10 Californian Habits I Lost When I Moved to Portland

Portland Culture
by Alex Scola Aug 3, 2015

1. Assuming people will take advantage at every opportunity.

Frankly, before I got to Portland I didn’t know they still made places *like* Portland. Portland is the kind of place people go to raise a family… and as a result the majority of people I’ve encountered here endeavor to assert that somehow, the world is not filled with bastard-coated-bastards. Imagine my surprise the first time I watched a stranger sitting next to me in the coffee shop leave his laptop out in the open while heading to the bathroom (confident that it would be there when he returned). Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, while simultaneously offending your hardened Californian (in)sensibilities?

2. Attaching “the” to the highway when talking about it.

Apparently you don’t need to add “the” to any highway… which was news to me since I got here on “the I-5.” In fact, most people outside of California will probably tease you mercilessly if you so much as think of calling it “the I-405.”

3. Reciting a short-essay of a coffee order.

You either want black coffee, or you want black coffee with some cream and sugar. Sure, you might choose a Stumptown Hairbender blend or a Tabor Dark, but anything more elaborate than the simple selection of the roast is a disservice to the noble bean, and you can expect to be judged harshly by your Portlander barista.

4.  Being excited about the rain.

Growing up in Southern California, I romanticized the rain. I loved being able to smell it coming from a mile away, and treated each of the 12 days a year that actually saw a little precipitation as blessings… and signs to go out, splash in some puddles, and get a little muddy. But the novelty wears off fast when you’re using your bike to commute to your place of employment (which is 5+ miles away), and it has pissed down rain every day for the last 3 weeks.

5. Screening purchases based on mentally adding in the sales tax.

When I lived in southern California, life was like a middle school math problem: I have a $20, and a bottle of local Cabernet is $18.99. Sales tax in California is 10%. Can I buy the wine I want to buy? Not in California. But in Portland, I’ll get $1.01 in change, just enough to splurge on a single-serving of import Gouda to pair with it.

6. Taking a “me” day to just lie out and tan (without sunscreen).

After just one long, 9-month gray season in Portland, any semblance of a base tan you once had will disappear — only to be replaced by the purest, pastiest, palest, virtually reflective white skin your body is capable of producing. And your once-BFF the sun will become a cruel and painful mistress that demands your respect.

7. Craving Mexican food.

Okay, admittedly I’d have to categorize my core Californian love of Mexican food as more of an “addiction” than a “habit”– for which the cure has been an aggressive detox courtesy of the lack of authentic Mexican cuisine in Portland. If you’re like me, however, you will live with the abundance of spectacular Vietnamese Pho here as a completely-different-but-somewhat-almost-sort-of-okay substitute.

8. Avoiding parallel parking.

Portland has grown a bit big for it’s chic and quirky britches, which means that finding parking (especially over on Hawthorne, Division, or anywhere south of the Alphabet) is a serious pain in the ass. If there’s one driving skill I actually managed to hone here, it’s parallel parking. And don’t worry if it’s a little rough-and-tumble to start, dents and dings on cars in PDX are as ubiquitous as In N Outs are in LA.

9. Packing an umbrella, just in case.

Not only do Portlanders naturally assume they’ll get a little soggy every time they go outside, most don’t even *own* an umbrella. So why waste the bag-space on something you’ll use only if you want people to assume you’re a tourist, when you can fit a whole double-walled thermos of artisan tea in there instead?

10. Wearing flip flops all the time.

Generally speaking, flip flops are an endangered species in Portland — pushed to the brink of extinction by boots, chukkas, Birkenstocks, and Tevas. If you want to look like a transplant from California, keep on wearing those Rainbows.

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