SFGH, place of my birth, as seen two years earlier in the film Bullitt

Dear Rain,

Are you a San Francisco native snob? I mean, do you actually think you are somehow more important, or should have more rights or privileges than someone who has lived here for only, say, 10 years? Do you think a native is only someone born within San Francisco, or do you extend it out of the city limits? And in conclusion, why should I even care that you're a "San Francisco Native"?


Dear Whatever,

First, no, of course you don't need to care that I'm a San Francisco native. Nobody needs to care about that. The reason it is even worth a mention is merely because it's a relatively rare thing. If the majority of the people living in San Francisco had spent their entire lives here, there would be no need for a column like this, and the response "Why should I care?" would have even more validity than it already does.

But the fact is, natives have become a rarity. For 20 years, as I've moved from job to job, I have almost always been the only person in the entire office who was actually from San Francisco. I grew up surrounded by natives, and kind of took for granted that it would always be like that; that everyone I knew would have the same collective memories of the city, and we'd all be able to share stories about our times at the Stone on Broadway, or eating at Zim's on Van Ness, or going to look at the monkeys on monkey island at the zoo when we were kids. So, instead, I can share these memories with you, and maybe help you see a little better into the past of the city you now call home.

As for privilege, no, I don't think I deserve any more rights and privileges than any other San Franciscan just because I've lived here my whole life. But that doesn't mean I don't secretly wish there was some automatic safety net for people who have spent their lives here, like a guarantee against eviction, or similar. I don't think I deserve that, but I don't think I deserve to win the lottery, either; doesn't stop me from fantasizing about it, though!

And the truth is, I would never think that living one's entire life in one place would be anything special if people didn't always seem to respond with wonder whenever I answer the question "Where are you from?" with "Here. Born and raised." Most of the time the person will then say, "Wow! Really? That's pretty rare, isn't it?" or, if the question was initially asked by a cab driver, "Wow! Really? Me too! Where'd you go to school?"

On to the "native" moniker: I guess, technically, being born within the city limits is the definition of native. But I have many friends I've known since grade school, middle school, and high school, who were not all born here, but did grew up here, and still remain here, that I think are just as "deserving" of the moniker "native" as someone who was born in San Francisco. And they're probably even more deserving of the title than someone who was born here, but grew up out of state, and then returned as an adult.

That said, I don't really get why people who did not grow up in the city, but merely close to it, often seem to insist on calling themselves San Francisco natives. I've had dozens of conversations that are a variation of this:

"Where are you from?"
"San Francisco, actually. Born and raised."
"Me too!"
"Wow, really? Where'd you go to school?"
"Well, I went to high school on the Peninsula, and still live there. But I was in the city, like, all the time growing up."

And then I try and change the subject, because I guess I am a snob.

I do understand claiming San Francisco native status when talking to someone who's not from the Bay Area; it's just easier to say you grew up in San Francisco than it is trying to explain to someone from out of town just where the hell Novato is.

But if you're talking to someone who is from the Bay Area? Take some pride in your home town, man! Let that Novato flag fly high! After all, there probably aren't a lot of you left, either!

Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.

In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!