Boise & Garden City

Readers offer 7 (more!) things for Boise newcomers to know. Hint: pronunciation matters

What’s unique about Boise?

There’s the quick-and-easy airport, the “Idaho stop” for cyclists and the free parking for drivers. There’s the abundance of thrift stores, the growing refugee community and Idaho’s odd time zones. We suffer through wildfire smoke, inversions and potato jokes. And we devour fry sauce and those croquetas brought to Boise by the Basque community.

We told you all about them in a Top 10 list of things newcomers should know about the City of Trees.

But our list was incomplete. Here’s what we missed in our guide for Treasure Valley newbies, according to Statesman reader emails and Facebook comments.

1. There is no Z in Boise.

How did we forget this one?

The most accepted pronunciation of Boise is BOI-see, not boi-ZEE.

One reader told the Statesman that “this is the lesson I teach first (to newcomers) because it is the #1 thing that annoys me.”

There are worse things you can do than roll with a soft Z, though. Some locals whose Boise roots go back generations don’t really mind the Z sound. Or even notice it.

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2. You’re in Idaho. There are going to be guns.

In the words of one Statesman reader, “open carry is very common here and we don’t need newcomers freaking out about it.”

Idaho is a gun-friendly state. We have a firearms industry consisting of at least 180 gun and ammunition companies, according to Boise State Public Radio. We have the third highest rate of gun ownership in the U.S., at about 60 percent of Idahoans, reports CBS News.

Idaho’s gun laws do not require adults to have a permit to carry a concealed firearm, and “open carry is currently legal within city limits.”

Another reader pointed out that it’s legal to shoot firearms outside Boise city limits, which may be a shocking surprise if you just moved to unincorporated Ada County.

“We love our gun rights and the use of public lands,” another reader said.

That doesn’t mean everyone is happy about the law. And there are limits to it.

Businesses such as the Boise-based grocery giant Albertsons have asked customers not to open carry on their premises. Some public entities, like Boise State University, do not allow open carry, as Boise State has outlined on its website. (It is illegal for people without special permits to carry a concealed weapon on parts of Idaho’s college and university campuses.)

3. We’re not the best drivers. But we’re considerate.

Want to stick out as a Boise transplant? Honk your horn.

Maybe it’s because we haven’t fought our way through cutthroat bumper-to-bumper traffic all that much. But drivers in the Treasure Valley are calm and considerate — sometimes to a fault.

“We don’t honk our horns ... even at geese,” one Statesman reader said.

“Locals will stop at a roundabout and let others go first even when they can safely merge in,” said another.

“Missing your turn doesn’t exist here. Rather, drivers are taught to stop dead in their lane until someone lets them over, no matter how dangerous or how many cars pile up behind them.”

Boise drivers also don’t know how to merge, according to a few Statesman readers. Instead of using the on-ramp the way nature intended, we accelerate to 35 miles per hour or slow down before merging onto the highway, readers said.

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“We don’t honk our horns,” an Idaho Statesman reader said. Rush-hour traffic exits the Interstate 184 Connector onto Myrtle Street in Boise in this 2018 photo. Katherine Jones Idaho Statesman file

The law is pretty clear. If you’re merging onto the highway, you have to yield to the drivers already there. That could mean slowing down on the on-ramp to wait your turn, but usually it doesn’t. Merge when there are large enough gaps in traffic to do so safely.

Drivers already on the highway, you don’t have to change lanes to allow a driver to enter the highway. But you might want to.

“If the vehicle switches to the outside lane to let you in, that is what we in law enforcement call a ‘nice person,’” a Magic Valley police chief wrote in the Times-News in 2010. “The vehicle already on the interstate is not required to yield to the vehicle entering the highway; it is the other way around.”

But, he added, “If you have the ability to change lanes to avoid a collision and don’t and cause a collision, you could be held liable for a majority of the crash repairs for not trying to avoid the collision. The best and cheapest thing to do is be courteous when you drive because most everybody likes a courteous driver.”

4. Speaking of drivers ...

No doubt, it feels weird to drive highway speeds on a road lined with shopping centers, a hospital, restaurants and children’s attractions.

But the speed limit on busy Eagle Road is 55 miles per hour. Locals really want you to know that.

“The speed limit is a law, and it’s actually dangerous not to follow it, whether going too fast or too slow,” one Statesman reader said.

5. Newcomers are controversial

“Don’t mention California,” one Statesman reader told us.

Today, many new Idahoans are from California, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. Almost one-fourth of people moving into Idaho came from California in 2016-17, the department reported earlier this year.

“Some native Idahoans have a message for Californians: Stay away,” former Statesman reporter Anna Webb wrote in 2017. “That sentiment is so deeply entrenched, so common, that it is as familiar in Idaho as fry sauce and sagebrush.”

Boise Californians billboard 2018.jpg
A sign in February 2018 outside the former Pollo Rey restaurant on 8th Street in Downtown Boise offered locals a chance to share their feelings about our city. One person wrote over other messages, complaining about an influx of California residents to Boise. Audrey Dutton

Readers have told the Statesman in recent years that fast-rising home prices, politics and the growing pains of a booming Treasure Valley make it hard for them to welcome the influx of neighbors with open arms.

“My wife and I are professionals with (college degrees) and we still can’t afford a home here,” one Statesman reader said. “I am a fourth generation Boisean and I can’t live in my own city.”

But most Idahoans weren’t born here. The New York Times found that only 47% of Idahoans were native to the state, as of 2012.

There has been plenty of migration within the state, too. Many of Boise’s newest residents are moving in from nearby counties.

“No problem with transplants,” said one Statesman reader on Facebook. But, he added, “Get an Idaho license plate so we can relax.”

6. Get an Idaho license plate

It doesn’t matter whether you moved to Boise from California or Antarctica. Idaho law gives you 90 days to register your car and get an Idaho license. You’ll get Idaho plates after you register the car.

7. Idaho isn’t as diverse as other states

“We (are) very white and very Republican,” a Statesman reader wrote. “That is not a point of pride for me but it is for many others. Newcomers should know that.”

That’s partly true. Outside the Treasure Valley, Idaho is predominantly white and Republican.

Over 1,500 Latino youth from around the state attended Hispanic Youth Leadership Summits hosted by the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs in Twin Falls and Boise this October. Pictured here, students await scholarship announcements at the Boise summit, where regional schools offered nearly $3 million in financial aid. Sami Edge, Idaho Education News

The Boise area has a growing number of refugees from various countries. And our region’s Latino community is large and growing. Canyon County alone has about 55,000 Hispanic residents, according to the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

Statewide, almost one in five public school students is Hispanic, the center says.

As for politics, Boise’s state representatives are almost all Democrats, making the city a blue dot in a red state.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct information about firearms on Idaho college and university campuses.

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Watchdog reporter Audrey Dutton joined the Statesman in 2011. Before that, she covered finance policy in Washington, D.C., during the financial crisis. She also worked as a reporter in Maryland, Minneapolis and New York. Audrey hails from Twin Falls.