I have lived in LA for a little over four years now and it has definitely been a roller coaster ride. I have had bits of “is this the right place for me?” or “should I move back?”. Whenever I hear about someone moving here, I sincerely tell them to call me for any advice they may need.
I literally packed up my car, drove out here and made it work. No friends, no job, barely any money, but here I am. For those of you who are LA newbies, here are the top things I wish I knew before moving to LA. I hope they help you with your move:
Cherish a Hot Cup of Soup
Rain is rare in sunny SoCal. You’ll love it when the sky is grey and you’re scrounging for that umbrella somewhere in the back of your closet. People on the east coast think I’m nuts. All I can say is, can you curl up with a hot cup of soup in 80 degree weather?
Do Free Work
Many people move here from a place where they were a big fish in a small pond. That’s over. Most of us moved here without a job (yours truly) and especially if you are a creative like 90% of Angelenos, doing free work is crucial. It gets you out and about, meeting new people and building your portfolio. Networking is the motto of LA. So get yourself out there, even if you don’t see an immediate return.
Learn to Say No
Most people in LA are “super nice”, but learn what your limits are. Stay true to who you are and what you enjoy while trying to meet people and make it in LA. Trust your gut. What is meant to be will be. If you didn’t think taking that role or meeting up with those friends was the right move, don’t do it.
L.A. is a huge city with a ton of natural beauty. It’s one of the few places where you can lay on the beach and a half hour later (depending on traffic) you can be hiking one of the beautiful trails with the only sound you hear is your own breath. When life here consumes me, I find myself at Runyon Canyon. When I reach the top and look out, there is a sense of calm and it puts everything in perspective. Go Hiking. It’s an hour of clarity.
Don’t Make In n Out a Weekly Habit
First thing I hear when people land in LA (permanently or for vacay) is “where is the closest In n Out?” Ok, ok…it was one of the first things I did when I moved here too. Word to the wise, when living in a city based on beauty. Don’t make it a habit. Unless you are lucky and can eat and not gain, then double double animal style it up.
Shop at the Melrose/Fairfax Flea Market
Want great LA style on a budget? Head to this weekly flea market. It gets bigger each weekend and you will walk out with enough loose fitting T’s, sunglasses and vintage finds that people will think you have lived here your whole life. It’s the true LA experience.
No, more like a parking lot. Do not drive from 8-10 AM and 3-8 pm. That’s rush hour(s). No joke. Get some good tunes, a pup to ride shotgun and skip the vent iced latte. It’s going to be a while.
Join a Dating Website
Most people don’t like to admit that they were on a dating site, but here is a little secret. 90% of people in LA are on one. What their intentions are? Well, I can’t promise anything on that front. Here is what I learned from joining a dating site when I first moved here. I went on dates all over the city, so it taught me some great spots to go and about different areas of LA. Funny enough, some of the guys it didn’t work with turned into friends. The others are just good stories. (Word to the wise, don’t use head shots…lame.)
Watch Who You’re Talking To
When I was growing up, my mom always said, “You never know whose mother you’re talking to”, meaning be careful who you talk about and to whom. Everyone knows everyone in LA. It’s more like 3 degrees of separation. In a city where just knowing the right person could get you that lead role, zip the lip.
Learn to Read Street Signs
All meters are free on Sundays and after 6! Wrong! I got a $30 ticket my first summer here because Santa Monica has Sunday meters. That’s right. Some meters are 24 hours and now most of them all over the city go until 8 pm. Remember, that because of the traffic, speeding tickets are difficult to give out so meters are a gold mine. And so are Jay walking tickets. Wait until it’s your turn.
One topic that drives me nuts is the valley people vs the city people. I live in the city, but I love the valley. Don’t knock it. What’s great about the valley is there are great spots to go out to and the stigma of Hollywood isn’t there. Yes, it’s insanely hot in the summer, but don’t judge. It’s a quieter version of what’s over the hill.
Whenever I get frustrated because someone flaked on a meeting we had scheduled, I was two minutes late to my meter or there is a movie premiere and I won’t make it to my destination because road closures, I take a minute and breathe. You will get to where you need to go.
No matter where LA takes you, remember, it’s a city based on the arts. Once you get passed the Hollywood stereotype, this city has more to offer than you can imagine. It is a rare place in that you can drive up to Malibu with the mountains on your right and the ocean on your left. You can wake up, grab a coffee, hit Runyon, meet a friend for lunch on West 3rd., grab a few happy hour drinks overlooking the water in Santa Monica and be downtown that night in time for an opening at the MOCA. Take it all in. Enjoy it. But never forget where you came from.