Ask a non-Californian to describe our golden state and you’ll get descriptions of star-studded beaches glowing in the sun, but anyone born here knows otherwise. California is more than just the Sunshine Coast; we have snow-capped granite peaks to rival the Alps, barren deserts that see higher temperatures than almost anywhere on Earth, and, of course, some spectacular seascapes.
However, despite our varied landscapes and subcultures, there are two major categories in California: Northern California and Southern California. While the defining lines between NorCal and SoCal are hard to draw (the Central Coast messes things up, but in general anything north of Fresno counts as NorCal), here are a few essential differences between SoCal girls and NorCal girls.
1. Rainbows vs. Birkenstocks
When determining where someone is from in Californian, check her feet first. Rainbow flip flops are a cult in SoCal, but if you hail from the colder reaches of California, you’re more likely to opt for the famed Birkenstocks (which can conveniently, but maybe not fashionably, be paired with socks on a foggy San Francisco morning).
2. Patagonia vs. The North Face
Moving upwards from the feet, you will come to the midsection, where an assessment of said person’s outerwear of choice will tell you much about their heritage. Patagonia, with headquarters in Ventura and origins deep in surf culture, is the brand of choice for Southern Californians looking to overdress for their 60-degree winter. However, North Californians tend to opt for the Alameda-based North Face, a brand famous for fleece jackets that can fight off any marine layer chill.
3. Bikinis vs. wetsuits
Any self-respecting SoCal girl will hit the waves in her favorite bikini, because have you seen the tan lines you get from a spring suit (a short wetsuit meant for warmer waters)? However, her northern counterparts simply cannot forgo the full body wetsuit if they want to ride the icy waves. NorCal surfers are simply a tougher bunch than the fair-weather surfers down south (myself included).
4. Gnarly vs. hella
Apparently, I spent too many years in NorCal and it began to show when hella slipped into my speech. My SoCal friends mock me mercilessly for it, but I have to admit, saying “that party was hella packed” just sounds better than “that party was really packed”. To be fair, I still use gnarly in a non-ironic sense, a speech pattern that will immediately mark you as born south of Fresno. Beware of strange transplants like myself; our excessive use of slang from up and down the coast will make differentiation difficult.
5. Make-up vs. au natural
It is no surprise that the home of Hollywood, Southern California, is less relaxed about beauty standards than the more au-natural north. When I was growing up in SoCal, it was considered social suicide to show up at school without makeup, but after a couple of years at college in NorCal, my make up bag was gathering dust while I happily imbibed hoppy IPA’s at the local pub. Personally, I prefer the NorCal way.
6. Eternal summer vs. seasons
Ah, the ever-present weather talk. Southern Californians love to rub our weather in our northern neighbors’ noses, but if you pry you might get a slightly different answer. While us SoCal girls love our Christmas beach days, we can get jealous of NorCal girls’ ability to wear their ugly Christmas sweaters without sweating. However, if you made us weather an actual winter we’d probably forget our pining for real seasons and run back to the land of eternal summer, tail between our frozen legs.
Now that you know a few differences between SoCal and NorCal, it is important to note that we are really more similar than we are different, just like in any state. Yes, we have our defining quirks, but we are all Californian girls at heart and we all love our beautiful home state, no matter if you hail from L.A. or S.F.
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