Where ya from?

A while ago a friend of mine, Mick, was drinking at Sydney's Beach Road Hotel in Bondi and a guy took exception to someone calling him a "local".

The interloper began to quiz Mick about his Bondi credentials, asking: "What did this pub used to be called?"

"The Regis," said Mick, bemused.

"And before that?"

"The Rex."

"What about before that?"

"I'm not even sure it had a name back then, maybe The Royal? I dunno, I wasn't even born."

When Mick was born, however, he was taken straight home to his parent's house in Bondi and has lived all his 45 years in the 2026 postcode, save for periods of travel.

He was experiencing a very common occurrence in suburbs or cities perceived as "fashionable" or "credible"; the desire to belong, to take ownership.

New York is perhaps the greatest example of this, with millions upon millions of people claiming they're "from NYC" when they actually just live there and grew up in the mid-west or Jersey, Long Island or even London.

Celebs and wannabe gangsters also have a habit of doing this with tough or dangerous neighbourhoods when they claim they're from South Central LA or Da Bronx or [INSERT LOCATION OF SUPPOSED RUGGED UPBRINGING HERE].

Mick's pub inquisitor felt a need to be identified as a "local" and, paradoxically, showed he was a newcomer by not recognising an actual local. 

A Swedish woman said to me some time ago "I feel like I'm from Australia" to which I replied "But you're not, you're from Sweden. What's wrong with that?"

It's a fine distinction but where you're "from" is often different to where you "live" and it's encoded in you between the ages of about five to 16, the 10 to 12 years you spend at school.

It's why I'm always amused by news stories about "Aussie Doing Amazing Internationally Acclaimed Thing" and when you read the copy, it says "John Smith was born in Melbourne but moved to Berlin with his parents aged two".

Ask the dude where he's from, he'll say Berlin, not Melbourne, until some needy freelance journalist coaxes out the obligatory "But I'll always feel like an Ah-see at heart" quote.

Many people will disagree with me on this point but I think the question of "where ya from" is about honouring childhood, as well as ownership of memories and history.

It's also simple matter of words actually meaning something.

"From" is your place of origin and, as much as you might feel you belong in a place to which you've moved and have lived for years, it's a choice denied children - they don't get to pick where they're planted. 

Like trees that envelop fences, rocks or other objects, where you "grow up" entwines itself in who you are.

We may move suburbs, cities, even countries and identify passionately with our new homes but it never changes the big "of" in our lives - where we're from.   

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.