Welcome to Idaho, Californians. Just like your Realtor said when you were plunking down that big wad of cash, you’re going to love it here. Mostly. You’ll love the outdoor lifestyle, the cost of living, and most of the people you’ll meet. What you won’t like is your reputation – it precedes you and is not good.
You won’t like the way Idahoans make assumptions about you because you have money or because of where you came from. Or the way they talk about you – like you’re some filthy animal. Or the fact that they want you to leave without knowing who you are or anything about you. You’ll understand – maybe for the first time – what it means to be discriminated against.
Californians, regardless of what statistics show about the demographics of those moving here, are held responsible for every bad thing in Idaho: traffic, the lack of affordable housing, trash on the Boise River and in the forest, crime, increasing costs, ultra-conservative (and liberal) politics, and lots of other things. Prejudice against Californians is not just rife here, it’s sport. I hope you’ve got thick skin.
I moved here in 2011 during the waning days of the recession and was advised to stop talking about where I came from, what I did there, and was told to change my license plate. In the process I quickly learned that there are not just two classes of Idahoans: those born here and those who weren’t. There’s a third class: Californians.
Soon after I arrived, at the checkout line at Albertsons in Eagle I was getting ready to pay a big grocery bill when the checker turned to the bagger and said, “You’re NOT from California, are you?
“Oh, no!” exclaimed the young girl. “I was born and raised here!”
Despite the fact they had just offended me, albeit unknowingly, I said politely, “Well, ladies. I’m from California and my money is paying your salary,”
I didn’t mean to make a scene, but I was tired of being insulted. They wouldn’t have talked that way (so publicly) about someone’s sexual orientation or color, but neither of them thought twice about offending a Californian.
That was 2011. It wasn’t the first time I’d been reminded by an unthinking person that I don’t belong, nor was it the last. I’m sure that after I post this, I’ll be reminded yet again that going back to California is a very good alternative.
No, prejudice was the last thing I expected when I moved here. I am accustomed to having to prove myself – we all do – but there was no qualification I brought with me that could make up for not being born here.
Hear me. There’s nothing you bring with you either unless yours is a net positive reputation to Idaho like non-natives Kristin Armstrong, Ernest Hemmingway, Carole King, or George Kennedy – none of whom were Californians, now that I think about it.
So, Californians, get used to it. There are things we do (without realizing it) that are offensive to Idahoans. Things like talking about our possessions, our toys, and ourselves. Things like assuming we know better.
I’ll be blogging over the next few days about what new residents can expect here and making a few suggestions, so you can not only survive but thrive here. Share this with anyone you think might benefit. Especially native Idahoans.
In the meantime, keep a low profile and don’t despair. You’re not bad folks. You’ll get the hang of this place eventually. And if not, welcome to Idaho anyway, ya filthy animals. Apparently it doesn’t take one to know one.