Posted by: Kiersten | September 27, 2010

How to spot a local.

With the tourist season winding down, I’m starting to notice the re-emergence of locals onto the streets of our quaint little town.  September seems to be the big overlap month – the time when locals are relieved from some of the intensity of work the tourists bring, and the time when those who skipped town during the summer months return.  The fall wave of tourism rolls into town, usually people without their own children who like to hit the beach after the young families are pre-occupied with school.

That puts the mix of people walking around town about 50/50 tourist/locals, which makes it fun to play Spot the Local!

As I’ve noticed before, a big tip-off is the vehicle.  Locals lean towards old trucks or even older cars, usually with hatch-backs that allow you to fill the entire back seat of the car with dogs or camping gear.  Such cars almost always have a roof rack for kayaks, surf boards or even more gear.  Four-wheel drive is preferred.

Tourists come in two breeds:  those who can afford hotel rooms and those who sleep in their cars.  Car campers like to drive an adorable, brightly painted VW bus.  I love them.  This summer I’ve seen every colour of VW bus, almost all of them were driven by tourists.

Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to drive a bus can get their hands on one, so there are plenty of less cute but possibly more practical camper van variations on the VW bus putting about town.

Want a challenge?  Try to spot the tourist who sleeps in their old pickup truck. Old pickups are a local car-of-choice.  Really, it’s cheating to look an out-of-province license plates when attempting to spot a local – there is another way.

The dirt.

Which brings me to the hotel-sleeping type of tourist.

Hotel sleepers have NICE cars.  Lots of sedans, but plenty of SUVs too.  So how do you tell the out of town off-road vehicals from the local ones?

The dirt!

Locals spend a lot of time driving on dirt roads in the summer.  They’re seeking out isolated camping spots or tucked-away swimming holes.

Tourists come for the famous beaches that are all accessible by paved roads.  I once saw an honest-to-goodness Hummer with Washington plates parked at Little Beach without a spot of dirt on it.  It must have cost twice as much in gas to drive a Hummer up the coast than any other kind of car, and it looked like the beast had never been off road.

Those who come to stay for the summer and live in the back of their 4×4 pickup truck are not going to give their “bedroom” a good shake on a dirt road.  They’d risk getting crackers and cereal all over everything.  Car campers generally have old but pretty clean vehicles.

So what if a someone’s just walking around on the street?  How can you spot a local without their car?  This is where it gets really interesting.

The hotel-sleeping tourist is easiest to spot on the street.  For one thing, their clothes are often a bit dressier.  Slacks and blouses on the women, golf shirts and chinos on the men.

The car-camping tourist lives outside a lot of the time, and so they’re often dressed like locals – this makes it trickier.  There is a giveaway though:  wait until it rains.

Locals hate to wear rain coats in the summer.  They have to wear them all winter.  Summer is the time to soak up the sun whenever possible.  When it rains in the summer, it’s a warm, kind rain.  Locals are used to a lot worse.  Often, the light sprinkling of summer rain doesn’t even register as rain, just as a mild cooling of the skin, like the fog.  Time to put on a sweatshirt maybe, but certainly not a coat.

Tourists will wear rain slickers even during sun showers.

Which brings me to footwear.

Footwear is tricky.  It’s really more a contributing factor in deciphering a tourist from a local; there’s a lot of crossover.

Locals and car-camping tourists alike live in their sandals all summer long, but when the rain really comes down, the locals will pull out the gum boots – the gum boots are always handy.  Car camping tourists will appear to tolerate wet feet in a serene, at-one-with-mother-earth manner.  But watch – you’ll see them tuck their feet under their butts or cover their toes with their hands to warm them up.

Hotel tourists will wear full-on rain gear with running shoes.

I’m still trying to figure out how to tell a tourist from a local in the line up at the grocery store.  This is an opportunity to tie in the clothing with purchasing habits.  Gum boots + instant coffee = fisherman.  Sandals + instant coffee = car camper.  You get your confirmation when they get to the checkout – locals will have a co-op number, tourists will not.

That’s it for this edition of “Spot the local!”


After reading this entry, Kat adds:  “You only see tourists wearing leather jackets, and locals definitely do not buy fish at the co-op!”


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