Where Are You A Local?


Since watching a talk by Taiye Selasi I’ve been pondering the question: Where am I a local?

In Taiye’s talk she suggests that when we ask “Where are you from?” what we are really asking is “Who are you?” and that question is better answered by where we consider ourselves a local, rather than the country we happen to have been born.

Taiye defines where you’re a local as a combination of three things:

  1. Rituals
  2. Relationships
  3. Restrictions

You are a local of the places defined by those three things, and you can be a local of more than one place, because it’s more than one aspect that makes up who you are. The rituals are the aspects of your daily life, the way you run your household, the way you were raised, the places you go regularly, the shops who know your name. Your relationships are the people you see every week, talk to regularly or who have a daily influence in your life. The restrictions are the things that define your mobility, where you can go, where you can be comfortable and where you are welcomed.

This was fascinating for me as it impacts me regularly when people ask me where the Viking is from. My most common response “Well, that’s a complicated question. He was born in America to Danish and Australian parents, raised in England, Australia and America”. What nationality he identifies as changes regularly as he is Danish, Australian, English and American.

But where is he a local?

Many of his daily rituals are influenced by his Danish heritage. His extended family are almost entirely Danish and Christmas, for example, is run in a very traditional Danish way. But then many are influenced by his American background. He loves Halloween, Easter is celebrated in his family with pancakes, bacon and maple syrup. He enjoys drip coffee and oversized coffee mugs, loves peanut butter and cinnamon in his candy, calls it candy, the list goes on.

But then he is Australian. He has spent more time in Australia than anywhere else. Everyone at the local shops knows his name. His relationships are in Australia, although many of them Danish. His restrictions, being a dual citizen of America and Australia, are few and far between. He is able to adapt his country of origin to suit the circumstances he finds himself in.

So where is he a local? Sydney, Windsor, Copenhagen, Michigan and Atlanta.

What about me? Well, that’s where I think the whole thing neglects one important aspect: non-location based culture.

I was born and raised in Sydney. Not just Sydney, the North Shore. I live two suburbs from where I was raised, and am a local here and in St Leonards. You could probably also argue I’m a local near my workplace, as I know so many people and have my daily rituals.

But I was also raised as part of a particular religion: Seventh-day Adventist. And that religion is very much steeped in its own culture. A culture that has nothing to do with locality and is universal across the religion world-wide. A culture where people are raised vegetarian, we eat a lot of Sanitarium products, we all know what Haystacks are and are adept at making them. We universally appreciate a Sabbath nap, and no one does any work on Saturdays. More locally, we all know where Cooranbong is and that everyone goes there to retire.

People find it interesting that the Viking and I met and re-met so many times throughout our lives. That my mother was his aunt’s friend, that he taught my brother guitar, that I was friends with his brother and knew our sister-in-law as teens. But when you put this into the context of us being raised Sevvie, where everyone knows everyone, it doesn’t seem so strange.

Even though I am not religious, I still strongly identify as a Sevvie and that’s so much more to do with the culture than the defining beliefs. Even the Viking who would not identify as a Sev, still doesn’t do any work on Saturdays apart from the required Saturday sport. And, as a result, we’re not available for all-day shenanigans on Sundays like other people.

It’s interesting how much these things impact you without you realising until you stop to look at it.

So where am I a local? Well, Sydney. More specifically the North Shore. But I’m also a Sev.

Where are you a local? 

  • Gary

    I tend to think of localness as being city or town related. I feel like a local in Brisbane and Darwin. Even though I’ve lived in Canberra for 8 years I’m still not sure I fit in.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      Fitting in is a big part of it, I think. I often feel like I should be a local of the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, New York and also Melbourne as I feel at home when I go there. It’s a shame you’ve lived there so long and still don’t feel like you fit in.

      • Gary

        I think if the weather didn’t have such an effect on my health and happiness I’d fit in a lot better. I’d hate to give an impression that there’s anything wrong with Canberra. It’s a lovely small country town with amazingly friendly people and a great vibe. With no traffic and a vibrant food scene it’s like Darwin only 600 metres above sea level and 300 kilometres from the sea.