For a number of reasons, we get a bunch of questions asking what it’s really like in SoCal.
First of all, I'll tell you what it's NOT like: It's not like anything on TV. People watch shows on TV and think that’s what it’s like out here. The “Real OC”, Newport Beach, The Hills, etc. Ever wonder why people in those shows never have to pay bills, do laundry, and are NEVER stuck in traffic? Because it’s FAKE. And the news doesn’t help either, since they know that sex and sensationalism sells. News flash: There aren’t running gun battles in the street. There aren’t shootouts every day. Also, you don’t see celebrities just walking down the street, all glammed up, or sipping a cappuccino at Starbucks waiting to sign autographs. We don't go surfing during lunch hour.
Some sections are REALLY nice, others are “ghetto”. Too many people have this vision in their head that LA and Orange County are one or the other (either Beverly Hills or Compton). They either think it is a fairy tale fantasy or an apocalyptic ghetto. In fact, most of it is working class and middle class stiffs working to pay the bills. Like me.
The variety of food here is incredible. New Yorkers come here and complain that the pizza is terrible (it’s not as good as NY Pizza), but the Mexican food is GREAT here. That more than makes up for it.
The weather here is incredible. 340+ days of sunshine makes up for a lot of traffic.
You NEED a car to live in Southern California. We don’t have an effective public transportation like New York or San Francisco. One reason is that LA is larger in area than either of those, without a central hub. Hollywood is 8 miles north of downtown, and 38 miles north of Disneyland. Average commute is 20-30 miles..
The freeway traffic is probably the worst thing about living here. The 405 is the worst. Know why they call it the 405? Because you go 4 o' 5 miles per hour, and it takes 4 o' 5 hours to get where you're going. Freeway Traffic is bad from 6-10 AM and bad from 3-7 PM. I don't know why they call it rush hour. It's more than an hour, and nobody's rushing, that's for sure.
The gangs are the cause of many rumors. Keep in mind that there are gangs in any large town, in every part of the country. In LA, the gangs aren't really downtown, they are in South LA, East LA, and north Long Beach. And here's the deal: Mostly, they just kill each other.
Gas is expensive in California. It’s about 20-30 cents above the national average.
Yes, gas and real estate are very expensive in SoCal. However, this would be the best time to BUY a house because it's a buyer's market right now. There are a lot of foreclosures, and too many houses on the market. If you want to rent, figure on $1200 per month for a 1BR in a decent neighborhood. You need to make about $30,000 per year in order to do that. You can't do it on minimum wage.
Yep, freeways are a drag, it's smoggy in summer, and expensive to live here. Yet, if it's so bad, why do we have thousands and thousands of people moving here? Weather, year-round activities, jobs, beaches, mountains, and deserts all within driving distance, and plenty of opportunity for those who have the skills and tenacity.
However, it is not for everyone. Every time someone posts this question, you get the LA haters who post their bile and venom. A lot of them don’t know what they are talking about. Some people never even visit, and hate it on principle and stereotypes. Some actually visited once, and found out it wasn’t like it was on TV, and it certainly wasn’t Mayberry. And some actually lived here, and couldn’t deal with the expense, the traffic, or the somewhat impersonal nature of living in a large metropolis. It’s just the lifestyle here: People want their own private space. It’s sort of “you do your thing, I’ll do mine”. To those hateful souls I would say “good luck” to you wherever you are, but please don’t spew your hatred in this forum.
To summarize, it’s a HUGE metropolis that really defies easy description. I live in one of the nicer suburbs, but the commute is no fun, often 1-2 hours each way each day. However, 340+ days of sunshine really helps. Yeah, it's expensive. Mrs. Obviousman and I both have to work to pay the mortgage. But is it worth it? Absolutely!