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Being a Californian in New York City

Updated: Oct 02, 2012 19:32
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I am a Californian living in New York City.  I was born in the suburbs of Los Angeles, raised in the suburbs of San Diego, and went to college in the Bay Area, so I’d kind of consider myself somewhat of a semi-expert on Californianity.  Living as a Broke-Ass-West-Coaster-Gone-East for nearly three years, I’ve gathered a few observations about Californians in this place that’s all about pounding the pavement in stilettos and frantically yelling into your cell phone.  The first of which being that NYC is nothing like that, except for the yelling into your cell phone part (and we could alternately substitute “yelling” for: “publicly crying,” “shit-talking,” or “asking for money.”)

Ain’t no lie– Californians are a laid-back breed of human.  We work hard when we have to, but we’d almost always rather be doing one of the following: lounging and getting tipsy in the park; lounging after a morning yoga sesh; lounging and eating burritos at some hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant; lounging after going on a canyon hike with our shelter-adopted mixed breed dogs; lounging with an iced tea, a gossip rag and oversized sunglasses outside of a local all-organic cafe; or lounging while scantily-clad on any beach, anywhere, anytime.  We also like to make salads, listen to the sweet sounds of wind chimes, and wear short-shorts (sometimes all at the same time!).  People in NYC obnoxiously start every conversation with “So, what do you do?”  Californians hate talking about our jobs (especially San Franciscans, who seem to work as dog walker/waiter/DJ combos well into their 40s), and would rather start every conversation with, “So, what did you do today?”  The answer likely involves some combination of Mexican food, marijuana, and (you guessed it) relaxing.

That being said, Californians in New York City definitely like to stick to our own kind.  We surround ourselves with other West Coast transplants, and claim that anyone else from anywhere else just isn’t “chill” enough.  Once we really cast our nets far-and-wide, and perfectly assemble a diverse group of People Who Are Just Like Us, we sit around and talk about how much we miss In N Out.

It’s true that Cali babes in NYC have pretty out-of-control levels of homeland pride, and we love to rep our roots by sporting SF Giants hats, hideous gold 49ers jackets from the early 90s, vintage Lakers jerseys, and any other gear from our state’s many sports teams (besides the Padres, because the Padres are just embarrassing).  Californians may not be as fashion-forward as their trend-obsessed NYC counterparts, but let’s not forget our fine state’s many contributions to trends of years passed:  trucker hats, Juicy Couture velour sweatsuits, Botoxing your face beyond recognition, letting your thong hang out of the top of your True Religions, bleached blonde hair on top with dyed black hair underneath, Uggs with miniskirts, and macrame chokers.  New York might be the nucleus of American fashion industry, but we will always, always have these two:

Besides being the clear winners on the “How to Pay a Lot of Money to Look Like a Porny Drag Queen” front, we Californians also boast a far better way of speaking than East Coasters.  “Dude,” and “brah” aren’t just used by guys who live in orange VW Buses anymore, and have become the official terms of endearment amongst fratty douchebags across this glorious nation.  We knew what a “cholo” is before that dumb song came out– if not from firsthand experience with their netty-heads, we learned the term from high school showings of  Stand and Deliver whenever we had a sub in Algebra 2.  And let’s please not forget how hella fulfilling saying “hella” every other sentence can be. We speak in hella Valley girl accents, hella stoner drawls, and inspire wildly popular SNL sketches about Marina del Raaahhh.  We awr like, toaaad-ally awesome, amigooos— “mad” and “wicked” ain’t got nothin’ on us.

New Yorkers might think that all Californians are new age, crunchy, raw food obsessed space cases, but we don’t understand why so many stick-up-their-ass NYC-dwellers pay serious bucks for personal astrologers.  This is a city that doesn’t compost– most of them don’t even believe in recycling– yet there are seriously signs for psychics on every corner.  Like black holes, the Great Pyramids, and Donald Trump’s hairdo, the abundance of fortune tellers in this “no-nonsense” city perplexes us.  A fair share of Californians might like to camp out in teepees and frolic naked across the sands of Burning Man, but at least we don’t pay $300 for someone named “Madame Erica” to “telepathically cleanse our souls from afar” while we go home and take a shower.

Californians living in New York City miss keeping half of our wardrobes in our cars, not having to deal with with that damn shuttle when the L train is under construction, and blasting-slash-belting out Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” while stuck on the freeway during rush hour.  We long for beach bonfires that begin with perfect summer sunsets, cool salty breezes, and that time that the cops were called when our step mother wrestled some druggie for the last free fire pit (… just me?).  We miss morning marine layers that blanket our neighborhoods in romantic stillness during our 6:42am jogs, and fizzle away to sunshine by noontime.  We dream about carne asada fries, backyard swimming pools, cheap thrifting, life without down jackets, and solely wearing scarves as funky accessories.  We secretly miss mall culture, because sometimes we just need a Hot Dog on a Stick, and an impulsively-purchased tribal ear cuff from Icing that we’ll never really wear, okay?  We miss having actual hobbies besides working long hours and boozing, because– as great as New York City really is– it kinda seems like that’s all a lot of people do here.

Californians in New York City move here because San Francisco is like Never Never Land, San Diego is too boring, and LA is too spread out.  Californians move to New York complaining about all sorts of California-related shit, but only stay in the city for a summer, two years, or four years– rarely for a lifetime.   Who can blame us?  New York City might be the center of the universe, but avocados are much cheaper back home.  And who can go through life without affordable guacamole, right?

Photo credits: The Classy Broad, SF Station

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Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven is a natural-born storyteller from California, but she
lives in New York now. She likes dogs, nail art, and Mexican food,
but mostly she likes scoring sweet deals at thrift stores. She tends
to have a flair for the dramatic.


  1. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    October 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Carrie! This is SO good!!

  2. November 9, 2012 at 2:20 am

    this is such a great read, and it is so very true…and california is the best place in the world for sure…i gotta rep my roots 🙂

    • Southbronx1982
      August 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Thank you! California is the best state. in the world! not fucking new york, ewww!

  3. March 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    OMG this is amazing i moved here a couple years ago and thinking this is my last year in nyc ….i miss my so cal so much…just little things… but everything IS better in cali…. do you ever organize californian in the city get together at a mexican restaurant or anything because if you do (and please do) i’d love to be there – go lakers!

  4. Mai
    May 9, 2013 at 12:07 am

    California pride! I have a California sticker on my bedroom window….. lol

    • Southbronx1982
      August 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      I’m proud to be a CALIFORNIAN!

  5. Brooklyn
    August 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Californians are so annoying and fake. This article proves it. Thank god I’m not from that lame ass gay state

    • Southbronx1982
      August 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      it’s the other way around. new yorkers are fake and mental. so therefore your dumb ass doesn’t make sense. by the way new york is a lame ass gay fucked up place to live in. fuck new york!

  6. Living in SF
    January 16, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    The article last week about why New York is so much better than San Francisco was way more my scene. Sorry. You make some valid points, but NYC is really the greatest city in the US.

  7. March 9, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Lived first 41 yrs of my life in NY, then the next 21 so far in California. Laid back is a stereotype that attempts to paint Californians as easy going, friendly, good natured. After 21 years I have come to realize that this stereotype is utter nonsense and in reality Californians are self centered, holier than thou, assuming, demanding people who want to take on no responsibility whatsoever for their own actions but fault every other human being for THEIRS.
    Further, I have never in my entire life met as many idiots as I have since moving here.

    • Southbronx1982
      August 18, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      man you shut the fuck up, with your new york lyin ass. new york is HELLA FUCKED UP! CALI IS DA BEST!

  8. Nicola
    April 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    GO HOME. I don’t know why people leave their state and then complain about being homesick and all that. Before you move to a place you have to visit to see if that’s something you can handle doing. Like geez, shut the fuck up, your generalization on New Yorkers is HELLA inaccurate.

    • Southbronx1982
      August 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      man you shut the fuck up, with your new york ass. new york is HELLA FUCKED UP! CALI IS DA BEST!

  9. Dorkus
    April 12, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    It took you 21 years to figure that out? Whatevs, these things are not all mutually exclusive. You can be smug and laise faire at the same time, ya know.