The U-Hauls, moving vans and overloaded pickups with out-of-state plates arrive in Central Florida year-round, but June is the peak season for relocations. Nationwide, about one in eight Americans who move do so in June, according to the American Moving & Storage Association.
People move here for better jobs, better weather, better schools, safer streets, but they bring with them the place they just left. We can't help but measure where we are against where we came from — and find the new place comes up short.
It's a natural reaction wrapped up inside how we see ourselves in relation to our surroundings, said Bruce Janz, chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Central Florida.
"Every move requires you to rethink your identity," said Janz, a Canadian who moved here in 2003. "When I hear 'home is better,' what I'm hearing is someone trying to hold onto their identity in a new place."
Here's the thing: Floridians don't want to hear it. They don't want to hear the jobs pay better back home, the schools are better, the pizza is better, the bagels are better, the water tastes better.
Floridians regard those who move here from other parts of the country the way Americans historically view people who move here from other countries: They look different, they talk different, they bring with them strange customs, food, clothing and culture. They wear socks with their sandals. They call soda "pop." They cheer for the opposing team at Magic games.
Natives express their attitude toward newcomers in bumper-sticker form: "We Don't Care How You Did It Up North." It's the Florida version of the "Love It or Leave It" sentiment of patriotic Americans everywhere.
"I just feel like if they want to live here, fine," said Annette Everett Farrar, "but if they can't be nice to us, go home."
Farrar is a sixth-generation Floridian who blames all that is wrong with Florida on those who are not True Floridians. That means just about all of us. Farrar contends that to be a True Floridian, you must be at least a second-generation native.
"They consider anyone in Florida to be a Floridian. That's what really ticks me off," said Farrar, 77, who lives in Mount Dora.
It isn't just old-timers who feel this way. There's a bar in downtown Orlando called Native that reserves Fridays for "locals only." On Fridays, transplants are trespassers.
Sara Van Arsdel, who moved from Michigan in 1981, said she encountered the resentment when she began working for the Orange County Regional History Center. Her name was weird, her accent funny, and she came from somewhere else, which disqualified her in the eyes of the natives.
But for Van Arsdel, it was the appreciation for the history of this place, and its people, that changed her from a Michigander to a Floridian.
"Local history has the ability to be transformative," said Van Arsdel, director of the history center. "It can transform someone to appreciate the community they live in."
She defends Orlando against those newcomers who complain that there's no history in Central Florida or the place is all plastic and make-believe by sending them to Gatorland: "Gatorland is pre-Disney and post-Disney. It's classic Florida, it's uniquely Florida. There is nothing like it anywhere else."
Feeling defensive about Orlando isn't just the intellectual property of native-born Floridians. It's an attitude that marks a change in perspective for transplants as well.
"There is a kind of shift that happens," Janz said, as memories, feelings and experiences in a new place start crowding out the memories, feelings and experiences of the place you left behind.
You become a part of a place when you stop comparing it to where you came from. It might take months or years or decades, but when it happens, you become the person who resents those who move here from somewhere else so they can tell you how much better it is back home.
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