Photo: Maria Uspenskaya/Shutterstock

15 Things You Miss About California When You Move to New York

New York City San Francisco
by Karin Swanson May 5, 2014
1. “Struggling” through “winter”

My first month in NYC, October, was like a never-ending episode of Game of Thrones. Be it at the corner bodega or a hipster café, people would whisper “winter is coming” by way of greeting. I fondly miss the days where my car thermometer read 54 on the Golden Gate Bridge and I thought, Time to bust out the North Face.

2. Eating avocados worthy of a Pablo Neruda ode

In California, avocados are as valued as bitcoin. Marin parents treasure them more than their middle child. One day I braved the Union Square Whole Foods (which resembles a mosh pit at a concert for the Three Tenors: well-dressed people politely colliding in every direction). I figured the organic establishment was my best bet for quality produce. Wrong. Picking up an avocado, I sighed in disappointment at its pitiful, bruised texture and wondered with a heavy heart why Pablo Neruda never wrote “Ode to an Avocado.”

3. Having a daily vernacular that includes “dude,” “forsure,” “gnarly,” and “hella”

Me to cute guy in flannel shirt: “Dude, New York is hella cold.” Guy: sips PBR, shakes head, slides away. Sigh.

4. Watching the fog roll in

To some, fog can be a death sentence for a visit to San Francisco. As a Marin County local, I grew up appreciating the mysterious gray mist. Parked in the Headlands, I’d watch the fog crawl over the surrounding hills and descend silently into the valley below. There’s just no comparison in New York. When the fog rolls in, it’s eerie yet beautiful. The snow is majestic in its own right, but when it moves the way fog does, well…that’s just a blizzard.

5. Wearing the same outfit every day

Grabbing lunch with my mom? Lululemon leggings and a North Face. Friday night bar hopping in the Marina? Jeans — or Lululemon leggings — and a North Face. Strolling the beach boardwalk in Santa Monica? Lululemon shorts and a white Hanes v-neck.

In New York, my “one-style-fits-all” fashion ensemble doesn’t make the grade. Everyone is so damn trendy. You think you’ve got it on lock during winter — all black everything with an ankle-length down jacket — then the sun comes out in spring, the layers come off, and suddenly you’re behind again.

6. Being forced to make good decisions

When bars close at a measly 2am in California, public transit grinds to a halt and food joints follow suit not soon after. That late-night booty call seems a lot less enticing when you have to make small talk with a Lyft driver whose air freshener boasts a “steamed kale smell.”

In NYC, the 24/7 public transit and late-night eating options make it harder to resist temptation. You can pop into Artichoke for a satisfying slice of guilt and then hop on the L back to Bushwick…for a second helping of guilt.

7. Driving amongst a constant fleet of Priuses

The availability of taxis in NYC has been a godsend. But there’s something inherently comforting about a Prius-to-taxi ratio of 10:1 in California. Nothing says, “I live in an overly-PC bubble!” more than the carpool lane of 101 during the morning commute.

But really, I love energy-efficient vehicles. My parents each drive one.

8. Hiking a different trail each day

Living at the foot of a mountain has absolutely spoiled me when it comes to exploring the great outdoors. There are so many forests back home sometimes I think I’m living in a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. The availability of outdoorsy activities in California is akin to food options in New York. I’ve come to interpret this to mean that California wants you to be fit for the 300 days you’re in shorts, whereas NYC demands you blubber up before it’s too late. Winter is coming.

9. Eating quality Mexican food

Don’t get me wrong, you can find good Mexican fare in NYC, but it’s usually overpriced or packaged more “nicely” than the local joints back home. (The grittier the place, the better the food.) My roommate in Brooklyn is also from the Bay Area, and once asked me if I go to Joe’s Taco Lounge. I sprinted into my room and pulled out my Joe’s t-shirt to show her. We spent the remainder of the night reminiscing over wine about the shrimp quesadilla is if it were an old lover we shared.

10. Feeling like you live in a kaleidoscope instead of trapped at a funeral

My first week in New York, I made the mistake of wearing a bright neon green shirt in public. Even worse, I went on the subway. Riding the L with an entourage of fellow commuters clad entirely in black, I looked like a green gumball at a funeral for gumballs, throttling around in the metal box that is the subway car. From the rainbow sidewalks of Santa Monica Boulevard to the eclectic Berkeley homes, California is all about color.

11. Being able to buy alcohol at the grocery store

I’m not entirely sure what logic drives the New York law banning hard alcohol sales in grocery stores, but it can be quite the deterrent to trek to a liquor store in the snow. California is equally contradictory — bars close at 2am, but I can purchase alcohol at the quaint Mill Valley Market?

12. Strolling casually on the sidewalk

Getting around NYC is much like navigating the champions’ maze in the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter. Luckily, I can circumvent obstacles easily because I always walk like I’m marching to the White House to deliver the cure to cancer. But when a Russian tourist stops dead in her tracks to point at a tall building, I can’t help but grit my teeth. Yes, it’s tall. We get it. They’re everywhere. Move along.

13. Smelling the fresh ocean air

While the scent of falafel stands and eau de subway vent are an integral part of the NYC living experience, nothing beats the smell of salty ocean air as it breezes playfully through your car window winding down Highway 1.

14. Complaining about earthquakes

After Polar Vortex 2.0, I was nostalgic for the days of earthquakes. What’s a little rumble of the ground when you’re snug in bed? Complaining about earthquakes is a rite of passage in California. I suppose it’s on par with despairing about how the L is late again in NYC.

15. Eating In-N-Out

One morning after a night of cidre pints at my favorite jaunt Radegast, Williamsburg’s German beer hall, I awoke to a startling discovery. The In-N-Out app was open on my phone. It displayed the closest location: Dallas. Dallas?! I spent the rest of the day in bed, mourning the would-be animal fries I’d have if I were home.

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