A friend of mine recently moved to town and, while catching up over wine, she posed a distressing question. “Do I stick out?” she asked. “You know, is it super obvious that I just moved here?”
I laughed, but her struggle was real: She doesn’t want her new love for and newness in Los Angeles to be mistaken as superficial and is worried about committing newbie faux pas.
Her dilemma got me thinking. How does one “pass” as an Angeleno when Angeleno-hood is new? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some truly local quirks that newcomers should learn if they want to fit in STAT.
Don’t make reactionary comments about the weather. As my friend and I chatted by the valet stand after our wine, she made an offhand remark:. “Oh, it does get cold here.” It was a total red flag. Locals recognize small forecast changes, like evening chill and the occasional rain. Expressing surprise at minor weather events shows a lack of experience.
Drive ridiculously short distances. I’m a walker myself, but if you want to be seen as a local, you should travel mostly by four wheels. Want to go to the market two blocks away? Moan about “how far it is” and then drive over. It’s OK to opt to walk instead but for God’s sake do not comment on how “no one walks here.” Let your conversation about walking be as casual as your stride.
Do touristy things—but not touristy things from reality television. Yes, go to Hollywood and Highland and yes, go to Venice Beach. Locals go there all the time! What do locals not do? Brag about visiting Pump because they saw it on TV or shop at Dash, the Kardashian Klan’s enclave. Those spots are popular on shows because the establishments welcome film crews and fans—not serious shoppers.
Pick a hood and stick to it. You should most definitely explore the city—but don’t tell anyone you do it. If you are based in Silver Lake—or West Hollywood even—vent whenever you have to journey to the Westside. Santa Monica based? Laugh off how you’ve never been to Echo Park.
Speaking of, remember that “the Westside” refers to anything west of the 405—not just Santa Monica. You can even consider Westwood and Culver City the Westside, too.
Talk about traffic as it relates to everyone, not just you. Don’t say, “I was in traffic for like an hour while trying to get Downtown.” Do say, “Can you believe how backed up the 101 was?”
Forget the words highway, expressway, and interstate. Our major thoroughfares are freeways and ”the” should precede their names in conversation.
Don’t tell anyone you’re “learning to drive again.” Like being surprised when the temperature dips, it’s a dead giveaway. You can however mention how hard the written California drivers test is. (I failed it twice.)
For extra credit, research folk landmarks like the Variety building, the old Power House, the location of former Blockbusters, the Thai Hot Dog stand, and the Rocky and Bullwinkle statue. These places and things from L.A.’s past and present hold the secret to Angeleno-hood.