I made the big move. I traded in the four seasons for a year-long summer in San Diego.
Though this may sound appealing to many, I faced many more difficulties than I expected while moving across the country.
Life on the East Coast is very different than living on the West, and I’m not just talking about the sunny blue skies and warm Pacific breeze. First and foremost, let me tell you about the people. I consider myself a very outgoing, friendly person, but at my roots I still have that New Jersey sass and straightforwardness topping off my personality. I wasn’t used to being asked how my day was and people actually expecting a complete, extensive response when ringing me up in a store. Where I come from, people just don’t simply care to know, nor do they expect you to respond with anything more than a quick “I’m good, thank you.” Everyone is in their own little bubble.
People in the Northeast only take part in human contact when it is a life or death situation or when there is no other way around it. Back home I don’t even bother going into Starbucks to order my drink. Why wait in line and have to talk to someone when I can just order my drink on my phone, go inside, pick it up and continue on with my day?
Similarly, the concept of headphones in, world out is very prevalent in the tri-state area.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to talk to a North-easterner when they have their earbuds in; the last thing you want to do is disrupt them and pop their bubble. Those headphones might as well mean they are completely unavailable because even if you do try to talk to them, chances are they won’t respond.
Despite my many years spent on the East Coast and all the unwritten social rules that bound me, I found myself telling the local coffee shop cashier my entire weekend plans. Before I even knew it, the kind man was recommending places for me to go to for dinner with my friends in downtown San Diego. Keep in mind, this is all happening while there is still a line out the door of people waiting to place their orders. In Bergen County, N.J. this does not happen, unless of course you want hangry customers. People on the East Coast are impatient, we want to order our food, get it in a timely manner and be on our way. We think our time is extremely valuable and literally have no time to waste it.
In the Northeast, people are very blunt when it comes to sharing their feelings.
The people on the West Coast, however, are slow-moving and enjoy a good conversation with a stranger. They also tend to sugar-coat everything. My friends in San Diego will tell me “not to worry” and that “everything will be okay” while my friends from back home in N.J. will give me a whole rundown of everything I need to do. Last week I had three exams to study for and three papers to write in major-oriented classes. When deciding whether or not to go to the beach on Sunday, my California-native friend advised me that I could do my work later. I then texted a friend from home, seeking her advice regarding what I should do about all of the looming deadlines I must meet.
“You need to stay in and get your work done, I know you,” my friend from New Jersey said. “If you don’t start it now, you’re going to be even more stressed later.” In simpler terms, my friends back East aren’t as laid back. They tell me ‘how it is’ in comparison to my West Coast friends.
On another note, everything in the Northeast is loud.
Whether it be traffic, social gatherings or your family—noise levels are far from peaceful and quiet. Though I left my car in New Jersey, I managed to get a Zipcar account. That said, I’m very familiar with driving out West and can vouch for the fact that people in California drive as if they never have anywhere to be. No wonder there is so much traffic. Even though the freeways have double or sometimes triple the lanes than a typical highway in New Jersey, rush hour traffic here in San Diego is still the worst.
Not only do West Coasters drive at the pace of snails in hibernation, but they also never get the memo when you sound the car horn. As a New Jersey driver, I pound on my horn as many times as Simon Cowell slams the red buzzer on America’s Got Talent, which is more often than not. When I get in the car, it’s as though the white flag in Nascar is waved, signaling the final lap as I race to my destination. There’s no time for dilly-dallying when every second of your day is important.
East Coasters also tend to scream across the dinner table to each other.
My West Coast friends are always telling me to lower my voice, but when I don’t speak up, they ask me to repeat myself, saying they couldn’t hear. There is nothing that ticks off an East Coaster like having to waste their time by repeating themselves. We might not know how to whisper, but we sure don’t have to say things more than once to understand each other.
Another huge part of the West Coast culture that took a great deal of time to adjust to was the way in which people dress, especially professionals. While everyone on the East Coast dresses business professional to work, people in San Diego stroll into work wearing jeans and a casual shirt. Casual work attire has a whole other meaning on the West Coast, or maybe it’s just San Diego. Either way, going to work in sandals, a pair of blue jeans and a casual shirt is more than acceptable. I learned this the hard way. My first time visiting a marketing firm in Downtown San Diego I wore heels, a skirt, a nice blouse and a blazer to top it all off. I undoubtedly looked overdressed for the occasion. Or maybe, everyone else in San Diego is just underdressed?
I have one more tip for all East Coasters who make the big move to the West. In California, they are proud to refer to their state as California, not “Cali” as us East Coasters say. The first time I said “Cali” in front of my friend from Orange County, she looked at me as if I just insulted her entire family.
“It’s California,” she said. “In California, we call it California.”
Despite every other state calling the Golden State, “Cali,” Westerners find it strange and even offensive.
Throughout my big move West, I learned a lot. I became very aware of the many socially constructed norms existing on the East Coast, and how they differ from the West Coast. I also noticed that a lot of the friends I made were also from the East Coast since we shared similar slang, opinions, attitudes and perspectives. Despite this, I have started making more friends who grew up on the West Coast. I reached the conclusion that one culture is not better than the other — there is no right or wrong.
The East and the West Coasts are just different, as one should expect when traveling 2,427 miles across the country. The different time zones are symbolic of how people from East to West go about their lives very differently. Once I learned to accept California and the people I met for who they are, I felt at peace with my mind and both worlds. Although I have acclimated to the West, the East Coast will always be the place I feel the most at home. To all of you East Coasters dreaming of California, proceed with caution. The West Coast might not actually be the Best Coast.