What Oregonians Think of California
Or: Welcome to Oregon... now go home.

This is a somewhat tongue in cheek look at some of the stuff I grew up with living in Oregon. This isn't to say that Californians, or shall I say, Angelenos... for the most part, aren't shallow, arrogant and bad drivers. They are. BMW drivers ranking right up there with Lawyers, Studio Execs. Studio Accountants and Line Producers. - Editor

A 1970's effort to discourage Californians and tourists.


Oregon's campaign to keep Californians away evolved into a highly successful grass roots business which included greeting cards, T-shirts, and an opportunity to join the "Society for the Native Oregon Born," or SNOB. The punchline to the joke is below:

From a teaching lesson plan by John Findlay:

In recent years it has seemed that people in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. the American states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) have shared two things. The first is a growing identification with salmon. As runs of wild Pacific salmon have become threatened, people in the region have latched on to them as a critical symbol of Pacific Northwest identity. The second thing we have in common is California, or, I should say, a pronounced aversion to California and all things and people Californian. Many people in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have developed strong opinions about California and Californians in recent times. Oregon actually led the way during the 1970s, with a both humorous and serious campaign to keep Californians away. Washington and Idaho became more vociferous during the 1980s and 1990s.

The anti-Californian sentiment first crested in the Seattle area during the late 1980s. I took note of the trend, and started discussing it with students in my classes on Pacific Northwest history. I also started surveying students in my courses as a way of examining attitudes toward California and Californians, and tracking their change over time. (I only consider the attitudes of students from western Washington toward California and Californians. Students from areas other than western Washington are requested to answer different questions, which are also discussed below.

I have been doing this survey for about ten years, and over that time students' attitudes toward "California" and "Californians" have been fairly consistent. Each year when students are asked to list phrases that come to mind when they hear the word "California" or "Californian," they regularly mention the following: "bad drivers," "pollution," "overcrowded," "busy" or "fast-paced," "wealthy" and "powerful," "crime," "in love with their cars," and various combinations of "pushy," "vain," "self-centered," "loud," "rude," "disrespectful," "superficial," "immoral," "uptight," "plastic," "artificial," and "mindless." A number of respondents have claimed that Californians are "taking over" the Pacific Northwest, or that too many are "coming to Washington." In 1997 one student spoke for many when she or he wrote, "Californians: 1) are invading our beautiful area; 2) as [former Oregon governor] Tom McCall said, 'Come and visit but go home'; 3) Californians are crazy drivers who cause accidents; 4) they are driving up the housing prices; and 5) as my mother says, 'I hate Californians.'"

Portions ©1998 John Findlay, unless otherwise noted.



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