Say you’re from SLO when you’re really from Arroyo Grande.
Or somewhere equally close but distinctly different, like Pismo Beach, Atascadero, Santa Maria, or Paso. There’s only a small group of extremely lucky people who actually grew up in SLO, and these born and bred locals will take offense to anyone trying to pass off Arroyo Grande as “basically SLO.” It might be just sixteen miles south on the 101, but it’s a totally different city with a completely different vibe.
Pronounce the name wrong.
San Luis Obispo is Spanish, not French. Calling it “San Louis Obispo” in front of a local is an easy way to earn yourself eye rolls, groans, and unspoken assumptions of idiocy. If for some reason you really struggle to say the word “Luis,” just do what the locals do and call it by its letters: SLO.
Talk smack about the local college students.
Not only do university students account for about half of the city’s population, they also fuel the local economy, bring a unique energy and vibrance to the area, and often stick around to become part of the area’s next generation of workers and parents. Locals know and respect this cycle, even if they occasionally need to vent about the state of the streets downtown after St. Patrick’s Day.
Forget your manners.
People here tend to be extremely friendly, open, and generally upbeat and joyful. They say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” They smile and greet storeowners. They hold open doors for others. But most of all, they make small talk. And though you could argue that small talk is a pretty basic American habit, conversing with merchants, servers, and strangers in SLO is a big part of what it means to be polite. If a storeowner asks you how it’s going as you peruse a shelf of candles and books, respond and reciprocate the question.
When you order a latte and the guy behind the counter proceeds to ask you what you’re up to on this fine Saturday afternoon, answer him. He’s not hitting on you or trying to pester—he’s most likely just genuinely interested in having a friendly chat.
Drive fast and pass people.
Along these same lines, people in SLO are not aggressive drivers. Honking is frowned upon, cutting people off is rare, and making rude hand gestures from behind the window of your car is unheard of. Almost no one in SLO drives above the speed limit (unless they’re from SoCal), so zipping past someone or speeding down California Boulevard going a solid fifty miles an hour is not only off-putting, it’s considered overly aggressive and rude.
Diss the wine.
California’s central coast is a burgeoning hot spot for wine harvesting and tasting. Wine merchants and connoisseurs have even started to call Paso Robles a “Little Napa.” And although SLO is lesser-known than its sister to the north, it’s got plenty of incredible wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms offering some of the best Chardonnay you’ll ever sip. If that’s not enough, Cal Poly offers Wine and Viticulture as a major.
Whine about the country music culture.
Whether you love or hate country music, you have to get behind it when you’re living in or visiting SLO. The area has popular country music bars, jam-packed line dancing joints so fun even country music haters show up to have a good time, and hordes of guys in flannel shirts and cowboy boots to prove it. You don’t have to be a fan of country music and culture per se, but you definitely aren’t allowed to slam it.
Tell all your friends how amazing the area is, then move here.
Ever since Oprah conducted a national survey a few years ago that proclaimed SLO to be the “happiest city in the country,” tons of U.S. and international travelers have started flocking to the central coast. And while it’s a slight exaggeration to say that moving here will piss off the locals, there’s definitely a kernel of truth to the idea. After all, the area is relatively small and massive influxes of new people brings more traffic, crowds, construction, and the inevitable building out of previously untouched areas.
Buy your fruit and vegetables at the grocery store.
SLO has one of the state’s best farmers markets. The tri-tip sandwiches are insane, as is the roasted corn on the cob, fresh strawberry lemonade, flavored honey, chicken tamales, and cinnamon roasted almonds. We pride ourselves on our sustainable farming practices and locally-grown food, so choosing to buy your fruits and veggies from our local farmers is an important part of supporting one of the area’s principal industries.
Complain about the lack of fast-food joints downtown.
The closest you’ll get to fast food is a Chipotle, but it’s sandwiched between a rad sushi spot and delicious frozen yogurt place. SLO locals are pretty proud of our McDonald’s-free downtown streets.