Vegas Life: A Basic Field Guide

Written by Zee Zolnay

My intention in writing this article is not so much to introduce you, the reader, to the lifestyles of people living in Las Vegas, but rather to make clear the biases that color my observations posted here. If you come to different conclusions than I do, it is because your vantage point affords a different view than mine does.

I have found at least four general groups of people inhabiting the Las Vegas valley: Tourists, Native Locals, Adopted Locals, and Exiles.


I belong to the last of these four groups. Specifically, I am a northern Californian in exile here in Las Vegas. Although I have lived here for the past 12 years, I never quite assimilated to this oasis in the Mojave. As such, my viewpoint is that of an outsider, looking in. I live in a manner similar to the way I did back when I lived in the East Bay. As such, I am a typical exile. No matter where we came from, we exiles stick to the ways in which we lived before coming to Vegas. We cheer for the sports teams where we used to live (Go Raiders!) and do the sort of things that we did in our previous existences. That doesn’t mean that we don’t interact with Las Vegas, but we tend to be aloof about this city and its image, and some of us are still looking for the exit.


About the first type of Las Vegas inhabitants, Tourists, I will say little. There are those who have a good time, then move on, and continue with their lives, taking solace in the notion vigorously oversold by the Las Vegas Convention Bureau that “whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Then there are those who return again and again, seeking yet another dose of whatever it was they left behind in Vegas. Whichever subgroup they belong to, it is the tourists that inhabit the mythic Sin City demi-monde that the rest of Las Vegas painstakingly fabricates for their pleasure. The only time most of us long-term inhabitants interact with this artificial micro-habitat is when our friends and relatives come a-visiting.

Native Locals

The Native Locals are, of course, the group most comfortable with the peculiarities of the Las Vegas habitat. They are a friendly, hospitable bunch, for the most part; however, they tend to exude a certain feeling of power and superiority. This is especially noticeable when they talk about the past, saying things like: “I remember when the town ended at Rainbow Boulevard and Eastern Avenue. People were a lot friendlier back then.” I have found that is best to get along with these Native Locals, because they do run the place.

Adopted Locals

Finally, we have the Adopted Locals: long-term residents who arrived from elsewhere, but acclimatized to the dry heat and flashing lights. Most of our technical communicators belong to this happy legion. These are people like my boss, who was more than happy to trade the cold dampness of Massachusetts for the hot dry desert. Perhaps the largest of the four groups, the Adopted Locals are people who have found their niches in the real Las Vegas that carries on its daily existence in the vast expanse beyond the fabulous Potemkin village of Glitter Gulch.

Zee Zolnay


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