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10 Culture Shocks You'll Have in LA

by Becky Hutner Apr 27, 2015

IN A CITY built by fortune-seeking mythmakers, its four million residents spread across an area the size of twenty-two Manhattans and connected by eight-lane freeways, so dry rain itself has achieved mythic status, there are going to be some…aberrations. Here are just a few that took some getting used to when I moved to La-la Land in 1999.

1. Never seeing your friends.

Not just the ones who live across town, but the ones that live in your neighborhood. And next door. It’s not that they don’t want to see you. It’s just everyone’s so busy driving alone and freelancing alone and logging sufficient “me time” alone that they sometimes forget to reach out. That and juicing is really time consuming.

2. Flip flops with everything.

You’d think a city famous for red carpet glamour would be a bit more turned out, but in reality, most Angelenos couldn’t even be bothered with shoes. So the next time you have dinner plans and don’t feel like fussing with laces or buckles, don’t! Wear your Havaianas and you’ll fit right in.

3. Rush hour is actually 6 hours. And there are 4 of them.

The sooner you learn to stop asking — “But where are they all going at 10am on a Sunday?! I just don’t understand!!!” — and start binge-downloading podcasts, the better.

4. Empty sidewalks.

The streets may be bumper-to-bumper but try walking and you may not pass a soul. If you do, it’s either a homeless dude trying to sell his guitar amp for drug money or some badass skateboarder whose fancy fly-by ollie makes your simple one-foot-in-front-of-the-other routine seem a bit lame.

5. Beverly Hills, the beach, and the Hollywood sign are nowhere near each other.

Contrary to what decades of movies and television would have you believe. In fact, no Angeleno attempts to tackle all three in a day unless they have a gun to their head. Or “meetings.” It’s a nice fantasy, breezing past these icons in a kicky red convertible, but resist, because the reality is more like banging your head on the dash of a second-hand Camry because you may never exit the 101, ever.

6. Blinkers that are strictly ornamental.

Instead of indicating when they want to change lanes, Angelenos actually depend on their fellow drivers’ psychic ability to predict lane changes. This skill takes awhile to hone but the day someone suddenly cuts in front of you and you find yourself intrinsically and peacefully hitting the brake is the day you can call yourself a local.

7. Some of the best food comes from a roach coach.

AKA the dingy trucks parked in nondescript parts of town that you avoided your first year in favor of celebrity chef-driven restaurants and cafes serving ten-dollar toast. Until one night after one too many handcrafted Moscow Mules when, for lack of another option, you surrendered to the warm tortilla-wrapped bundle of spicy, creamy, zesty goodness and declared it the best five dollars you ever spent.

8. Really strong opinions on really important topics. Like Star Wars. And burritos.

If you don’t have anything to contribute to either, expect to be excluded from 50% of conversations.

9. No reverence for history.

If there’s an old restaurant or bar or building you love, get your kicks now because at any moment, it could be unceremoniously razed without notice. It happened to the Victorian homes of Angelino Heights to make way for the Hollywood Freeway. It’s happening to the beloved 6th street bridge. And I recently had the eerie experience of driving La Brea Avenue and barely recognizing a single storefront, as if the whole thoroughfare – including that cute art deco section — had been snuffed overnight and reborn as a 5-mile long live-work complex. In Florida. The craziest part is when you seem to be the only one who remembers what came before. As if your fellow residents are part of a cult whose sole aim is to make you feel like the Bob’s Big Boy on Wilshire was a figment of your imagination and that Beverly Hills BMW has been there all alooong.

10. Movies are not made in Hollywood.

I know. I found out the hard way hitting the Walk of Fame with my parents at age eleven in search of an explosion-laced car chase scene or at the very least, a brush with Brian Austin Green. Instead, I dodged a photo request from a balding Superman and passed endless racks of postcards featuring women in high cut bathing suits with hair like Andre Agassi. I now know your best chance of catching some movie magic is a working studio tour (read, not Universal Studios) or a snoop downtown, where old-timey signage and art deco buildings make a good stand-in for New York. Or just go visit one of your PA friends.

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