree- most of my friends are not originally from here, although that may also be because we work in science which tends to be pretty much international. I have sort of gotten used to some of the coldness and I am way less friendly than I was growing up or going to school in VA. Its very funny having friends (or my very gregarious Dad) visit because they try to chat with people on the T and it MORTIFIES me. However true Bostonians totally intimate me, I am completely uncomfortable with any conflict and expect strangers to be almost too nice, and I can’t quite get used to how direct or bossy locals can be.

    • Dana says...

      Alice, so happy to hear that you feel the same way here!! I will say, I’ve found that the best cashiers are at Trader Joe’s – they will almost always chat with you, which makes me feel at home!

      And Vanessa – girrrrl I hear you!! Three years ago, I had seriously given up on men here and was set on moving back South – it seemed like all the men my age were from New England and really set on dying here too, while I’m not sure I’ll stay here forever. BUT two and half years ago, I met a man worth sticking around for (at least a little longer), and now we’re engaged :) Hang in there!!

  126. Kelly says...

    I grew up in super boring nondescript Chicago suburb – (Naperville, IL – Holla!). I couldn’t wait to leave and my prize was Chicago, the big city 35 miles away. Which seems funny now but to me it was a big leap! I still live in Chicago and am raising my kids here. I love how different it is from my childhood, which never felt like it fit me geographically. I used to get the strangest empty feeling waking up in the ‘burbs on nice days, but in the city I’m energized and excited to see what’s going on! But my daughters would prob love the big yard I grew up with!

    I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to many places and cultures through work, travel and friendships that I have. I’d like to think I’ve developed a much more global perspective than I grew up with, while maintaining the good parts of “Midwestern Nice”. Sometimes recently I’ve started to feel like Chicago feels small to me and I yearn for something different…we’ve always said if we had a chance to be expats somewhere we would take it but the opportunity just hasn’t come!

    • I finished out high school and went to college in Naperville! I would never go back! While Naperville has some great qualities, I just never was happy there. I escaped much farther than Chicago. I’m in Houston and I LOVE it.

    • I so identify with this!! I’m from Evanston, Illinois, which is actually, technically, a “city” but still feels very suburban (i.e. everyone I knew was upper-middle class). I love the variety of life experiences I get living with my two boys in Chicago. I’ve lived in about 4 different neighborhoods and am ready for another!!

    • Melissa says...

      Kelly, I grew up in the NJ suburbs (just an hour from NYC), and I totally hear this: “I used to get the strangest empty feeling waking up in the ‘burbs on nice days, but in the city I’m energized and excited to see what’s going on!” That is/was EXACTLY me.

      I have now lived in NYC for 13 years and couldn’t love it more. As a family, we’d only leave to move abroad–and are! We have a New Year’s Eve flight booked to France for a work-related move. Fingers crossed a similar opportunity comes up for you!! xo

    • Your quote is so spot on: ” I used to get the strangest empty feeling waking up in the ‘burbs on nice days, but in the city I’m energized and excited to see what’s going on! But my daughters would prob love the big yard I grew up with!”

      We are in a city neighborhood and I grew up in a suburb (in a different city). I always picture how much fun my kids would have fun running around in my childhood back yard, but I could never live in a suburb again. Regardless, they have amazing city experiences that I never had as a child, and they don’t really know what they are missing as far as the yard goes.

  127. Alexandra says...

    You grew up in Fairfax! I’m headed there today to stay for a week to see if it’s the right spot to set down my families roots. We’d be moving from San Francsico.

    I grew up in San Francisco, but more and more can’t keep up with it anymore ($$$) or don’t want to keep up with it anymore. It makes me a bit sad, but a new adventure awaits.

    • Megan Cahn says...

      Oh my gosh, that is amazing! Fairfax is a wonderful little town with a surprisingly impressive music and restaurant scene for such a small place. It’s got a movie theater, amazing hikes and a really fun festival every year. It was a great place to grow up. xoxo

    • Brooke says...

      I <3 Fairfax too! My mom grew up in Marin and my mom's bff lives on Mt. Tam. It's such a special cool little place and becomes a ghost town during Burning Man hahaha!

    • Alexandra says...

      I can’t wait to check it out more and pretend like I live there for a week with husband and babe in tow :)

    • Sal says...

      I grew up in Marin too, living here now, and have always lived in the bay area even for college but now i cannot afford it anymore and we already have plans to move to another state on the west coast. It’s heartbreaking and taken me years but i have accepted it and the area has changed so much too, though of course it’s still beautiful. i remind myself there are other beautiful places too. it will be a new adventure!

  128. Ruth says...

    I moved back to my home town with my husband (also from here) after being away for 13 years. And while things are good now (affordable lifestyle, good jobs, family near by), we have realized that you can’t go home again. Being here as an adult, especially after living in bigger, more exciting (and expensive – hence the move) places, is a hard transition. Not to mention the folks who we grew up with and NEVER left. It’s a weird space to be in and most of the time it works, but after being back for 3 years, we’ve decided that we won’t stay here forever. No regrets, but definitely not what we thought.

  129. LB says...

    NorCal roots always and forever, despite years in LA, Boston and Dallas. Nothing’s better than gazing at those fast-moving, billowing clouds rolling over the foothills as you’re driving on 280.

  130. molly says...

    I am from a small island in Rhode Island and I feel that it is very much ingrained in who I am. I am most relaxed being by the ocean – and no matter where I have been, or how long I’ve been away from home, driving over the bridge into my hometown I unconsciously take a deep breath and a calm comes over me. I am unfortunately a seafood snob and if I have to drive either off island or anywhere over 20 mins I get a little annoyed. I no longer live there but always love being back.

    • Chelsea says...

      Sounds like Aquidneck Island to me :)

    • Brittany says...

      Ugh Molly, yes! I’m from RI and now I live in…landlocked NEW MEXICO. Seafood snobbery will be my downfall :(

    • Katie says...

      I’m from an island, too, and moved back a few years ago. I like how comfortable island living makes you with boundaries. I get confused on the Mainland where the communities blend into each other and I never know where one stops and another starts. And not wanting to drive off the island! Any time we leave, there’s almost a competition to see who’s been on the Island the longest. Some of my friends will go for months without leaving. And thinking any drive that’s longer than 10 minutes may not be worth it!

  131. Elizabeth says...

    I have a hard time “claiming” a home town because I’m caught in between two cultures – I think I have a classic case of “third culture kid.” I was raised as the daughter of two missionaries and I moved to Manila, the Philippines when I was 18 months old. My first memories are of the Philippines, I crave Chicken Adobo, Pancit, and Lumpia, I still recall Tagalog words before the English words for some common objects, and my childhood cultural references are specific to that life. On top of that, there are things about me that are harder to articulate too – some mannerisms, the way I relate to people.

    This is made more complex because I have no “right” to belong in the country I grew up. While we were living there our family was not even allowed to buy a house there despite having lived there for a long time. My husband jokes that I’m really Asian and that’s the lens through which I see the world but I don’t look it so it kind of makes me uncomfortable when he says that to other people in public because it sounds racially insensitive but the heart of the matter is that I did spend most of my time with my Nanny, who was local to the area, instead of my parents who often worked way for days in a row in the squatter areas. We learned to see the country we lived in through her eyes just as much as my parent’s western eyes.

    When I returned to Asia to work in 2015 as an adult in the , life made sense again in a way that I was not expecting. My upbringing prepared me for international business in a way that far surpassed anything I had studied in college.

    On the flip side, I look like I belong here in the Midwest, too where my family roots are. When I’m here, no one stares at me or thinks I’m out of place. There are fewer assumptions made about me and I don’t have to tell anyone my life was so different unless I want to or they start going down memory lane and I loose the common thread. I speak the language fluently, my passport tells everyone to just let me through customs without a hassle. I like the food here for the most part, too. We can buy property and we have the rights accorded to us by citizenship. There’s a finality of being here that we never could have in the Philippines.

    I think like you, Jo, being far away from one makes the other one a brighter beacon along the path of figuring out who I am and what my identity is. When I’m in Asia I feel American. When I am in America I feel Asian.

    • Elizabeth, me too! TCK through and through. My dad is Iranian from Tehran, mom is African American from Atlanta, and I grew up in Bangkok and Germany, and look straight up Ethiopian! People can’t place me, my accent, some of my mannerisms, but I carry little bits of each of my cultures with me. When I’m in Bangkok, I feel a sense of calm, of comfort, but am very much not Thai. When I’m in Iran, I totally get the culture but still feel too foreign to be Iranian, definitely don’t fit in with my American family… but yes, I think the answer to Megan’s question is yes. I totally identify with all of my hometowns, even though they may not identify with me at first glance :)

    • C says...

      This was so interesting to read, thank you for sharing your story!

    • Yes, so many times yes. I was a TCK too, and your last line sums it up exactly. When I’m in Honduras I feel American, and when I’m in America I feel Honduran. The connection to Honduras has worn off some, since I’ve been back in the US for so long, but I’m still never quite sure where to say I’m from. I lived in five different states, as well as two areas of Honduras, so there just isn’t an easy anwer.

    • Nikki B says...

      All you TCK should read Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say. It’s a beautiful picture book that sums up what you are saying so nicely. Allen Say’s picture books are some of my favorite books to teach.

  132. Madeline says...

    I will always and forever love and identify my hometown in New Jersey. I only live about 45 minutes away from it but when I go home, there is no better feeling. I hope to someday raise my children there.

    • Liza says...

      What town?? Thinking of moving to NJ

  133. Martha says...

    Minnesotan here… I was HORRIFIED when someone walked into a store the other day and asked what “Uff-Da” is. Clearly they were out of state, so even if you don’t realize it your hometown/home state will always be apart of you. For the record, Uff-Da is an exclamation you can use when things are rough. “Did you see the weather forecast today? Uff-Da!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ve never heard of that! love it!

    • Christina says...

      How funny! I say “uff-da” too, but I always thought it had German origins. So of course I had to look it up, and it’s Norwegian but widely adopted across the midwest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uff_da
      (I’m from Wyoming – not exactly the midwest but definitely not Pacific NW either)

    • Laura says...

      Despite living my whole life in California, I know about “uff-da” – probably because I attend a Lutheran church. ;-)

    • km says...

      My Norwegian Bestemor (grandma) has an Uff-Da license plate :)

    • Taylor says...

      I love this! I was born in Wisconsin and lived in Minnesota for a year, but my parents were there for over a decade and I just realized that my mom says this exact thing and she must have picked it up in the Midwest! (Because otherwise she’s lived in PA her whole life.) I always pictured it as “woofta” in my head though, haha.

  134. I was born and raised in Paris and have lived here my whole life, except for one year abroad. And while I do feel French, I don’t really feel like a Parisian somehow… While this city is gorgeous and amazing in many many ways, I have enough distance to realize it’s a very tough, stressful place to live. I would love to move somewhere more relaxed, near some ocean!

    • Carrie says...

      You are the envy of so many people so it’s very interesting to hear your honest thoughts! I went to Paris once and was absolutely dazzled, it has always stuck with me and I long to go back, however I can imagine it might feel tiresome living in such a busy city your whole life!

  135. Bay Area girl right here. My best friend from college grew up in Fairfax. Shout out to Good Earth and the vanilla honey lavender ice cream at Fairfax Scoop!

  136. Mara says...

    I’m born and raised in Washington, DC, still live here, and strongly believe that no matter where I end up moving, I’ll always be “very DC.” I travel domestically often and two top things people say are: “Stop being overly concerned with where you need to be when…just relax!” and “You use your horn too much…people are staring!” The fast pace is deeply ingrained and I can’t imagine living around chilled-out people (though it very much appeals to me, at the same time). One thing I would HAPPILY flee from is the ubiquitous first question, “So, what do you do for a living?” In a town full of career-jumping, status-concerned networkers, it’s sadly a topic that’s hard to get around, no matter the setting. I will definitely not be taking that question with me wherever I decide to move. (maybe Boston!)

    • Esther says...

      I HATE the question “what do you do for work”! My town has a really high unemployment rate, and a lot of people grow weed as a main source of income, so for the most part people avoid asking that question.

    • We just moved to Sweden for an international assignment. Not a single person has ever asked me what I do for a living. It seems that in the USA, we are validated by our work. Not so here. Work is important but it is only one part of life. It is not the all consuming force it is back home. Definitely gave me food for thought.

    • Suse says...

      Another native, here: born at Georgetown Hospital and grew up a few blocks away. What a lot people don’t realize is that we are a hometown just like everyplace else. However, consider this: when I was growing up, members of Congress didn’t sleep in their offices and they brought their families to DC, sent their kids to local schools. Democrats and Republicans had neighborhood cookouts together which was why there were “hands across the aisle” Mondays through Fridays. There is a line of thinking that since they now ditch DC every weekend, with no connection to our neighborhoods and communities that is why Congress has come to a halt. Regardless, our neighborhoods remain in tact, our communities are tight and we are not a “swamp.”

    • Anne says...

      Uh-oh, I think I might be guilty of that! I need to work on expanding my small talk repertoire. And heads-up – Boston may be more relaxed than DC, but it’s still a city of intellectuals who love to talk about their jobs :). Do check it out, it’s a fun city!

    • JMarie says...

      Gah! A former DC person here who now lives in Minnesota. I MISS the “what do you do for a living” question (though I try to phrase it more along the lines of “What’s keeping you busy these days?”). I find how people choose/have to spend their days to be so fascinating! And it almost always leads to more conversation. The weather and the latest Vikings game just doesn’t spur the same level of discourse.

  137. Esther says...

    I grew up in a small town in British Columbia that had a lot of rednecks and a lot of hippies, and I think it has influenced me to be a blend between a redneck and a hippy. Rednecks and hippies seem worlds apart, but I’m learning that hip-necks are a thing: they grow their own food, fix things themselves, hunt and fish, and homeschool their kids. I definitely do not drive a monster truck, but I do have a snowmobile; I don’t live in an incense-filled straw bale house, but I do wear birkenstocks with wool socks (I feel ashamed to admit that).

    • Elizabeth says...

      I work at a university. Birkenstocks with wool socks are SUPER IN right now and I think it’s super cute when I see students walking around in them because it reminds me of 1980’s New England in all the best ways. You are right on trend!

    • Meghan says...

      hahaha this is so true of so many of the middle-ontario places I have spent time in.

    • Heidi says...

      This is true in much of Oregon as well.

  138. Meghan says...

    Oh, I love this! I sometimes feel like a third culture kid, even though I’ve mostly lived in Canada. But, the low-key, earthy mountain town I grew up in until I was 12 is so different than the fast paced, consumeristic nature of southern Ontario where I lived until my early 20’s. The Atlantic link you posted would be great for Articles Club!! Always love your writing, Megan!

  139. Laura says...

    I think it takes leaving to realize what’s special about your hometown. Only when I went to college down south did I notice that I had a central Mass accent, and got to hear what other people thought were stereotypes about us Massholes. When I moved back I was like oh god, they’re all true! Everyone here is an awful, aggressive driver and drops their “r’s” haha

  140. This is such a great post! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because my husband and I have lived in the same small city outside Austin, TX for the last 12 years and I’m starting to feel restless. This is now our sons’ hometown and they can’t imagine leaving, but I think it would be great for our family to spread our wings a bit. I’m also from San Antonio and left after college. I’ve never seriously considered moving back, but now the idea seems interesting and I’d love to get to know parts of the city that I never explored growing up. I would definitely say, after living in or near Austin for the last 16 years, that the city has changed me for the better.

    • My kids are 8 and 10 living in the suburbs outside of Denver and I also feel an itch to broaden our horizons geographically. Interestingly, most of our friends came to Colorado after college – when I discuss the possibility of moving they are soooo discouraging: “How could you leave this weather? How could you make the kids switch schools?” They CHOSE this place. It’s their broader horizon. I think the kids will flourish wherever we go so long as we are a team.

    • Heather, wanna trade? :)

    • Katie says...

      Heather, I’m right there with you! We’re also Coloradans thinking of moving. There’s so so many great things here, but as someone who’s always lived here (not the norm – everyone is from somewhere else!) the crowds and competitiveness and high cost of living are starting to feel a little bit much…

  141. Dee says...

    sorry love, but the only true New Yorkers are the ones born here! everyone else is just visiting x

    • Lauren says...

      I don’t think that’s true at all. Part of what makes New Yorkers special is that they come from a range of backgrounds, countries, cultures and experiences. We all come together in this great city and anyone can be included.

    • laura says...

      I’d figure it has more to do with where you are by choice rather than by circumstance.

    • Emilia says...

      That was my reaction as well! I think people can adopt identities related to where they move to, but as someone who was born and bred in NYC, it can feel like someone is trying to steal your identity from you when they identify as a NYer despite having grown up elsewhere.

      Surely we get something for having taken the subway to school, or spending weekend afternoons at the Met? But then again, if you choose to make your life here, how aren’t you a New Yorker?! It’s a dilemma to define the difference, and I don’t have an answer to it!

    • Moira says...

      Agreed. It’s funny how dogmatic I am about it. My mom has lived here since the late 1960s and I still don’t think of her as a New Yorker. :)

    • Carrie says...

      I find it kinda neat how protective New Yorkers are of their city and their status as a native!

    • In Colorado some people have “no vacancy” or “native” bumper stickers. Where you’re born is the result of a shake of the dice – I’m glad there are welcoming people sprinkled all around.

  142. I can relate to your post so, so much. I grew up in Irving, TX (home of the Cowboys even though I was raised to hate them). It’s a very blended city- culturally, economically, religiously, everything-ly. Now we live in the suburbs of Houston where people all generally look and act and dress the same. It’s kind of a culture shock for me, so I find myself loving where I am and missing home at the same time. I’m glad to know I’m not alone! Love your blog!

    • Girl, get out of the ‘burbs! Houston is the most diverse city in the country! I cannot stand the suburbs here, but I LOVE this city.

  143. Cynthia says...

    I’m still living in my hometown, and except for a brief period after college, I’ve always lived in my hometown. I’m happy where I am.

  144. Brooke says...

    I grew up in the Bay Area, went to college in New England and have lived in South Carolina for the past four years. My southern fiancé and I are moving to the Bay Area in two weeks and I can’t wait! While I used to try and blend in, I know people have always thought of me as very Californian. In my sorority in college, we all went around and wrote words that described each sister. Half of mine were “laid back”!

  145. Geemers says...

    I grew up in Houston, Texas and I swore up and down that the minute I graduated high school I was never coming back. I ended up going to college in San Francisco, and just about everyone got a kick out of the way I said “y’all”, “put it up”, and called every flavored soda option a “coke”. I thought their lack of knowledge of queso (not just how you say cheese in Spanish) and the throwing around of the word “hella” was laughable, too. Strangers stared at me when I smiled or waved at them as I passed, and the fact that I would strike up a conversation with a random while in the grocery store aisles made everyone crazy…

    I moved between Northern California, Houston, and Southern California a few times, and then ended up marrying a fellow born, raised and stayed Houstonian – in Houston of all places- and we’ve moved around quite a bit because of his job.

    But there is something about being a Houstonian- the way we just KNOW what a margarita should taste like, or the love for Whataburger at 3 am, or the weird way that we hate the traffic and the weather, but still push through it and just learn to live with it. It also could be that this year, of all years, after the flooding, the AMAZING World Series Win, or seeing my hometown come together over tragedy and triumph just has my heart a little bit more. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that could change for the better. But Houston, in all of it’s humid, pot-holed flaws, will always be my home.

    • KC says...

      So much love for this comment
      -fellow Houstonian

    • Your comment made me tear up. Houstonians are truly amazing and strong. I’m a fellow Whataburger lover from Austin.

  146. Sarah F. says...

    I grew up as a TCK (third culture kid) across four continents and always love to talk to people who have an actual hometown. It’s something that I can’t imagine but it does sound lovely! I did find (after a tumultuous identity/nationality crisis as a child and teen) that the longer I am away from my passport country (America) the more I appreciate the amazing and beautiful things she has to offer people and the world. It’s something I wish I could communicate better to those who live there in this wild day and age… somethings are harder to see up close and distance *can* give us appreciation and perspective.

    • Carrie says...

      You have a really unique perspective! Thank you for sharing. May I ask, what has kept you moving all around?

    • TCK checking in! but we didn’t start traveling/moving until i was 11, so i consider Takoma Park, MD my hometown.

    • Anna says...

      I’m a TCK too and came to the comment section to either look for others who didn’t have the gift of a hometown because of frequent stateside moves or fet quite the outsider in the country in which they were raised. My family did move frequently with about 4 years being the longest stint in one area. NY, VA, AR,MS, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador with my family of origin. Now that I am married and have my own family we are on our third state in 5 years. Our goal is to give our children a home town…the trick is choosing a place when I don’t exactly know where home is!

    • Sarah F. says...

      Hi Carrie! Thank you for asking! My parents were medical missionaries in Togo and Cambodia during my childhood and when I left home at 18, I moved to France. After that, I went to college in Canada and ended up living in a couple other European countries with my Dutch husband. It is unique and I’ve loved my life (wouldn’t change it!) but on the flip side, a less complicated history would be nice and it’s hard to deal with my conflicting “nationalities” sometimes. :) Do you mind my asking where you’re from? Where is your hometown?

  147. Kaitlin says...

    They say you can never go home again and that the past is a foreign country. I grew up in an old urban neighbourhood in a city of 300,000 that’s been ravaged by the recession and gutted by suburbanization. Mom and pop shops on the old main street are vacant and have been replaced by big box stores. My mother has moved to one of these new subdivisions, so I really can never go home again. For me, it’s not just a question of where I grew up but when. My desire to live in a densely populated neighbourhood with vibrant independent shops and be a part of a community is in part because of my childhood experiences, but those experiences couldn’t be replicated in that same town today.

  148. Katherine says...

    I am from Richmond, VA, but lived in Indiana for four years. I found the people in Indiana to be much more laid back in their clothing than those I grew up around. Jeans were allowed at 9:00 Sunday mass, other teachers asked me if I had a date if I wore a dress to work, and I always felt overdressed when I wore anything other than jeans out to dinner. I learned to love wearing jeans to mass, but still held onto my dresses and skirts for work!

    • Kirsten says...

      Haha, I am from a Colorado and identify with this post so strongly! I went to college in Chicago (and my bf at the time was from NYC) and I would always get teased for looking “so Colorado” with colorful outdoorsy clothing. I finally adapted my style after years living in the east and would then feel ridiculous going home in all black and wearing nice shoes…

    • Morgan says...

      Hahaha Kirsten! I grew up in Chicago, though my dad lived in CO. I’ve now lived in CO for almost 20 years and in the past few years I’ve ditched my outdoor gear and Danskos for a more city-girl look that’s a nod to my Chicago roots.

    • Kat O says...

      Haha I’m from Colorado and it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t go out with at least one thing on my body from Patagonia, North Face, Columbia, or REI!

  149. Melissa says...

    Aah, I️ feel this. I’m from Southern California but currently reside in Michigan. It’s funny how home can have so many meanings and be so many places. Most days I️ am fiercely proud of where I️ am from and I️ identify with it but every once in awhile leaving Michigan is an unbearable thought. So quickly it has become another place that we are from. Where we are celebrating anniversaries and birthdays… it’s a fascinating feeling. But then, I’ve always been that kind of person that can feel at home almost anywhere!

  150. Jenn says...

    hi from nor cal :] i’m in Santa Rosa and have been for almost 13 years (holy shit, lol) but grew up near LA. my response every time someone asks me if i like it here or there better: absolutely here, resoundingly yes. i don’t even consider my little town in LA county to be home anymore, and haven’t since i stopped going home for holidays and summer breaks.
    but my mom still lives in the house i grew up in, and it’s always nice when i can scoop out a little time to visit. we always make sure to hit our favorite restaurants and record shops, and she loves showing off her favorite taprooms to her craft beer nerd kid :] back in the day, i always used to fill my limited home-visit schedule with high school friends and boys..nowadays my priority is spending time with her and i don’t even tell anyone i’m in town, waiting to post social media photos til i return home to nor cal. something about hanging with my boyfriend’s huge family all the time (he grew up here) makes seeing my tiny family all the more precious when i get the chance <3