The Secret to Becoming a Native New Orleanian

I was chatting away one morning at our neighborhood CCs with a local mom who asked me if I was born and raised in New Orleans. I proudly responded, “Yes!” However, it struck me at that very moment; my children will not be able to answer the same. As they have settled into their new hometown, I have taught them the “proper” way to say things, what foods to eat, how to dress and other tidbits to become native New Orleanians. Here is a collection of things that make our town so unique from the rest of the country.

How to eat and cook like a native New Orleanian…

Courtesy of Norris Gagnet Photography

Andouille is the only sausage that exists

Choose petit fours before cupcakes and beignets before doughnuts

It all starts with the roux

Red beans and rice on Mondays

Jambalaya does not come from a box

Always have canned food and bottled water in the pantry, hurricane season or not

Eat a po-boy in lieu of a hoagie, and they must be “dressed”

Snowball, not Italian ice

Buttermilk drops from McKenzie are the best doughnuts in the world

Fried turkey is the acceptable way to celebrate Thanksgiving

How to talk like a native New Orleanian

“Suck da head” is an appropriate expression

You will be called “boo,” “darlin'” or “honey” at least once a day by a stranger

Supper instead of dinner

Catty corner in lieu of kitty corner

Lagniappe is a synonym for extra

Yes, there are four seasons: crawfish, shrimp, crab and oyster

“Who Dat?!” means “Hi,” “Bye,” “How ya’ doing,” and everything else in between

Makin’ groceries, not grocery shopping

Coke in lieu of pop

Y’all versus You (Yes, we know “you” is already plural.)

“Yes ma’am” and “No sir,” always

Go is really spelled “Geaux”

How to dress like a native New Orleanian

photo(98)Dressing down means boys wear khaki shorts, loafers with no socks and a shirt with a NOLA emblem; for example, a fleur de lis, water meter or pelican that is most probably from Storyville

Children must own at least one smocked dress or jon jon, or not

No need to invest in a winter wardrobe

Seersucker suits are always in fashion

Black and gold is the only acceptable color combination to wear on Sundays during football season

Purple, green and gold do indeed match

Know the city and geography like a native New Orleanian

New Orleans is also known as the Crescent City

There are no counties; Louisiana has parishes

The “Eastbank” and “Westbank” are not necessarily on the east and west bank of the river

Cemeteries are above ground for a reason

Watch out for streetcars when crossing the street

There is a difference between Creole and Cajun

Neutral ground in lieu of median

Metry is also known as Metairie

If you can pronounce and spell Tchoupitoulas, then technically you know a second language

Other things a native New Orleanian should know

Mardi Gras is not a national holiday

During football season, ALL of your gatherings will revolve around Saints and LSU game times

Whether you are 16, 35 or 60, if someone asks you “Where did you go to school?” it means where did you go to high school

There should be K&B Purple in your crayon box

Mosquitoes, caterpillars, roaches and termites outnumber New Orleanians 100 to 1

What other things should non-natives know to become a “native” New Orleanian?


  1. This was such a fun post! I have a question though, what’s up with the high school thing? My first two years here, I assumed it was a fluke of people who thought that perhaps they recognized me from high school. After that, I knew, it was unique to New Orleans and there was no way that a 50 year old could possibly mistake me for a schoolmate.

    Apparently where you went to high school is a really BIG deal! I just don’t get why. Perhaps this is why I’m so concerned and anxious about where to send my boys for grammar school! (that’s another one btw) we called it elementary school. It seems that once you pick, that’s it. They’re locked in. Their answer to this question has been decided! ;-p

    • …because everyone assumes that if you went to college, you went to LSU. Or at least, that it was your top choice. Your high school choice tells more about you and your family (Catholic or not, for example).

      That’s just my take on it. 🙂

      Ana, nice blog! Another one to consider adding is debutante balls and sweet 16s. I don’t know if those are a Louisiana thing or just a deep south thing…

  2. Great point, Jamie! And, you are right, I should have added “Grammar school in lieu of elementary school” – I’ll add it to the follow up post. High school is a huge deal for New Orleanians. Those years had a huge impact on my life and from experience I want my children to be prepared and choose wisely were they attend.

  3. Thanks Angelina! Having lived a thousand miles away for five years really opened by eyes, and ears, to what makes our city so unique.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here