We’ve all had at least one “buzzkill” conversation like this:
You: “I’m moving to LA!”
Other person: “LA??? Ugh. Isn’t that place an overcrowded, smoggy, traffic hell? The drivers there are awful. Aren’t the people stuck-up, rich and spoiled? Everything is so expensive! Isn’t Southern California going to fall into the ocean from an earthquake? I saw on Gangland that LA is the gang capital of the world! Isn’t the only industry the super-competitive entertainment industry? Everyone out there is so rude! They are all so blond and skinny…do they even eat?”
Here’s the real deal on some common myths about Los Angeles.
1. It’s overcrowded
With about 4 million people in a 468 square mile area, LA is crowded. It is the second most populous area in the US, besides NYC. However, there are over 80 neighborhoods spread out throughout the city. There are always places like Malibu, hiking trails and other quieter, more-removed areas to go to if you feel overwhelmed.
2. The air is always smoggy
Ozone pollution in LA is a problem, but it’s not half as bad as it used to be. Some days, especially in the ‘winter’ after it rains, can be extremely clear. But in the summer, layers of haze are visible. Cars are the main contributor to the poor air quality. I have run and hiked outside in the city very often over the past three years, and have never gotten asthma or short of breath.
3. The traffic never ends…it is the worst in the whole country
LA has an average of 1.8 cars per person. Even eight-lane freeways and carpool lanes can’t save the enormous population from dealing with traffic. Although it is much worse during morning and afternoon rush hours, traffic in the city is a constant struggle. The subway is great if you live near a stop, but they are few and far between.
The truth is, the car is king in LA, and it is a price we pay to live here. Others who have lived in big cities may not find the traffic to be surprising. I bought a scooter to deal with my non-freeway commute from Los Feliz to Century City, and have never been happier.
4. LA drivers are terrible
They are definitely impatient. There is even a blog about how LA can’t drive. Maybe I’m just used to it, but I don’t find LA drivers to be too much worse than any other area of the country. Just be sure to drive defensively and minimize distractions.
5. People are rich, spoiled, and stuck-up
In LA, there are very rich people, very poor people, and people in-between. Just like anywhere else, there are giant mansions, tiny apartments, and regular homes. The median household income in 2009 was $48,617. In Hollywood, there are struggling and successful actors alike. LA brings in diverse people from all over the country, and most of them, from my experience, are not rich, spoiled, or stuck-up.
6. Almost everything is expensive
Like most big cities, costs and rent are higher than suburban or rural areas. The cost of living index is 134, compared to the US average of 100. However, according to WhiteFence.com, Los Angeles has the least expensive utilities costs of 21 major American cities. The amazing weather helps out tremendously with the monthly utilities costs. There are also plenty of free or cheap activities in LA.
7. An earthquake is going to destroy the city
Maybe one day it will, or maybe it won’t—it’s too tough to tell. Small earthquakes happen sometimes, but most times you can’t even feel them. Earthquakes are a risk of living here, just like living in the Gulf Coast poses risks of flooding.
8. Violent gangs and crime are everywhere
There are violent and crime-ridden areas in LA—do not move to them. The most common crimes are thefts from vehicles, so take caution in leaving things exposed in your car. Use common sense while walking alone or at night. By doing this and choosing the right neighborhoods, I have never felt unsafe living here, even as a female by myself. I don’t know much about gangs, but they are usually out to harm other gang members, and not so much random people. For more information on gang areas, see the LAPD’s gang map.
9. The only place to work is in the entertainment industry
Not only is LA the nation’s largest manufacturing center, but it also has the nation’s largest port in Long Beach. Finance and banking is another huge industry, along with construction, healthcare, and tech services. This city is the absolute place to be if your heart is set on working in film and television. Just know that especially in this economy, you aren’t the only one having trouble finding work, whether it be in the entertainment industry or not!
10. Everyone is rude
It’s all about who you surround yourself with. You may come across an overbearing boss or coworker, but that can happen anywhere, not just in LA. Find your core group of friends, and ignore all the jerks.
11. Everyone is gorgeous
Many celebrities do live in LA, but keep in mind, they do have hair and makeup people to make them look beautiful 24/7. Botox and plastic surgery also help to create the stereotypical, perfect California blond bombshell. People in LA are of all different shapes and sizes, but the warm weather makes it an ideal place for runners, cyclists, hikers and swimmers to exercise.
12. LA people don’t even really eat
I feel like most of my paycheck goes towards restaurants and bars in the city. The diverse population leads to incredible food choices. Whether you want Mexican, Indian, American, Mediterranean, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, LA has it – and it probably tastes amazing.
So, your friend who doesn’t like LA, has probably never even been here or gave it much of a chance. Los Angeles is full of creative, entrepreneurial-minded spirits. It has the ocean and the mountains, the incredible weather, amazing food, and a never-ending list of things to do. There have to be some trade-offs, as nowhere is perfect. But in my mind, it will always be the embodiment of the California dream, no matter how much smog, or how bad the traffic is. And if I’m going to break off into the ocean from an earthquake, at least I’ll be on the Island of Los Angeles.