15 Ways to Sound like a Local Oregonian

While traveling, what do you not want to do? One of the worst things to do is to blatantly ignore local lingo and sound like an obnoxious outsider. No one enjoys a visitor whose accent prevents clear communication or one who doesn’t try to learn basic words in the local language or a visitor who expects everyone to speak his or her language. It is especially annoying when that visitor doesn’t even try to help you understand what he or she is trying to say. There is nothing wrong with being from elsewhere and, if you are respectful and understandable, speaking with your native accent is perfectly fine. I personally take pleasure in hearing foreign accents and seeing out-of-towners enjoying my hometown. It helps me stop and notice the unique and special parts that may have become common place.

But sometimes we travelers have reasons for not wanting to sound like foreigners. If you want to sound like a local or like you belong there, you pay attention to how locals say things. If you don’t want to call attention to the fact you are from elsewhere, you want to blend and experience the location and culture without alerting others to the fact that you are new to the area, you try to imitate the locals. If you are nervous about being taken advantage as a stranger, you keep your ears and eyes wide open, your mouth shut and when you do open it, you really try to sound like a confident local. If you want to be better understood, you try to assimilate some of the local accent. If you want to show respect to the people and customs of a culture, pronouncing things as the locals do can show that desire.

Through my own travels and by hosting visitors, I have noticed a few things that are different here at home. For whatever reason you might have, here are fifteen tips for sounding and coming across like a local here in Oregon, USA, particularly the Northwest corner.

  1. Call Interstate 5: “I-5”. The letter “I” and the number “5”. Don’t refer to it as “Route 5” as my mom’s cousins from the East Coast did.
  2. Highway 26 is referred to as “The Sunset Highway,” “The Sunset” or simply “26”.
  3. Pacific Highway is called either “99” or “99-W”.
  4. While Oregon has golden sandy beaches and we do “go to the beach”, we more often “go to the coast”. We never “go to the seaside,” because Seaside is a coastal town.
  5. When you see Mount Hood (or any of the other elusive snow capped Cascades), you note it by saying, “Look, the mountain is out!” There are days when it is not out, and you can’t see it, despite it being a relatively clear day.
  6. Oregon is pronounced “Or-uh-gun,” and if you can’t manage that, “Organ,” like the musical instrument, will do.
  7. People from Oregon are called Oregonians, pronounced, “Or-uh-go-knee-ens.”
  8. Willamette, as in the ‘Willamette River’ and the ‘Willamette Valley,’ is pronounced “Will-lamb-it,” not “Will-uh-met.”
  9. We refer to the state of Washington as simply “Washington”. We refer to the U.S. Capital as either “D.C.” or “Washington D.C.”
  10. The drinks of choice around here are coffee, micro-brew beer, tea, kombucha and water. If you want the fizzy, non-alcoholic soft drink ask for a “pop,” but if you happen to ask for “soda,” no one will notice if you keep the other lingo correct.
  11. Distance is gauged in time more often than actual miles. It is very common to say something along the lines of, “I live like 5 minutes from here” rather than estimate miles as in, “I live like 2 miles from here,” even though both may be true.
  12. There is no state sales tax. What the price sticker says is the item’s price is what you will pay for the item. You don’t have to be surprised and ask, “That’s all it is?” They get our tax money other ways.
  13. Most Oregonians go to the coast rain or shine. Granted, more people go in late spring through early fall, and it is busier with more things to do. Thankfully however, we have Mo’s restaurants – a local chain started in Newport, Oregon. Mo’s restaurants have the best clam chowder, and it tastes even better on a raw, rainy day after a good long walk in the sand. If you think rain is a reason for not going to the beach, people might wonder where you’re from. (California?)
  14. We have coffee shops and drive through coffee shops all over the place. One time when I was traveling with friends, we hit the road, and we consciously decided to pass about four coffee shops within 10-minutes of driving. Why? We wanted a particular coffee shop, and we wanted to drive up. This is not uncommon.
  15. Pumping your own gas is illegal here in Oregon. Trying to pump your own gas immediately tells everyone that you’re not from around here. (Again, California?) There are gas attendants who pump it for you. After you greet him or her, you say which (regular, plus or premium), how much (fill, so many dollars or so many gallons) and how you’re paying (sometimes with cash you have to walk in to the gas station to pay). It was so awkward for me the first time I had to put gas in a car; Clucker’s gas station in Wilmore, Kentucky will forever be memorable to me for it.
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4 responses to “15 Ways to Sound like a Local Oregonian”

  1. Streets of Nuremberg says :

    Well, lot’s of super cool advice for us visitors – much appreciated πŸ™‚

  2. Cecilia says :

    Wow, with so many points I wouldn’t be able doing it. Great post!

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