By Millie Shredder
What does it mean to be a local and when can you finally call yourself one?
Being a true “local” is like being in the cool-kid club at school and not letting others into your fort. Being a local is an exclusivity that implies an us vs them mentality, prevalent in small towns that are reliant on the tourism industry; just like the town we’re living in now.
I’ve lived in these tourist-attractive towns all my life and was lucky to grow up including myself in the “locals” club. I’d be lying if counting yourself a Local didn’t come with a bit of smugness - an inherent superiority. We know our economies would tank without the tourists, but we still look down our noses at them. We strive to keep the best snow stashes, biggest lines, waviest beaches, anything we consider precious, hidden from “outsiders.” The term local seems to carry a lot of weight; it opens doors if it’s true and elicits laughter if it’s not.
Ski towns confuse things by having a unique middle layer; a group of people somewhere between tourist and true local: the “seasonaire”. A seasonaire could fall into the same category as the tourist in that we may only be here for a short time, yet the town couldn’t function without us. Are we then 6-month tourists, or part-time locals? We are interwoven into the fabric of Val d’Isère, part of its makeup, integral to the build. Evidently though, that’s not enough to use the term. So, what does it take to cross the line into local territory?
An outdated view may be that it takes a certain passage of time to qualify yourself as a local. Some may say that if your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents didn’t build the town with their bare hands, you’ll never be a true local. I think everyone would agree that you can’t just move to a new place and immediately call yourself a local from day one. And I agree; it does take time, but maybe not in the traditional sense of months or years. So many people in our generation are taking advantage of our world; living in countries not native to us and as such the amount of time taken to become a local becomes much more abstract. It’s the time it takes to fall in love with a place, to become involved in the community, to call a place home and feel like you belong.