Let’s face it: no matter how great other places are, it seems millions of people can’t wait for the chance to say “I’m from LA.” It makes sense; while life in other places can be either exciting or enjoyable, in LA it can be both. You may have even started referring to yourself as future-Angeleno while booking your ticket. And assimilating is simple, right? Just step off the plane, throw your bag on the ground, put on a Dodgers cap and scream “I’m finally here!”
Well, besides the fact that you shouldn’t be shouting at the airport (security frowns on that sort of thing), it turns out there’s a whole lot more to becoming a bona fide resident of Los Angeles than just not booking a return trip. Here are five steps to making sure that your new SoCal home isn’t just a prolonged vacation.
Step One: Become friends with *actual* Angelenos
While this may surprise you, millions of people were born in this town, so for the time being you would do well to act like the guest that you are. The nice thing is, most of the people who are actually from here are incredibly nice, down-to-earth, and willing to point you in the right direction – just be cool when they make fun of how you pronounce Cahuenga, Tujunga, La Jolla and Topanga (hint: I still haven’t got a clue).
Just be friendly and do more listening about Los Angeles than talking about it, and you’ll make friends in no time.
Step Two: Sign a lease
When I first came to Los Angeles, I had a good number of friends in town. College buddies, high school classmates, even family members who were happy to offer me a space on the couch for a few days while I got myself on my feet.
Two months and eighteen couches later, suddenly nobody was returning my texts. With the severe possibility of moving back in with my parents 2700 miles away from the film industry knocking solemnly on my non-existent door, I finally found a shared studio in my budget. It wasn’t fancy or “clean”, but at least gave me the stable base from which to continue building a life in a place that doesn’t snow nine months out of the year. Almost a decade later, I’m still here (well, not there; I think that place was condemned).
My point? Get your own damn place. Fish and houseguests may both stink after three days, but fish don’t leave a mess around the couch.
Step Three: Change your Driver’s License
Pretty simple; if you’re going to start claiming LA as your own, make sure your primary identification doesn’t call you a liar. Think about it: you’re going to use it everywhere, from nightclubs to job interviews to job interviews at nightclubs. If your Driver’s License still says you’re living in a small town somewhere in Ohio (nothing against Ohioans, but there are a lot of you here), the people you meet are going to suspect you aren’t planning on sticking around.
While you’re at the DMV (for which you were smart and made an appointment ahead of time), make sure to get your car registered in LA too. The new plates may cost a bit up front, but new LA residents are required to register locally within 20 days (https://www.dmv.org/ca-california/car-registration.php), so it’s better than getting pulled over every time an officer is just shy of the day’s quota.
Step Four: Take Public Transportation
LA is not exactly the most walk-friendly city, and while there are plenty of bike lanes, you might put more effort into just staying alive on the busy streets than enjoying your surroundings. The best way to take in this massive city is to hop on a bus and enjoy the view. Not only will every neighborhood make an intimate introduction of itself (“oh that’s what a Culver City looks like”), but you’ll also get a better sense of direction.
Just don’t take it between 2pm and 4pm Monday through Friday unless you want to be packed in like sardines with all the school children of the greater LA area. My ear drums are still in recovery.
Step Five: Don’t go “back home”
This might sound obvious and easy to those with more optimism than experience, but this is absolutely the hardest step on this list.
For a lot of people, the tug of life back wherever life used to be can be stronger than the one keeping them here. Eventually the traffic or the sheer size of the city can become too much, and suddenly the thought of being in the same town as lifelong friends and caring family members seems a whole lot more alluring before.
And that’s okay for some people; they probably didn’t belong here anyway. But hopefully, with enough determination and perseverance (and a fair share of luck), you’ll eventually have stuck around long enough to see “Los Angeles” and “home” as the same thing. You’ll go “back home” to visit and realize that you’re just itching to get back to LA, because that’s where your life is.
That is when you become an Angeleno, and not a moment before.