Time flies when you’re having fun. Really? I’ve been in LA for three months now and while I’ve certainly had a lot of fun, I’ve also had plenty of hard moments of severe adjustment. Sure the weather here is amazing all the time and I’m not missing the grey skies of London, but there’s also a lot of different stuff I have had to get used to and not all of it makes sense. After three months in LA, here’s some of what I’ve learnt about living in this city. This is my LA survival guide.
A CITY OF HIDDEN GEMS
Unlike London or New York where everything is out in the open, written and blogged about, LA is a secret city. A hideous strip mall may be the site of the greatest ever Thai restaurant, a dodgy neighbourhood home to the best taco truck in town, or a weird looking shop may sell the most amazing vintage designer glasses. But unless someone tells you about it, you’ll never know. With so much time spent behind the wheel, you’ll never randomly find a hidden gem by simply walking past it so it’s essential you get to know someone who’s in the know. There’s a hell of a lot to be discovered.
EMBRACE THE ROAD RAGE
In London the first few moments of any gathering will invariably involve a conversation about the weather. In LA you discuss how you got there, how long it took you and how much traffic there was. Whether you like it or not, LA is built for cars and everyone drives everywhere. The problem is that people in LA drive like assholes. Inconsiderate (nobody lets anybody in, ever), reckless (people change lanes without looking in the mirror) and plain stupid (the concept of a fast lane on the freeway is so foreign here it may as well be something out of Star Wars), driving in LA can drive you mad. Traffic wardens give you a ticket the second your meter runs out. Pedestrians don’t cross like normal people but virtually crawl across the street and being stuck in traffic on the 101 will literally make you lose the will to live.
No wonder everyone here does yoga, you need something to counterbalance the road rage.
BRUNCH IS DINNER
Angelinos love nothing more than to indulge in a leisurely brunch. Indeed brunch is about as big as dinner in this city and there’s something for everyone – from healthy vegan options to badass meat feasts and $5 bottomless mimosas. My local favourite Milly’s Cafe doesn’t serve alcohol, just mimosas. If you want to pin someone down in LA, brunch is the way forward.
THE PRODUCE IS PHENOMENAL
You’ve never tasted fresh fruit and vegetables like in California. Everything is bigger, brighter, fresher, juicier and sweeter here. It may be late November but strawberries, asparagus and tomatoes are still in season, and there’s a farmers market somewhere in LA every day of the week. Your diet will improve drastically living here and you’ll actually enjoy getting your five-a-day. But you’ll spend three times more money shopping at the market than you would at any grocery store.
EARLY TO RISE AND EARLY TO BED
A self-proclaimed night owl and lover of lie-ins, I’ve somehow managed to change my ways living in LA. This is definitely a morning city, which I can only assume is the result of the 365 days of sunshine a year. From 8am yoga sessions and early morning hikes in the mountains to a diehard love of breakfast and brunch, people in LA like to seize the day and don’t sleep late. What I’ve learned is that you can get a whole lot more done in a day getting up early but the flipside of the coin is that come nighttime, you’re too tired to do anything. People tend to eat out early – dinner starts at 5pm – and don’t even think about arriving at a LA bar after 10pm on a weeknight – everyone’s gone home.
WINE IS EXPENSIVE
In the UK, it’s fairly easy to find a good quality wine that’s relatively inexpensive. In California, it’s impossible. Local wines are ludicrously expensive and it’s really hard to find a good bottle for anything less than $20 in the shop. Foreign wines are cheaper but gone are the days of popping into Majestic and picking up a case of very quaffable Côtes du Rhône at a bargain price.
BEER IS ABUNDANT
Made using everything from cocoa nibs to sweet potatoes, California is leading a national craft beer explosion in the USA. It’s home to 12 of the nation’s 50 largest craft beer companies, according to the Brewers Association, and beer-focused restaurants, specialty beer bars and beer festivals are aplenty in LA. A case in point is my local, Mohawk Bend, which has a staggering selection of 72 different Californian craft beers on tap.
FOOD TRUCKS ROCK
The gourmet food truck craze that has made its way across the pond, first started in LA. There are literally hundreds of trucks roaming the city’s streets, serving up anything from Korean tacos, Jewish deli sandwiches, Indian street food and $15 hamburgers. Every first Friday of the month, dozens of LA’s top food trucks gather on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. It’s a brilliant way to try out lots of different cuisines and people watch.
ETHNIC RESTAURANTS ARE WHERE IT’S AT
LA offers an ethnic restaurant community that can compete with any other metropolis in the world. And I’m not just talking about taco trucks here. There are flourishing Asian, European and Middle Eastern communities as well as a large Hispanic population, whose restaurants serve delicious and authentic food you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. You can explore just about every country’s cuisine in LA. You don’t believe me? Check out LA Magazine’s article Around LA in 80 Cuisines.
SMART CASUAL MEANS CASUAL
Outside of Beverly Hills, the people of LA are so chilled they don’t believe in dressing up. Jeans are a uniform here, as are gym clothes. Perhaps it comes with the lifestyle, but it’s happened more than once that I’ve seen people out at the supermarket still dressed in their pyjamas. Restaurants are the same, there’s no need for high heels or dinner jackets even at fancy eateries. When in LA suit and tie do not apply.