Life in California: Perceptions vs. Reality

I get a lot of different reactions from people when I tell them I’m from California. It’s interesting, because no matter where you go in the world, people seem to have an opinion about what California and Californians are like. Some people assume I’m rubbing elbows with movie stars and living the glamorous, “Hollywood” lifestyle. Others assume I must be some kind of a surf bum who smokes weed all the time and talks like a valley girl. Yet others still assume I must be snobby, or rich, or even a crunchy granola hippie. I’ve heard it all.

Even more interesting is that a lot of people I meet while traveling, both domestically and abroad, have actually been to my home town. I grew up in Los Angeles and now live in San Diego, two of California’s major cities and tourist destinations, so people often know a lot more about my home than I know about theirs.

Couple that with the Hollywood influence, and the opinions on life in California can get…interesting.

The first thing I would like to say about my home is that really, it’s a lot like anywhere else. We Californians have jobs (and not just Hollywood jobs). We get up, we go to work, we drink our coffee, we grumble about traffic, we do our laundry and go to the grocery store and spend our weekends hanging out with friends, just like anywhere else. I wanted to write a post, in good fun of course, about the perceptions of life in California vs. reality. So, here are the perceptions I’ve heard from people….

We all Surf.

Nope! While there are certainly a lot of surfers here, I would say the vast majority of us have no idea how to surf. That’s not to say we haven’t tried it before, but it’s actually quite hard and takes a lot of dedication to be able to catch a wave. The few times I’ve attempted surfing…let’s just say it didn’t end well. Plus, the ocean is cold and I’m a wimp when it comes to cold, so I don’t get in the ocean much.

Speaking of cold…

We don’t like Weather.

Mostly true. When it rains, the roads become a nightmare. There’s always that one person purring on social media about how nice it is to have a cozy rainy day with their hot tea and their blanket, but that person nearly always has the privilege of NOT having to drive anywhere that day. Sure, I’d like a cozy day in front of a fireplace too, but usually a rainy day just means I have to commute for an extra hour that day.

That being said, I think most of us appreciate when it rains. It’s dry here, after all, so a rainy day means the thirsty state gets quenched a little bit. Just don’t go driving.

Snow on the other hand? Usually happens just in the mountains, and…SNOWBOARDING!!!

We Talk Like Valley Girls…or Stoners.


Nope. While there are certainly people who do, most people….gasp!….sound pretty normal. Yeah, we have accents like everybody else, but most people don’t like….draaaaaaw out their speeeeeech, man! 

While SNL’s ‘The Californians’ might be highly amusing, it’s not exactly…accurate.

We’re all Rich.

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Definitely not true. I wish it was true, because if it was that would mean I’m rich! Sadly, I’m not. we have some pretty high real estate prices in our major cities here in California, and I think that sometimes plays into the stereotype that we must all be rich to be able to afford living here. Nope. What it really means is that we’re spending all our money on living here. It’s ok though because it’s a great place and we love it. I’d rather live in a tiny shoebox apartment in California than a sprawling estate elsewhere. What can I say? I love it here!

We’re all SUPER Liberal.

We’re certainly more liberal, in general, than other areas of the country. That being said, I know plenty of conservatives as well. Yes, they do live among us! I’d say in general, even our conservatives are a bit more moderate and centrist here, but we do have all kinds here in the golden state. Personally, I’m a liberal democrat and I’m proud of my home state often being on the forefront of progress, but as I said, we have a sampling of pretty much everybody here and we all manage to live together (relatively) peacefully most of the time.

We’re all “in the Industry”

You know what industry I’m talking about. Sure, I know a lot of people who are PA’s in Hollywood or trying to break out as an actress, but I would say the vast majority of those people moved here from elsewhere. Most of the people I grew up with are working in “normal” jobs. We’re graphic designers, real estate agents, lawyers, construction workers, truck drivers, bankers, administrative assistants, restaurant servers, and all other manner of regular Joe professions. Want to know a secret? The best way to “make it in L.A.’ is to be a lawyer or a real estate agent, not an actor. That’s who can really afford to enjoy all the city has to offer!

The Traffic. Oh, the Traffic…

This one is definitely true. Traffic is a fact of life in California, and it’s one we grudgingly put up with because we find it worth it to deal with the traffic in order to gain the other benefits of life here, like good weather, lots of stuff to do, and plenty of career opportunities. Oh, and the food. The food alone is worth it. Some of us handle the traffic better than others. Reactions include everything from a feeling of resignation to one’s fate all the way up to crazy road rage, and everything in between.

We say “THE” before our freeway names.

Speaking of traffic and freeways, I often hear people from out of state question why we So Cal people say “the” before the freeway name.


“Take the 5 North to the 405 North to the 110 South, then get off at PCH.”

There’s actually an interesting history about why we So Cal people say “the” instead of I-10, I-405, etc. like they do elsewhere. Also, Pacific Coast Highway is often referred to as PCH, or simply, “Coast,” as in, “Take Coast North, then make a right at Crenshaw.” We could get into a whole epic discussion about regional dialects, though. Let’s not mention the Nor Cal vs. So Cal opinions on the word, “hella“.

We all know Celebrities.

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#hollywood #starsandstuff

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Ha! No.

And we’re not bumping into them at restaurants and supermarkets all the time, either. Sure, one may perhaps from time to time spot a celebrity as they scurry from one place to another, hoping not to be detected, but that’s really the extent of it for most of us. I might add that it’s not really that big of a deal, either. I mean, they are just people.

I’m personally not all that into the whole Hollywood thing. I may not know a lot of celebrities, but I know a LOT of celebrity wannabes, and it can get rather tiresome listening to them constantly try to hustle their way through life. I tend to hang out with people who are content just chilling, you know?

We’re all fit, and tan…and blonde.

I wish! My pale, grub-like exterior has a different story to tell. My husband is a redhead and slathers himself in a thick layer of sunscreen before layering on long sleeved clothes and a giant hat before heading out into the sun. As for fitness? There’s definitely a fitness culture here, but on the other hand there’s also a culture of eating delicious foods and then relaxing. The two exist side by side, but I can say with surety that we have all kinds here.

As for the blonde thing? You do know that California is incredibly ethnically diverse, right?

We’re all on some sort of juice cleanse…

Please refer to the above “fit and tan” section. Sure, we’ve got a segment of the population that is so obsessed with juice cleanses and fad diets that they haven’t eaten anything but kale in months. The rest of us, however, are busy macking down on In-N-Out Burger and Mexican food. Plus, California is a foodie’s paradise. We have amazing restaurants here. Why would we want to miss out on all the fun and drink green juice all the time? Excuse me, but I’ve got an appointment with a Korean Barbecue restaurant.

The Whole Earthquake Thing.


If there’s an earthquake, two things will happen:

  1. Everybody will post about it on Facebook. Everybody.
  2. The locals will be completely un-phased by it.

Honestly, I sleep through most earthquakes. I find out about them because I wake up and see on Facebook that there was a quake. Then I move on with my life.

If the buildings around us aren’t falling down, we’re not concerned, and in my 34 years on this Earth, only the Northridge Quake in 1994 concerned me at all, and even that wasn’t all that bad, all things considered. We Californians all tend to agree that we’d much rather deal with some occasional moving and shaking than tornadoes sucking us up, or hurricanes devastating our cities. Or…you know, mosquitoes. The whole earthquake thing is often dramatically overrated.

What do people say about your home town? Are those assumptions accurate? I would love to hear all about it!



5 replies »

  1. I remember when going to LCAD, I would tell people who were not from California that I went to school in Laguna Beach and their first reply 90% of the time was “oh just like the show on MTV?” And every single time they said it, I so wanted to just punch something. 😝

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so funny, but so true! I know it’s all a stereotype, but still. I keep meeting people that fit the bill lol. And I live in Berlin!

    I’m from Manchester (UK) originally, and the stereotype is that people think we’re all like the Oasis (Wonder Wall)brothers and love a good fight! It always rains. You MUST love football. Because Manchester United. We’re either aspiring WAGS (Manchester United again), or a rough scally, have really strong North English accents like in the oldest soap in the UK (Coronation Street), and it’s really “Grim Up North!”

    And like you say, some people fit the stereotype, but many don’t!

    I’m from Manchester and you wouldn’t know as people say that I sound like a member of the Royal Family, I have no interest in football unless it’s for the World Cup, the North isn’t “grim”, and well, it doesn’t always rain!

    p.s. You might have to look up what I mean!

    Liked by 1 person

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