Help me not hate LA?
September 17, 2019 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Please don't take offense to this but I've received a wonderful job offer in LA and completely and utterly hate the city after 2 weeks. I lived in a lot of places and even places I didn't particularly like, I didn't seem to hate it. A lot of people live here and love it, so I'm missing something. Details within.

I've been in Santa Monica and Culver City. Came here from NYC.

1. I don't drive due to epilepsy. Rarely get seizures and I'm legally allowed to drive but would rather not even chance it. Walking anywhere is not even a chore but almost a joke. I went from the hotel to the local bar at a strip mall which would be a maybe 5 minute walk but lack of sidewalks and fences turned it into a 15 minute ordeal. Uber works but if I go somewhere I'm stuck there, I've yet to feel a real neighborhood vibe. Downtown Santa Monica was sort of like that but came across as very touristy.

2. Everything seems to die down at midnight. Not even drinking, but just getting food is a chore at midnight, this might be related to the first point.

3. I feel as if it is sort of a giant sprawling strip mall. Again this goes back to not feeling as if there was a real neighborhood feel, I just didn't get any sort of high density feel.

I really don[t mean to disrespect LA as I know people who live there and love it, I'm just trying to find out what is appealing. I'm not an NYC snob, I lived in Trenton on business and found somehow something nice even with the warts. This really could be my lack of cars but even if I had one what would I do? Drive 20 minutes to lunch in a strip mall then drive back? I feel as if I'm doing LA wrong and there's gotta be a way to love this city
posted by geoff. to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (37 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I enjoyed Silver Lake during my long visit to LA. Found it to have much more of a neighborhoody feel. This was a few years ago, though; I can’t speak to any recent change.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 8:47 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


(From suburban Michigan, in LA for 13 years, lived in Palms -the 10 and 405 interchange- for 3 years then moved to Los Feliz): the west side SUCKS if you don’t like driving. I felt like you when I moved there and if livejournal was still around you’d see your points are almost exactly the same ones I made (except I’d accepted the job and was stuck there hating it! Ask me about eating sad Subway sandwiches at 9 pm on a Friday night in my free fancyass high rise hotel room because I couldn’t find anything else to eat). 1 and 3 can be mitigated by knowing where to go - la is a neighborhood place, you gotta know the tiny streets- and I can give advice about specifics for palms/culver if you end up there. 1 and 3 can be fixed much better by moving to a neighborhood with a vibe you like-downtown, Westwood (if you’re ok with college kids), West Hollywood, los Feliz, silverlake, echo park, eagle rock, highland park, atwater, plus probably 10+ more neighborhoods- all have different, cool, reasonable vibes IMHO, depending on your interests, and transit access to your job (which is a huge thing- New job and transit access is why I moved). For 2, the eastern areas of the city have more nightlife but there are woefully few late night/24 hour food places anywhere and it is problematic. Food trucks and food stands (like, people setting up stands to cook food ad hoc on a corner) are common ways around this. Feel free to memail me. I love it here and think everybody can find a place, so I hope you want to.
posted by holyrood at 8:54 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]


What you are saying has a lot of merit. It's not a walking city, and not driving is definitely a big limitation.

These are some areas where you can do some walking:

Pasadena (Colorado, etc.)
Santa Monica (Montana, 3rd Street, Main Street)
Venice (Abbot Kinney)
Long Beach (Pine, etc.)
Belmont Shore (2nd Street)
West Hollywood (Santa Monica Blvd)
Culver City (not sure what the streets are)
Melrose Blvd (not sure if it's LA or West Hollywood)

LA has a lot of great restaurants. And there's a lot to do (which you can find on Laist.com, Thrillist.com, and Timeout.com).

But getting from place to place is definitely not easy if you don't drive.

And places do close early, which is not fun when you want to get dinner at 11 pm or even 10 pm.

On the positive side, come December and January, you might be feeling pretty happy when you see news about the weather back in New York.

The reality is that no place is perfect, and there are always tradeoffs.
posted by Dansaman at 8:59 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]


So Santa Monica and Culver City are fine for many people, but I am not one of those people. It's way too much "west side" vibe for me.

I live in Northeast Los Angeles (sometimes abbreviated as NELA), which is an older part of LA, and has a much more neighborhood feel.

One of the biggest pieces of advice for people moving to LA is to live near where you'll be working, because a long commute (especially if it's long because you're stuck in gridlock, not because of the distance) makes life pretty awful. Where is the job offer? Maybe we can suggest some neighborhoods around it to check out, or places that are along public transit lines that could get you to your job. The LA Metro is actually pretty efficient if you live near a stop and work near a stop.
posted by erst at 9:04 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]


Maybe you would like Glendale.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:05 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


I think the most important thing here is exactly where the job is. I currently live in LA and used to live in NYC, and I TOTALLY understand your first impression of LA. I've been here for several years and like it lot more than I used to, but honestly if it weren't for my job, I wouldn't still be here. LA is definitely not a walking city. There are certain neighborhoods that are more walkable, but if you're going to need/want to travel between different parts of towns, not driving can be a challenge. Our public transportation is slowly increasing, but due to how spread out the city is and the fact that we failed to prioritize public transportation for a long time, we've got a long way to go. If you update with more specifics about what part of town your job would be in, people may be able to give you more useful information about whether you could make it work without a car!
posted by scalar_implicature at 9:16 PM on September 17 [3 favorites]


City of Gold the documentary about the late LA Times food critic Johnathan Gold really helped me fall in love with LA.
posted by Uncle at 9:17 PM on September 17 [14 favorites]


Sometimes when I start hating something it’s really hard to stop because you see all
The stupid parts of the city and you focus on those. It sounds like you found all the ways this city is ridiculous.

Things you might like:
You can get really really into your health here, in about 40 different directions, and that’s cool
You can eat salads and wear t-shirts all winter long
Everywhere you go, that’s been in a movie too
People in my circles are doing their weird projects and making them work
People move a bit slower here than NYC but they still get stuff done
I live in NELA and everyone who I meet is kind and interesting and interested and zero percent snobby.

It sounds like you’re kind of lost still, which is normal, you just got here. Where is your job, what do you like to do here, are you a member of any sub-cultures? You just gotta find your people. I find that “NYC” has a real personality as a city - it kind of grabs at you and moves you into it. LA is - not like that. But it doesn’t make it bad, it just has a different personality. The driving thing is a real problem and might be a dealbreaker for you and that’s ok.
posted by andreapandrea at 9:20 PM on September 17 [3 favorites]


I've lived in LA and I can't drive so I understand your pain. You've only been there a short time but you may find you like LA more after you've had a chance to make friends and acquainances there. Especially those who drive and can help you in that capacity. Or at least help you feel less isolated. LA is challengin for those who can't drive or who don't have their own vehicles but it is doable. Where you live matters A LOT and n'thing living either near your work or on a direct route via public transit will make a difference. There are walkable neighborhoods and some areas are more neighborly.
posted by acidnova at 9:32 PM on September 17


First, congrats on making the move to LA. I grew up in NYC area. I went to NYU and live in NYC for my college years. Then I moved to LA. First thing is first. LA is a very tough place to get around if you don't drive. It's technically doable but it's just not a city that works well via public transportation and using an uber all the time is pricy.

Unfortunately this isn't the city that never sleeps. It's true that you can't get food 24 7 here like NYC. Bars and Clubs close at 2am.

And yes, LA can be described as one large strip mall. Strip malls rule this city. LA is more of a large suburb with lots of little downtown areas.

Now that we've got that out of the way let me point out...you've been here for 2 weeks....that's no where near enough time to decide if you don't like it here. It's possible that in the long run LA might not be a good fit for you. But as someone who grew up on the east coast and who's friends in NYC told me I'd hate LA. Let me tell you what I love about LA:

1. The weather. So maybe right now you're not able to appreciate it but come winter time...and it's 75 degrees...you won't be feeling as bad. Not to mention that we have very low humidity here even in the summer. Life with nice weather all the time isn't for everyone but for me it's a game changer.

2. The outdoor lifestyle. I'm talking about the beach, the mountains, the hiking, the biking...any sport can be played here. And many that are only summer sports can be played here all year around.

3. The food. No...not better then NYC. BUT it's pretty darn good. The Mexican food is killer, sushi is to die for, Chinese food is healthier, and ice cream is plentiful.

4. The people are more laid back. The east coast is all about work. If you don't focus on work there you're considered lazy. Here...people enjoy life beyond the office. Work is still important but it's not everything.

5. The state of California has a lot to offer. From the LA scene to skiing in the Sierra Nevada's to San Diego to San Francisco to Lake Tahoe to Yosemite...the list of cool places to see within 2 to 8 hour drives is pretty great.

Look these aren't necessarily reasons everybody would love a city. And it's possible that Santa Monica is just a bad fit. Plenty of other cool areas though if you don't drive you'll wanna live near work. But you gotta give this city a shot. Give it 6 months to a year. For now you're just getting yourself settled. The fact that LA is so spread out makes it hard to get to know the city...but give it a shot. Worse case scenario you move back east. Good luck.
posted by ljs30 at 9:37 PM on September 17 [14 favorites]


As someone who spent 4 years in NYC, 2 years in LA, and 8 years in Tokyo, LA is hands-down the place I'd most want to live. That said, NYC will always have a piece of my heart and I found the environment itself motivation and inspiring. Tokyo is also a pretty cool city, but LA was just...convenient. Easy to live in. Unlike in NYC and Tokyo, LA is kind of...what I mean to say is that inclement weather will fuck you over in NYC or Tokyo, but not in LA (because it isn't a walking city). However, if you're not driving, and you are living in LA...that, that would greatly diminish its appeal.

Part of the appeal of LA to me was that it had most all of the culture aspect (loads of meetup groups for whatever you're into, tons of shows and concerts go there, interesting events are frequently hosted only there or close to it, the weather...oh my, the weather...it's perfect just about every single day of the year, the ever-present sunshine, the plethora of interesting and delicious restaurants pushing the envelope on new trends, and I personally love the fashion in LA.

In all fairness, much of what I love about LA is a kind of direct response to what I dislike about Tokyo, and much of what I love about LA is probably specific to my situation. But these, these are the reasons that I really love LA (and can't wait to get out of Tokyo and back there).
posted by Atraxa at 9:46 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]


Hi there and welcome to LA! While not for everyone, there is a lot to like here and friendly people abound but it can take awhile to get the lay of the land. It's doable!

Echoing what has been written above, having easy access to public transportation for the main places you like and need to go is critical if you're not driving. As in, this need to be your priority number one because it makes all the difference. Walking or taking a single <30 minutes bus ride to a majority of the places I need to go to has made my life in LA a lot more enjoyable.

So in addition to your workplace, see if you can identify the grocery store, pharmacy, post office, library, coffee shop, movie theater, gym, community center, book store, school, what-have-you that will your meet your weekly needs, and target your housing search based on those places and the bus and metro lines that service them. You may not find everything within an easy distance, but if you can get your main needs met, you'll be in a much better place to focus your time and energy on doing the things you actually enjoy! Because spending 15 minutes to get to the store across the street due to poor public planning is indeed the pits.

Walk Score has been helpful in the past for getting a snapshot of a particular neighborhood.
In addition to websites mentioned above, I find Do LA and LA Weekly to be useful.

And come hang with us at the local LA MeFi meetup next month! You can make some new friends and we can tell you what we love about LA and share some insider tips with you in person. :)
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 9:46 PM on September 17 [13 favorites]


I don't know if you're single but not having a car in LA will drastically affect your dating life. It's kind of a dealbreaker for a lot of people. Something to consider.
posted by cazoo at 9:52 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]


If you need guidance on finding late night or otherwise good eating, Eater LA is incomparable in my experience, plus you can breakdown recommended eateries by neighborhood (thus giving you an idea of the many neighborhoods around here).

LA has so much good eating on offer, you're living in a world-class city for dining: this includes hole-in-the-walls, fine dining, international cuisine, and nearly everything else!
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 9:53 PM on September 17


I spent a long time in LA alone. Never really feeling like I belonged. Moving from place to place trying to find my community. And never finding it. LA doesn't care about you. It doesn't care what you're up to. Which can be either liberating or terrifying. I spent a lot of time in the latter.

After several years though I moved into a community that was right for me. I tried to be a cool hipster east side person for so long but in the end it turns out I'm just a chaotic Venice hippie boy without the wooo. Which was hard to accept. I tried so hard to be part of a thing I never felt comfortable being. But in the end the thing I fought was the thing I needed.

So basically what I'm saying is LA is the place of a thousand neighborhoods. Whatever community you fit with exists here. It's probably even bigger and more active than it's NYC equivalent. But you gotta work to find it. People aren't thrown together like they are in New York. But anything you can hope to find exists. And it's waiting for you to join in.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:07 PM on September 17 [8 favorites]


I've not lived in LA, only spent time visiting but I needed to pick and area and explore it because if I think how big it is my brain kind of frizzes and shuts down. I don't drive and did everything via public transport.

I thought Pasadena was great to walk around. I love the metro. I felt like it was an actual place and not just part of a huge sprawl. Likewise with North Hollywood. I hear you on Santa Monica. Fun as a tourist but living somewhere touristy is not so great.

For things to love - the light is amazing. The mountains so sharply highlighted against a blue sky and then the softening at dusk. And low humidity. It's warm and comfortable and my hair behaves SO well. This may not be as amazing for you as it is for me.
posted by kitten magic at 11:37 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


There are definitely areas with more late night activity (Koreatown), better public transportation (anywhere along the Red Line), and more walkable (Pasadena). I agree with others about finding the area that fits you and is close to work. I’ve lived all over LA County for 18 years now from the Westside to almost Orange County.

My favorite area is the one I live in now, the South Bay. I’m close to work and late night food options are good but public transportation is not so good.

My husband grew up in NE LA, taking the bus everywhere and we still share one car but we’ve made it work.

2 weeks just isn’t long enough to know if LA will grow on you. Come to the meetup and let us wow you. :-)
posted by amapolaroja at 12:22 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


I work in Santa Monica so that's a valid point of being important. Work hours are crazy short from like 10-3:30. I think people just work from home for most of the day. What I like to do is complicated as I'm used to working from 9AM to 8-9PM, grabbing a drink or exploring the city and then going home, probably not the most healthy lifestyle but it was working all the time as a hobby.

I guess I am used to shopping for one thing, walking 5 blocks, getting dinner, then taking a train to meet up friends. I'd just stumble upon things in NYC (I should add I was in the East Village). What has been most off putting was that simply walking from one side of the street or another seems to be an endeavor. It was as if the city actively discourages walking.

I guess I'm also a bit perplexed that things take place at houses where in NYC I can't remember ever seeing half of even my good friend's apartments.

Maybe I need to bite the bullet, not work to death, get a car and get active.
posted by geoff. at 1:08 AM on September 18


I guess I am used to shopping for one thing, walking 5 blocks, getting dinner, then taking a train to meet up friends. I'd just stumble upon things in NYC (I should add I was in the East Village).

It’s only been two weeks but you must must must get over comparing LA to NYC and expecting any sort of similarities. That way will end in unhappiness. They are such different lifestyles. That’s the thing. It’s not a matter of “oh you can live like you did in NYC if you move here or if you do this or that.” Not gonna be anywhere near the same.

Give yourself some time to really adjust to a new way of life. Force yourself to be openminded about what LA does have to offer, even if they aren’t the same things as NYC. You may need up surprising yourself and liking those differences but you have to give them a chance.

When I lived in LA I lived around Venice/Abbot Kinney area. Things I ended up enjoying and appreciating that I only did while living in LA: walking to the farmers market on a weekend and cooking up a storm for the week ahead, cycling classes, rollerblading by the beach, discovering MY place for tacos.

I wouldn’t ever move back there I don’t think, but I think back on my time there with pleasant memories. That’s something to try and aim for I think.
posted by like_neon at 2:04 AM on September 18 [8 favorites]


Ok, you work in Santa Monica. That's a key data point. Is your job near the Expo Line? There are some walkable neighborhoods along the Expo Line. Downtown LA (DTLA) will give you some of the NYC vibe you're looking for. Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and it's surroundings are also very walkable. There's also Venice, which is bikeable/scooter-able to where you are working. All of these are unfortunately pricey.

Culver has been growing by leaps and bounds. Yes, there is the strip mall hell that is Venice Boulevard, but there's also the walkable "downtown" area where Actor's Gang theater is, plus the cluster of shops and restaurants growing around Washington and National.

When I moved to LA I did not have a car, and for several years before I left I did not have a car. I was still able to enjoy LA. I never thought I would love LA (my husband moved there and I joined him reluctantly), but my love affair with LA lasted much longer than my marriage did.

I started out in a really strip-mall-y suburban area (Tujunga) and never thought I could like it, even through I went from a blizzard to sunshine. Once I got to an area that was better for me, everything changed.

What helped, for me, was exploring different neighborhoods. It took me a while to figure out I should do that, but you can do it systematically. Spend a day walking around Los Feliz. Silverlake. Sunset Junction. Venice Beach. Manhattan Beach. Koreatown (it may blow your mind). DTLA. The Arts District. West Hollywood. Etcetera. Go to the Satnta Monica Farmer's Market (if you like food even a little you'll love it) or the Hollywood Farmer's Market. Maybe post an Ask for recs in each neighborhood before you do it, to give you a starting point. (For Culver I'd recommend Versailles for Cuban food, The Museum.of Jurassic Technology for something truly unique, Oldfield's Liquor Room for drinks, and the Actor's Gang Theater for a play.)

LA is not New York. It's a very different city. But I love it just as much for entirely different reasons. I'm sorry I'm not there anymore, because if I were I would take you on a tour and help you figure out what to like about it.
posted by rednikki at 2:07 AM on September 18 [5 favorites]


You may want to read a bit about culture shock. Often associated with international moves but everything you write in your follow up could have been posted by any new arrival on any expat forum anywhere in the world. And if you can’t get to a place where you accept that you are somewhere very different and start to look for the things that are enjoyable about the new location you’ll not find your happy spot where you are now.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:11 AM on September 18 [5 favorites]


I moved from the east coast to LA, and then from LA to London-- and honestly, moving to London was only a slightly greater culture shock than moving to LA had been. But as strange as LA seemed to me at first, I came to truly love it.

One negative-sounding thing that, weirdly, ended up being my favorite thing about the LA: it's full of creative people who can't find full-time creative work. That creative energy gets poured into a million funky projects. Some of those are awful and some of them are wonderful. If you go to an improv performance or an art show or a band gig, you never know if you're going to see the glimmers of a future star... or the delusions of an untalented hack... or an impressive talent that will forever remain a secret from the world.

If you have any interest in any form of creative expression, I'd encourage you to start exploring nearby venues for it. You might find they offer opportunities for you to get involved in some way. If you have creative urges yourself, you can find classes to take. If you consider yourself more of a witness than a participant, you can still volunteer to take tickets or hold boom mics or whatever. Wherever it leads you, it would a first step towards getting a feel for the many vibrant creative subcultures that are simmering all over LA.
posted by yankeefog at 5:57 AM on September 18 [5 favorites]


To be honest, it sounds like this is less place-specific and more "I just moved and now have a ton of free time and no friends" specific. Once you settle into a neighborhood and start figuring things out, this feeling may pass. This isn't to say your concerns about LA aren't valid (I spend about half the year there and it took me several years to like it), but you may want to check how much you are placing your frustrations on the city itself vs just being in a weird place of transition.
posted by mrfuga0 at 5:59 AM on September 18


California weirded me out with how early everything closes. If you want to find places that are open late, though, you just need to embrace Korean pubs/Taiwanese cafes/HK tea places etc. (You will have to specifically identify places you want to go at first; you can't just expect to go to an area and find open restaurants, at least not till you know the Asian shopping centers.) Good luck.
posted by wintersweet at 6:16 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


Everything seems to die down at midnight. Not even drinking, but just getting food is a chore at midnight, this might be related to the first point.

Late night soondubu for the win. But you're not wrong, California in general (not just LA) rolls up the sidewalks early.

With the disclaimer that I've spent a lot of time in LA over the years but never lived there... The arts and culture, food, weather, landscape, etc are all obvious things to enjoy. But the thing that keeps drawing me back is, perhaps, the thing that you are finding so frustrating now. The spread-out nature of the LA area gave a lot of different communities the space to develop in their own way, and the result is a sprawling mix of aesthetics, cultures, and places to explore and discover. I see more variation and diversity in the LA area than I do in denser, more "big city" feeling San Francisco where I live now.
Drive 20 minutes to lunch in a strip mall then drive back?
Well... yeah, basically. I won't argue that LA is easy to live in without a car, it definitely is not. But there might be something delicious at that strip mall. And some of the strip malls have an endearing kind of "stuck in the 1950s" charm, or have longtime family owned businesses that provide an anchor for the community, or are giving some oddball new venture the space to develop.
posted by 4rtemis at 8:24 AM on September 18


I'm from NorCal originally but I went to school back east and then lived in Hoboken / Chelsea / etc. for a few years and loved all the things about NYC that you are missing. I loved not having a car, the ease of public transit and ubiquitous taxies, the city still being awake when I'd get back late on a Thursday night and wanting to go out for food or drink or music. I loved walking everywhere and the different feel of the different neighborhoods.

I've been in San Francisco for 6 years now and I like to tell people that NYC was perfect for me in my single twenties, but I definitely wouldn't have wanted to spend my married thirties and child-rearing forties there. SF is way more my speed for these latter years. Yes, it closes down in the wee hours, it too is not a city that never sleeps, but you definitely don't need a car to survive here like you do basically anywhere in SoCal. It's got lots of walkable neighborhoods and decent enough public transit, and Uber/Lyft aren't ridiculous if you're staying in the city. The food here is quite nearly on par with NYC, IMHO.

I've found it just as easy if not easier to be in community here in SF than I did in NYC. Speaking frankly, I don't know how people in SoCal do it. I've visited a lot and spent weeks on end there for work, and I just don't like it. You might want to check out SF if you can and see if it's more your speed.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:54 AM on September 18


Oh gosh, you work in Santa Monica? It has some of the best public transportation in LA! You are lucky, my friend. Check out the Big Blue Bus because that will help get you around to all the basic places you need in the area. I use it a lot. It's relatively clean and efficient.

Then there's the Culver Bus line, and the 704 is an express metro bus that will take you out further east to some nice and cool spots for further exploration. There are other buses that will get you downtown easily as needed. And, of course, the Expo Line. Santa Monica is ideal for getting around to a lot of places. It is very unlikely you will actually need a car. I know a good portion of individuals in this area who get by without a car and lead nice quality lives. My partner doesn't drive, he prefers to walk everywhere or take the bus.

Not everywhere is big boulevards that take forever to get to the other side of the street and Santa Monica is more than a 3-block radius of tourist central. I rarely go down to the Promenade, actually, but find no shortage of things to do living Santa Monica-adjacent . It's hard to find a nicer place to live in the US than Santa Monica for the weather alone.

I agree with like neon: if you compare all the things you liked to do in another place that you can't do here, of course you're going to feel like it's a terrible place. Instead, you have to look at it from the perspective of all the neat things you can do only from here. The thing is, that takes time to figure out, so understand that it may not be you or LA, but just that hard adjustment phase of moving to a new place.

It is possible to have an afternoon or evening where you visit a cool shop, grab a bite to eat, and then meet up with friends, all in one continuous fell swoop similar to what you might have been used to, but it may require a bit more forethought than you're used to. It's okay, you are going to need some time first to find where those cool spots and neighborhoods are and get to know a few more friends you'd like to do that with.

Also, LA housing costs are high. Do I visit friends at their homes? Yeah, sometimes. But oftentimes our apartments are small and it's more comfortable to get together outside the home. It's definitely a thing, we don't all have fancy houses here. :-)

Hope you can make it to the meetup!
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 9:05 AM on September 18 [7 favorites]


I used to work in Santa Monica! I absolutely get what you mean about the touristy feel, that's fairly unavoidable, though I will say I found it convenient to be so near the Third Street Promenade. Easy to shop on my lunch breaks or after work, and easy to just go see a movie after work, whether that's a blockbuster movie at the AMC or some foreign or indie movie at the Laemmle or Arclight. Also, the farmer's market! Absolutely a delight, you gotta go on Wednesday or Saturday.

Thanks to the Expo Line and Santa Monica's good public transportation, it's pretty easy to get from Santa Monica to a bunch of other places in LA. You're well-positioned to do some exploring after work by just hopping on the Expo Line and heading Downtown or wherever. If I had your schedule (which I'm super jealous of tbh, the 10-3:30 schedule seems ideal for having actual free time in which to have a life), I'd use the Expo Line to spend my late afternoons exploring museums and neighborhoods. Spend a couple months using your free time to check out the kind of events LAist highlights in their weekly Fabulous Events Happening in SoCal post. Wander around the beach neighborhoods, try a hike, go to free or cheap events. Make some friends, see what new routines you can build. You're not going to be able to have the same routine, but you can have a new version of it for a new place, you just have to be open to it.

I feel you that LA is not the most pedestrian-friendly city though; in some areas, you're right, the city does actively discourage walking. But don't let being carless keep you locked in to one neighborhood: take Lyfts if public transport is too convoluted to get where you want to go.

And seconding Goblin Barbarian that you should come to the meet up!
posted by yasaman at 10:35 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]


I really sympathize with your question. Moving to LA from New England was a hard transition for me. It felt like a different country, just with the same currency system and outlet shapes. I've been here for four years now, and while I still miss the Northeast and still dream about leaving sometimes, I don't hate it nearly as much as I did. I don't mean to discourage you: I think that there is nothing remarkable about adjusting slowly to a very different place. And hating LA is a long tradition. Back in 1946, Carey McWilliams wrote in his famous book about this place, Southern California Country, that it took him seven years of what felt like exile to grow to love Los Angeles. I think it might take some of us more time to adjust to Los Angeles than to many other places.

That said, I'll note a few things about what I've learned about living here. I also live in Santa Monica, largely because it allows me to commute to work easily. I don't have a car, and I use public transit regularly. As others have noted, transit in Santa Monica is really pretty good. It has its own transit agency, and the buses are cheap and cover the city quite well. I'm surprised you found this place hard to walk in - there are sidewalks almost everywhere, the pedestrian crossing signals almost always work, and the drivers stop to let pedestrians cross--I've lived in places where none of these was the case.

Regarding cars, I'm going to offer a different perspective than some of the other posters and say that not having a car brings some substantial advantages, if you don't have mobility issues and can live in a walkable area, which most of Santa Monica is. The entire world of automobiles barely exists for me. I'm lucky enough not to care about the traffic and the freeways, except for the rare occasions when I rent a car to drive out of the city. I don't find that it limits my mobility very much - I just have to think ahead to optimize my transport for each new journey. Of course, I don't go downtown or to Hollywood every evening, but I wouldn't do that if I had a car either, since traffic is a perpetual obstacle in this city. And when I do want to go to other parts of the city, there is always the train system or lyft/uber. The occasional rideshare ride is vastly cheaper than owning a car, even if you tip generously.

Two things have helped me feel more at home here. First, reading about Los Angeles has helped me get a sense of the history that this city often tries to conceal. That has really helped to dissipate the feeling of being stuck in some kind of eternal present that I felt here (for me, the lack of seasons was really unpleasant and unsettling). The second--and here extensive walking has been really helpful--is becoming more aware of the natural world that persists, even in the cracks of the strip malls: the extraordinary plant life, the butterflies and hummingbirds, even the raccoon I unexpectedly found myself staring at through my bedroom window in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago--they all live here too, and if they don't care about the celebrities, start-ups, and cults, then I don't have to either.
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 11:06 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


There is so much good advice here from my fellow Angelenos! I originally came from Silicon Valley a billion years ago, and it took me three years to not hate it here. Part of that was the Bay Area prejudice against LA, but part of it is the sprawl and the fact that it really is hard work to find your niche.

But I'm pretty sure you'll find your niche. I love this place because there are so many places/social scenes. You can try one on for size and leave it if it doesn't suit you. Yeah, you probably won't run into a friend while walking on the street, but you also won't run into your horrible ex while walking on the street. I have lived here for over 30 years and I'm still finding new places and new friends.

You said you can't drive, but can you ride a bike? This shortens distances a lot, and if you're from NYC I don't think you're going to freak about the near non-existent bike infrastructure here. There are organized group bike rides many nights in most areas. Also, if I choose to ride my bike to work, I see herons, ducks, bunny rabbits, horses, and the occasional deer on my way. I'd recommend trying something like this if you can, especially in light of your shortened work hours.
posted by queensissy at 11:27 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


When I first moved to California from Texas (something I did on purpose with great enthusiasm, but still got culture shocked), a friend who'd made the move about four years before me warned me that it takes some time to get your "California Eyes" - everything here looks bad and wrong if you come from somewhere else. The outside of structures are built to withstand strong sunlight, no rain, fires, and earthquakes. Everything looks old, but not classic. All the commercial buildings are strip malls built from gray cinderblock and look like tire shops, all the houses are pale stucco with little to no (flammable) adornment around doors and windows like hastily-built tract homes (which many are!), half the apartment complexes look like sketchy old motels and the other half are new constructions vaguely stylized to look like...Italian villas?

On the inside, amazing things might be happening (some of the best restaurants in town are in strip malls, probably wedged between a dry cleaner and a vape shop), but everything looks shabby or weird from the outside. It doesn't look like "neighborhoods" looked in my head, even after nearly 9 years I still have trouble finding my destination when Waze says I'm there because everything looks like a vacuum repair shop and nothing has any parking.

So it can be a useful exercise to practice your California Eyes, which is easier to do on foot than in a car anyway. Look in the windows of the shops, do some internet sleuthing to find events nearby to check out so that the locations take on a more human aspect, work on learning to see "neighborhood" in a different way than the instant signifiers you know best.

Also, you mention you're still in a hotel? Homeowners are so hostile to hotels that they get put in the shittiest most unwalkable barren places. It's like this all over town and it's why AirBnB, which is vile and is one of the many blights here, is a far more decent option in most cases, because they're going to be where people actually live and get coffee and eat brunch and stuff.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:48 PM on September 18 [9 favorites]


I guess I'm also a bit perplexed that things take place at houses where in NYC I can't remember ever seeing half of even my good friend's apartments.

So this is a whole thing, and it turns out to be good, in my experience. I lived in NYC for years and nobody ever saw my apartment and I didn't see theirs much, which was fine (and I really liked NYC, btw.) I moved away and live in a big apartment and it's sometimes a relief just to have people come over. This may be because I'm in my 40s, but it's also cheaper and (to your advantage) means if you're the one hosting, you don't have to drive or even get on transit. It does depend on you having made some friends, which takes a long time in adulthood anywhere. But honestly this whole category of social experiences including crappy dinner parties, nice dinner parties, everyone mill around and drink in the kitchen parties, watching movies in the living room with friends, they're all good and they're all very rare in NYC.
posted by less of course at 4:00 PM on September 18


Thanks all for the advice! I really didn't mean to hate on LA and knew being here two weeks was not a lot of time, but I was like "This is awful!"

Some background: I'm the only native English speaker at work that's mostly remote. When I was in NYC we literally had a person more or less dedicated to acclimating people to the city. I was told to go to a cheap motel in Culver City and that the uber wouldn't be bad. The coworkers don't drink or go out, so they had no advice on where to hang out. Keep in mind I'm not looking to go clubbing or go out hard, just find a place to watch sports or see a cool band/art scene. My coworkers were strictly work and go home. I think this combined with no friends really made me feel like I was in a hellish war zone dominated by chain restaurants and the complete inability to walk 200 yards without navigating a parking lot. I climbed over bushes to get to an Olive Garden! Which actually wasn't you know horrible.

This compounded by a new job and that stress lead to me asking why am I here.

Regarding public transportation: When I asked if when the express on the Blue Line you might as well have asked which hyperloop station I was taking. Public transportation isn't as sophisticated here and I took that to mean it was simply bad.

I think getting out of this hotel and moving into an apartment with the advice above will turn me into a lover of the city. I've asked to go home for a month and rethink relocation. Again, I'm used to relocation budgets and having time to think this through so I assumed they had this taken care of when what they meant was I could have days off to look around.

Also this weekend I will buy shorts and casual apparel! I'm used to wearing a suit all day and taking a tie off at night. This has given me strange looks, even in my attempt to dress down.
posted by geoff. at 4:17 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


Lyn Never is so right about changing the way you look at things.
I'm a southern CA native but I have a friend who grew up in Tennessee and moved here in his 20s. He said it took him a long time to get that all the cool stuff is actually IN the grungy little strip malls. It's a whole different set of cultural signifiers.

I'm a San Diegan (which is like an easier but less interesting version of LA) but I went to grad school in LA. I lived in Santa Monica and I had a car but I took the Blue Bus whenever I could--it's so much simpler to not have to worry about parking.
It took me a while to understand that LA isn't a city in the way that other big cities are. It's just endless neighborhoods that probably feel like the suburbs to other people, but they all have their own specific flavors and fascinating things under the surface.

I definitely second the recommendation of City of Gold (and any of Jonathan Gold's writing--he even made me like Bakersfield!) Also, reading Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block helped me fall in love with LA like nothing else.
posted by exceptinsects at 4:24 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


I hope you don't have anything against Randy Newman:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcADqxnQA_4
posted by bunbury at 6:31 PM on September 18


Man, after reading your reply I have no idea why you described it as "a wonderful job offer." (Nobody can speak your language? Nobody wants to be friends or hang out? They stuck you in a shitty motel and nobody cares how you're doing?)

Honestly I think the best thing for you is to live in Downtown LA, in walking distance of the 7th St./Metro Center. It's got this mini-city vibe, you can walk to all sorts of cool stuff easily, and to the extent that LA has public transit you're in the center of the spiderweb. You can ride the Expo Line (a streetcar, not a subway) straight to SM.

In my opinion, Santa Monica isn't in Los Angeles. It's out on the edge, at the end of the line, like the Hamptons, a rich people's tourist trap town. If you really gotta be near work, try Venice Beach -- it's walkable and has a community feeling. But it ain't cheap.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:33 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


I would agree that some of your sense of unease might be related to the fact that this seems like a very weird work culture and it might not be a great job. (Except for the not going out part - it does seem like work culture here tends toward isolationist and people leave work at work and their private life is private. You will likely have to find friends through other vectors. It's also just super hard to go out and drink if you drive to work.)

But some things you have said give me strong startuppy vibes and you do need to be careful out here (or, I guess, anywhere) that you don't get yourself all the way out to LA and the VC money immediately runs out and you're stuck with a lease and maybe moving debt. If you are getting a bad feeling, don't blow that off entirely as culture shock.

It is true, though, that only finance people wear suits (and that is still situational). It's hard to suss out work dress code here because there tends to be really specific norms from company to company so that shorts might be fine in the dress code but nobody actually does it unless it's over 100 out (and then EVERYONE does and you find out it's because the A/C can't actually cope). T-shirts may be okay but it's an unspoken understanding that managers never get less casual than a polo on Fridays and it's Casual Plaid or Plain Buttondown, sleeve length according to season, the rest of the week. It may be Not Done to wear khakis and everyone wears jeans, but never pale jeans. It's hard to tell until you're there for a bit, though it can help to (try to) cultivate a work buddy to find out more.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:59 AM on September 19


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