It’s been almost two months since I settled in Los Angeles – specifically SoCal (the city of Los Angeles is above me, geographically, but I technically reside in Los Angeles County). And in those two months, I’ve learned a few interesting things about LA and its surrounding areas.
Some of these lessons may exist in other parts of the US, and maybe these observations are somewhat only interesting as they’re coming from a Torontonian’s perspective, but please keep that in mind when reading the following list. Also, there’s loads more to learn – these are just the things I’ve noticed in my two months here.
What have I learned living in LA?
1. Tacos to LA is poutine to Canada
Tuesdays. LA gets excited about Tuesdays. This is because it’s dubbed “Taco Tuesdays.” When I first heard this term, I asked locals, “Does that mean tacos are on sale or something?” I was greeted with – “Well, some places have deals, but no, we just eat tacos on Tuesdays.” New York has pizza. Canada has poutine. LA has tacos.
I still haven’t found the best place for tacos, but my particular favorite so far is Dia De Campo, up in Hermosa Beach.
However, I still don’t get it – why is everyone crazy for tacos? It’s such a craze that there are memes of people walking around with limes and salsa in their pocket, just in case of tacos.
2. Traffic, in fact, is horrible
All the jokes about the insane traffic is actually pretty flippin’ true. What would usually be a 15 minute drive to Ikea transforms into an hour if you’re driving during rush hour. And since LA’s transit system, Metro, is pretty crumby, everyone decides it’s better to buy a car and drive around. And because everything and everyone is spaced apart, traffic ultimately adds up.
There’s more people in all of California than in Canada. I’m sure like 95% of them live in LA, so that’s causing all the traffic. Honestly, planning activities with other people must take into consideration traffic and the parking situation. Do yourself a favor, just Uber.
3. Be close in proximity
Remember how I said things are spaced apart, and that adds to the traffic problem? Well, that’s definitely a factor when it comes to meeting new people. If you’re not within 25 miles of a person, erm 50 kilometres, you can forget about hanging out. Seriously.
Coming from Toronto, I’m used to traversing long distances, so time spent driving is acceptable. But like I mentioned earlier, in LA, sometimes brief trips turn torturous as you’re just sitting in gridlock traffic for an hour. And I’m learning that people would rather spend their time meeting people close to them to actively avoid having to sit through traffic for people farther away. Welcoming, eh?
4. How you get somewhere is important
It’s not all bad! The loads of people here know LA’s problems, so there’s always something consistent to talk about. Sure, in cities with changing seasons, the weather is always a good topic. Since LA weather is usually the same, that doesn’t really apply.
Instead, how you got to your destination is a big deal. Go to any social gathering, even with complete strangers, they’ll want to know how you got there. “Oh you took the 405? Should’ve done A, B, and then C!” Even when I’m in cars with passengers, where Google Maps is recommending the most accurate and fastest path based on a bunch of satellites and algorithms, there’s apparently a better way to get somewhere. I’ll stick to my Google Maps.
5. There are a lot of acronyms
DTLA, PCH, UCLA, USC, LAX, the 5…
Shortening words is tight! But when people are using it quickly in conversation, it can be easy to get lost. DTLA is Downtown Los Angeles, PCH, or The PCH, is Pacific Coast Highway, UCLA is University of California, Los Angeles, USC is University of Southern California, LAX is Los Angeles International Airport – yeah the X doesn’t mean anything., the 5 is the 405 highway (freeway).
Honestly, sometimes during conversations, I’ll get so hung up on a specific acronym, planning on Googling it later, that I’ll blank out.
6. Avoid DTLA like the plague
This one is the most heart-wrenching.
Toronto’s Downtown is an absolute treasure – different vibes all within a few footsteps. Sure, it has its fair share of problems, but not anything like LA’s.
Many factors weigh against going into DTLA – the traffic, the rising homelessness problem, lack of parking, the crumby infrastructure. These are some of the reasons I hear people don’t go to DTLA. And apparently, DTLA is getting worse and not better.
I’ve heard this, “If I absolutely have to go for something really important, then fine. Otherwise, nah to DTLA.” A popular rationale I hear too is why go to DTLA if you can go to Santa Monica, Venice, Long Beach – they all have their own downtown-like vibes. And it really is true.
7. Sunsets are beautiful
Jumping back to the positive side of LA, the sunsets – they’re absolutely visually orgasmic. And there must be something with the Pacific Ocean, or all the fumes from the billions of cars, but something chemical is happening in the air as there’s a different sunset every evening. Shades of orange, pink, blue, purple, red – depending on how mother nature is feeling.
If I were to give someone one reason to move to LA, it’s the feckin’ sunsets.
8. Los Angeles and Los Angeles County aren’t the same
This one may go over your heads, but it’s worth mentioning. And if I recall this incorrectly, I do apologize – but I thought it was cute to add to show off my newly found geographic knowledge.
Los Angeles, the city, is part of Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County is made up of Compton, Orange County, Clarita, Hollywood, Calabasas, Inglewood, Hermosa Beach, San Bernardino, etc.
Los Angeles County is also a governing body, so it can make decisions regarding laws and healtchare. Whereas Los Angeles, the city, cannot – although it applied to become such a body but was denied.
9. The landscapes tend to blend together
Sure the sunsets vary from evening to evening. Though the landscapes do not. A combination of palm trees, bushes, and desert sand is how I’d describe LA’s landscapes.
You wouldn’t be able to tell, based solely on landscape, that you’re in Santa Monica versus OC. It all just kind of looks the same. What makes each city different, however, is the cool architecture and insta spots (there’s plenty).
(Side note, I really do miss the vast Canadian mountains and landscapes.)
10. Drivers are horrible – especially bikers
The drivers I’ve encountered on the roads are pretty crappy. One such example is making a left turn at a stoplight. I’ve noticed multiple times when turning left, instead of cars merging into the left lane, they will automatically merge into the middle or right lane. And this happens so often that I now actively try and anticipate this and proceed with super extra caution.
Then there are the bikers. OMG. The bikers. Toronto, if you thought your privileged bikers were a problem, well, it’s nothing compared to LA’s motorcyclists. These dudes drive down the middle of all the actual lanes, and merge in and out of traffic like they own the road. Want to know the crappy thing? It’s actually legal. So, in addition to the crumby drivers, gridlock traffic, and lack of parking – you now need to pay attention to the legal motorcyclists driving in between lanes.
Driving in LA? Get a dashcam.
I’ve lived in Manhattan Beach, Long Beach (Belmont Shore), Santa Monica and San Pedro (mostly with my Canadian wife). When I moved to LA in ’94, I was told stay away from DTLA even though I worked there. Now, there is a lot going on there events, culture, food, clubs – its really alive. And then there are great neighborhoods nearby – Little Tokyo, Silver Lake etc.
The other thing I was told was that it takes 2-5 years to figure out if it will work for you. I was luck damn – what if I hate it after 5 years? But they were right, after 2 years I knew what was my LA and started working to move to Santa Monica. You only got 2 months under your belt – keep exploring especially since LA is evolving.
Wow, that’s some great advice and I can feel that it resonates a bit more with me since you have a Canadian wife, lol. And for sure, I’ll continue exploring and seeing what works well for me. Thanks for the words of wisdom!
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