One night in the last weeks of Chris Bath’s Evening show on ABC Sydney she asked the question â€œwhat makes you a local?â€.
I lived for a year in Tokyo. And it was interesting to see when you became a local.
Are you a local when you know all about the location? Or does it require other locals to treat you as if you belong?
I think familiarity is what makes you a local. I remember at the begin everyone treated me like a random foreigner. Being white you really stick out.
Over time, interacting with staff in the local stores and eating establishments, I could see peopleâ€™s attitude towards me changed. The staff were more comfortable dealing with you, and more likely to help when your Japanese wasnâ€™t good enough or you were stuck trying to workout bureaucracy (like paying bills).
By the end of the year I had learnt to navigate public transport, pay my bills at convenience stores and which ATMs worked with foreign banks. I had got used to the different scale of maps, everything is closer together than Sydney. And there were parts of the city I was comfortable dealing with without a map (this is before everyone carried an iPhone to find their way).
So had I become a local? What did the people where I lived think?
I felt more of a local. And while I may not have been a â€˜localâ€™, I had at least become their foreigner (to the establishments and places I frequented).
Coming back to Sydney I could see similar patterns to what I observed in Tokyo. With the exception (mostly) of language, familiarity and the way you interact with people is what makes you a local.
You may not know about all the secrets about an area. But how people interact with you makes you more a local. That people will help you if you get stuck, and not just because it is their job, I think that is what makes you a local.