Where Did You Go To High School? The inevitable St. Louis Question

Dawn Griffin Posted by
Relocation Mar 2012


This flow chart is from a recent River Front Times Article. See the whole chart here Flow Chart.

The question, “Where did you go to High School” is a pretty common one. The controversy is whether it is a simple ice-breaker or a disingenuous qualifier.

I am not a St Louis native. I remember pretty distinctly a fellow real estate agent being very surprised by that after reading my blog. She said, “How did a girl from Union, MO become Little Miss St. Louis?” I am not really sure that was meant as a compliment 🙂

Anyway, I moved here for the first time to start my undergraduate degree at SLU. It was during those first couple weeks that I heard the high school question over and over. The question went completely over my head at that time. I am sure that I responded with the same question, not really knowing what I was asking or how to interpret the answer. Looking back I made a lot friends in the first few weeks, but not many of them were from St Louis proper.

After moving around and living in different places like Portland, OR and Seoul, South Korea, I moved back to St Louis in 2002. That time I don’t remember being asked the high school question. But I was still close with the friends I had made in those first years at SLU, so I guess they already knew the answer 🙂 Other than the extended vacation, I haven’t really left St Louis in ten years and in that time I have literally made it my business to know St Louis inside and out.

Over the years, I have met a lot of transplants. In fact about 1/3 of my clients annually come from out of town. Helping people relocate to the city is one of my favorite parts of the job. It’s really fun to show people the best that St Louis has to offer and it is interesting to see this town through other peoples eyes.  However, as I am gushing about housing stock, affordable cost of living and free museums, I forget just how hard it can be to really feel at home here. On one hand this is a VERY easy place to live. On the other it can be really hard to find a group of friends because it does seem like everyone here already has a solid (impenetrable) circle.

Which (FINALLY) brings me to the point of this post. The research that is currently being done by Professor Sarah VanSlette, who teaches at SIUE, is really important. In her words…

I am studying how this question makes transplants to the area FEEL. If I am studying how they are reacting to the question and how it shapes their opinion of our city and it’s natives– the intentions that people have when asking do. not. matter.

The people I’ll be interviewing and surveying will only be transplants. No natives trying to explain the history or functionality of the question. So, transplants, if you are reading this, it is YOU that I want to hear from, and it is only your opinions & perceptions that I care about.

Sorry St. Louis natives. I’ll let you talk proudly about the question & it’s history with each other. I do encourage all natives, however, to take a critical look at why they ask it (is it for judgmental reasons?) and then try hard to put yourself in a non-native person’s position. If you had no local high school to name, no shared points of reference, no friends in common, would you like to be asked this question as an ice breaker at a cocktail party or job interview? Probably not.

If you are a transplant who moved to St Louis after high school, please take the quiz. The natives could definitely use the help 😉

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