A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my dad and he asked me, “What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about Los Angeles?”
I relocated from New York City to LA a little over two months ago after spending a mere four days here a year and a half before the move. There was a lot I didn’t know about LA. I loved it when I visited, but living somewhere and visiting are two completely different things.
Fortunately, I know this to be true after moving from Texas to New York after college and I didn’t come to LA naively. I knew that because I hadn’t spent much time here, it might be tough and that it may not be as good as I remembered from my one short visit. To avoid a harsh reality check, I came with expectations that I would be disappointed every now and then and that was okay. However, I’m pleased to report that those moments have been few and far between. While there have been plenty of things that have surprised me, they have almost all been positive.
So, how did I answer my dad’s question? Let me count the ways…
1) The Smell
Guys, LA smells like flowers. Almost all the time. It’s amazing. After living in New York for over five years, I just didn’t think it was possible for a big city to smell SO GOOD. The other day, I was running around my neighborhood and kept getting whiffs of lavender and I thought, this is so much nicer than the whiffs of urine I got running around New York.
2) The People
So, this might have been a little naive of me, but I always assumed that most people in LA were self-centered, shallow, and judgmental. While I’m sure that’s true in some cases (maybe in the entertainment industry), in my experience, almost every person I’ve dealt with has been nothing but friendly and helpful. The moral of the story? Don’t believe what you see on TV.
3) The Traffic
Okay, this is a lie. The only surprising thing about the traffic is that it really is just as bad as they say. BUT you can play any music you like at whatever volume you like and sing at the top of your lungs (very badly in my case) with no one around to judge. And just like that, the traffic isn’t so bad anymore.
4) The Culture
“But LA has no culture.”
I was warned of this on many occasions when I informed my NYC-based peers I was abandoning them for the west coast. Sorry, New Yorkers. This just isn’t true. There are art museums galore, over 300 theaters around the city, and of course, LA is the epicenter of the film, music and television industries.
5) The Diversity
Again, I’ll repeat myself: don’t believe what you see on TV. Don’t think for a second that those awful, predominantly white and wealthy reality shows accurately represent the population of LA. There are literally people here from all over the world. And because of that, there are tons of quaint, little neighborhoods with delicious (and authentic!) foreign foods. There’s a few blocks on Fairfax BLVD that have over 10 Ethiopian places to choose from. Yum!
6) The Amount of Free Activities
Short on cash? No problem! Plenty of us are right there with you. Luckily, LA has tons of free activities to keep you occupied. Head to the beach, go hiking, hit up one of the many city parks, go to the flea or farmer’s markets, walk around the LACMA grounds and see the Urban Lights and La Brea tar pits, or hang out at one of the many glorious, open-aired malls (more on that later).
7) The Vastness of Nature
“LA is just a bunch of clogged freeways.” Wrong, wrong, wrong! While there definitely are plenty of clogged freeways, there’s actually tons of nature in LA. Unique trees line almost every street (especially those insanely tall and skinny palm trees – please don’t fall on me!), flowers are abloom everywhere (hence the smell), and there is no shortage of beaches, city parks, and hills and canyons to hike. Another thing that surprised me? How much I love to hike. It’s very peaceful and cleansing. Try it!
8) The Malls
Oh my. I’m in love. Hanging out at the mall was something I did as a teenager but lately I’ve been considering revisiting this “hobby.” Most of LA’s malls are open-aired, immaculately clean, and filled with cushy and comfortable benches. Take a book, grab a latte, sit on one of the benches, and soak up the sun. Bliss.
9) The Weather
Okay, hear me out here. The weather is amazing. Sunshine and warm temperatures nearly every day. And let me preface this by saying I am NOT complaining—that would be a slap in the face to the rest of America dealing with REAL weather. But I wasn’t prepared for the morning fog, afternoon haze, and, mostly, the significant drop in temperature when the sun goes down (usually 15-20 degrees lower which feels chilly when it’s been warm all day). You almost always need a light jacket at night so be prepared!
This is just a small sampling of what I’ve discovered about Los Angeles in my first two months of living here. I continue to learn more about this strange but beautiful place daily and, honestly, everything I learn just adds to its charm regardless of whether it’s good or bad.
LA and I are in a new and exciting relationship and things are going great. We may be in the honeymoon phase right now but I’m beginning to think this relationship may have the power to go the distance. But for now, I’ll just take the surprises as they come and continue to enjoy every sun-soaked moment.