Portland Handbook 2018
If you’re new to Portland, you may have experienced a moment when someone gives you a look and pointedly asks, “Where are you from?” They know. You don’t know how they know, but somehow they’ve figured out that you’re not from here. You panic at suddenly having to admit that you’re an out-of-state transplant.
I’m from Portland, and I’m here to tell you that some of my fellow PDXers are a bunch of xenophobic dickweasels and you shouldn’t have to deal with their bullshit. However, since their bullshit isn’t going to stop anytime soon, here’s how to pass as a native Portlander and, hopefully, never get that loaded “where are you from” question again.
You probably already know the basics: “Willamette” rhymes with “dammit,” and “Couch” rhymes with “pooch.” But if you really want to sound like you’re from Portland, “accidentally” call prominent landmarks by their old names.
Examples: It’s not “Providence Park,” it’s “Civic Stadium.” “César Chávez” is “39th.” That sign with the light-up deer next to the Burnside Bridge? If you’re over 35 call it “the White Stag” sign. If you’re younger, it’s the “Made in Oregon” sign. Most importantly, if someone corrects you while saying any of these things, blow them off. If you call it the Rose Garden and they say, “You mean the Moda Center?” look at them like they’re an idiot, and say, with authority, “It’s the Rose Garden.” Because it is. You’re from here. You know.
Portland’s rain is more like an ambient misery mist than the full-on curtains of precipitation that you’ll get in subtropical climates. If you’re from here, you’re used to it, and you ignore it. Don’t flinch, don’t complain, and don’t open an umbrella. Put on a hat or pull up a hood, and walk or bike through wet weather like it ain’t no thing.
Have the Correct Opinions about Portland Institutions
Try to cultivate a love-hate relationship with the Rose Festival. Acknowledge that it’s a painfully small-town-y thing for an actual city to do, but also add that you think it’s great that everyone gets excited for marching bands and flower floats once a year. Don’t try to be too detached or ironic. Real Portlanders love this shit, even if they don’t want to.
Complain about McMenamins, but go there anyway because, hey, they do some great work with historical preservation. Also acknowledge that they’ve made valuable and important contributions to Portland’s beer scene, but add that their beer is stuck in the past. Have complicated feelings about Voodoo Doughnut. You can be a fairly unambiguous fan of Powell’s without being flagged as an outsider. Don’t get overly excited about anything, and don’t try to be too superior or distant. Be proud of what your hometown has, but also feel weird about it.
Learn to Navigate Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Outsiders often claim that Portlanders don’t say what they mean. Portlanders say what they mean all the time with their tone of voice, choice of words, and body language. Picking up on those subtle cues, and learning to navigate shades of irony and intonation will carry you a long way in communicating with Pacific Northwesterners. When someone says “it’s cool” in a flat tone of voice it is not, in fact, cool. Someone replying that they are “interested” in your Facebook event has no intention of going. “Maybe” often means no, except when it doesn’t. “I’ll have to check that out,” means that they will never check that out, unless they ask for specifics.
And don’t just learn how to understand passive-aggressiveness. Learn how to dish it out. Specifically....
Ask Other People Where They’re From
The best way to seem like a Portlander, though, is to put other people on the defensive. When you’re having drinks with some new friends, ask them if they’re from here. Even better, say, “How long have you been in Portland?” If they’re not from here, congrats, they’ll just assume you are. If they are, hit back with, “Oh? You’re from Portland. Wow.” They won’t dare ask you where you’re from after that. They’ll know. You’re from Portland.