Photo: Matt McDaniel
1. It’s socially acceptable to wear workout clothes everywhere.
It’s not far off the mark to say that Southern Californians invented the current athleisure trend. We’ve been rocking leggings, board shorts, and tennis shoes as everyday attire for decades.
There’s zero pressure in SoCal — especially if you live near the beach — to dress up, let alone change out of your sweaty yoga tank to go to lunch. Plus, the closer you live to the ocean, the more it becomes appropriate to wear your bikini inside a sandwich shop or walk barefoot (trailing sand behind you) inside a convenience store to buy ice cream.
2. You don’t have to feel like a pretentious douche here for ordering vegan or gluten-free.
In SoCal, pitaya bowls, green smoothies, quinoa salads, and other stereotypically tasty health food options are as common as middle-aged men wearing Rainbows. Not only that, but nearly every restaurant or cafe has gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan options, if not entire menus dedicated to accommodating people with restricted diets.
3. The surf culture that permeates SoCal influences everyone living here, whether you surf or not.
You can see it in the comfortable, bohemian outfits people wear and the slang we use: “super,” “sick,” and “stoked.”
You can see it in the way people respect the ocean, pick up their trash, or strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger while waiting in line at the grocery store. You can see it in the way people greet one another with a cool, laid-back kindness you never fully appreciate until you’re somewhere else. You can see it in the way people make time to watch the sunset.
The best characteristics of surf culture — the down-to-earth personalities, the emphasis on connecting with nature, the camaraderie, the positive, open-minded attitudes, the desire to live simply — all influence the lifestyle and general mindset of Southern Californians.
4. Locals here are actually really good drivers.
If you’ve ever visited or lived in LA, you probably just rolled your eyes when reading that. It’s counterintuitive, but the truth is, even though people switch lanes with no signal and zip ahead of you to pass instead of just slowing down, they actually know what they’re doing.
The best drivers are the ones who can maneuver around a car that’s stopping traffic trying to parallel park, or the ones who can pull off the freeway at the very last second to take a backroad route. Drivers in SoCal may be impulsive and occasionally crazy, but we’re also sharp and resourceful — with killer reflexes.
When you grow up driving in SoCal then visit other parts of the world, you’ll be baffled at the sheer slowness and stupidity you witness on the road. Thirty-two miles an hour in a 35-mile an hour zone? Nonsense.
5. We have authentic Mexican food right at our fingertips.
Southern California has hands-down the best Mexican food outside Mexico, which makes sense considering the amount of Mexican transplants we have who’ve shared their killer cooking skills.
Every major city in SoCal has a ton of upscale Mexican restaurants, hole-in-the-wall joints, taco stands, and family-owned eateries. The pico de gallo is perfection, the huevos rancheros are life-altering, and the fish tacos will send you briefly to heaven and back in one bite.
Eating quality Mexican food in SoCal is an everyday occurrence, which means we generally don’t appreciate it as much as we should. Never is this regret more acute than when you travel literally anywhere else in the world and the only Mexican food you can track down is some cheap version of Tex-Mex: tacos with hard corn shells from a package at the grocery store, flavorless guacamole, salsa from a plastic bottle. Oh, the horror.
6. We don’t know the meaning of winter.
We think Converse and Vans count as appropriate cold-weather footwear. On the rare chance it rains, we cower indoors and wonder aloud why this is happening. For us, June Gloom is the worst it gets.
We have almost 300 days of sun a year in SoCal, with temperatures hovering between 60-90 degrees Fahrenheit all year long.
That means you can wear your Rainbows during every season, run outside in December, and eat al fresco for dinner every night if you want to. Plus, there’s zero humidity, so even when the temperatures peak toward the end of August and September, you’re not breathing in moisture or sweating as soon as you wake up.
It’s easy to forget how good we have it here until you visit San Francisco for a weekend and the sky remains perpetually gray, or you move to Michigan and have to shovel snow off your car before work.
7. We’re right next to theme parks people travel across the world to visit.
We’ve got Disneyland, California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Legoland, and Six Flags, plus awesome attractions like the San Diego Zoo.
Even if rollercoasters and $9 corn dogs aren’t your thing, just the fact that you could buy a spontaneous ticket to Disneyland on a Thursday to ride Pirates of the Caribbean is pretty sweet.
8. You can surf and snowboard on the same day.
We have variety when it comes to our landscapes in close proximity — stunning beaches, lakes, desert, vineyards, and mountains. It goes without saying that the coast — from San Diego to Malibu — is ideal for everything from surfing and diving to snorkeling, beach volleyball, and hiking.
But there’s also incredible hiking in places like Joshua Tree National Park, Mount Baldy, San Jacinto, and the Mojave National Preserve. Temecula has gorgeous vineyards perfect for a wine-tasting day trip, and Palm Desert is two hours inland from the coast, making it the ideal mellow weekend getaway if you want to play tennis and lounge by the pool.
If you want a day on the water, you can go boating and water skiing in places like Lake Havasu or Silverwood Lake. Big Bear is fun for a quick day trip to go snowboarding or skiing, while the awesome slopes at Mammoth Mountain are just a five-hour drive away.
Where else can you say it’s possible to surf and snowboard in the same day? Not that you’d want to actually do it, but hey — it sounds cool, right?
9. We host all the good festivals.
Coachella, Stagecoach, Sun God, and Lightning in a Bottle during the springtime, and KAABOO in Del Mar at the end of summer. Just saying.
10. People here care about local causes, environmental issues, and social equality.
Okay, so Orange County is known for being the one Republican pocket of California, but political parties aside, people throughout SoCal tend to be passionate, progressive individuals excited to see positive change in our corner of the world and beyond.
Whether that means arguing against building gated neighborhoods above our beloved beaches, fighting for wage equality in LA, volunteering with non-profit organizations to protect our marine wildlife, or advocating for LGBT rights at local universities, the large majority of people in SoCal are passionate about investing time to better our community.
11. We take care of our beaches.
We have some of the prettiest, most diverse coastline in the world. From the flat, wide surfing beaches of San Diego to the rocky coves in Laguna Beach and kelp forests of Catalina, the beaches here are gorgeous, well-maintained, and ideal for year-round visits.
Not only can you surf, dive, snorkel, skimboard, spearfish, body board, sail, or go paddleboarding, you can also swim through underwater sea caves and tunnels, traverse rocky tide pools to search for sea hares and bat stars, and skinny-dip in giant natural pools that fill with seawater during high tide.
Even better than the beaches themselves is the way the community strives to take care of them. People go out of their way to pick up litter, organize beach clean-ups, take an active interest in the state’s marine protection laws, and educate visitors about the importance of respecting the coastline.
We’re not afraid to call someone out for leaving a soda can behind on the sand or ripping mussels from the tide pools.
12. We may have high taxes, but our infrastructure is incredible.
We have clean streets, well-maintained roads, excellent public schools, beautiful green spaces, modern office buildings, impressive waste-management systems, and fantastic hospital and medical facilities.
We don’t acknowledge it often enough, but the fact that we have trash-free sidewalks and lovely tree-lined roads to enjoy is a luxury and a privilege.
13. Our next-door-neighbor vacation spots are pretty sweet.
Mexico is just a short drive across the border, while Hawaii is only a five-hour flight away. Take that, Wisconsinites.