10 Things To Know Before Moving to L.A. by Jena Ardell in Los Angeles, California

Name:Jena Ardell

10 Things To Know Before Moving to L.A.

1. Nothing lasts. Let’s get the heavy, emotional stuff out of the way first: much like its inhabitants, Los Angeles is a city of constant reinvention. Los Angelenos may seem overly occupied with esthetics, but have mastered the art of emotional detachment. Perhaps this mode de vie can be attributed to being surrounded by insurmountable dangers to their homestead and belongings (i.e.: wild fires, land slides, and active fault lines). In the hottest real estate market, you learn to enjoy what’s in front of you because your favorite hole-in-the-wall Thai place might not be there for too long. The same applies to that kick-ass mural in Echo Park—better Instagram it before it’s gone.

2. There is no such thing as a warm summer’s night. If you’re expecting Los Angeles to feel like an endless summer that allows you to wear shorts 24/7, think again. The reality is: mornings are chilly, afternoons reach scorching temperatures—but it’s a dry heat—and as the sun descends, goosebumps rise—even in August. The cold-night phenomenon makes L.A. feel like a desert community, but don’t say that to an L.A. native because, technically, California is not a desert. Los Angelenos also attribute overcast skies to the Marine Layer, to avoid admitting their state experiences less-than-perfect weather (sometimes). Just play along.

3. You’re not going to spend a lot of time on the beach. L.A. beaches are gorgeous, but if you really want to lie on the sand and spend an entire afternoon at Point Dume, good luck. The water is cold and the air temperature on the coast is usually 20 degrees cooler than inland. Sure, you can go to a beach in the fall and winter (and it won’t be covered with snow), but yearly water temperatures remain in the 50s. This is a disappointment to east coasters accustomed to water temperatures reaching the upper 70s during the summer season. If the temperature doesn’t deter you from entering the Pacific, the kelp containing identifiable amounts of radioactive cesium, thanks to Japan’s continual dumping of Fukushima waste, might also make you think twice.

4. Going to the post office is a major chore. Having grown up in a small town, I took for granted the luxury of leaving my car running while I ran inside my local P.O. to make a quick transaction with Jeff, the friendly postmaster who knew my name. If you want your car stolen—and want to contribute to L.A.’s poor air quality—you can certainly leave your car running while you head into the post office, but first you’ll have to fight for a parking spot. Then, you’ll have to wait in a line containing at least nine people—one of whom will be toting a giant canvas bag containing dozens of products they sold online. Free advice: mail all holiday gifts early and use the automated machines whenever possible.

5. The valley isn’t so bad. Neighborhood snobbery is at its pinnacle in L.A. and the Valley receives a bad reputation, despite the fact Dave Grohl lives there. The truth is, L.A. natives and seasoned transplants don’t know (or care to know) what happens west of the 405—Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Tarzana, Reseda, Northridge, and Canoga Park all blend together. “Woodland Hills?” they’ll ask. “Why do you live all the way out there?” So—if you live in the valley—just quietly keep your lower-rent apartment to yourself and let the naysayers pay more to live in the hip-du-jour neighborhoods of the Westside. There’s no sense in justifying your lifestyle to anyone who is hellbent on living within three blocks of Montana Avenue anyway.

6. No one uses turn signals. While this seems like a trivial road nuisance non-exclusive to California, Los Angelenos are known for being the worst offenders of the unsignaled lane change, so always double-check or triple-check your mirrors before making your move. More often it’s the SUV with personal plates two lanes away from you who is more of a threat than the car behind you, but they’re all likely to careen into your lane without notice to avoid an extra nanosecond of traffic.

7. Learn the road hacks. Here are a few more helpful things to know when driving in Los Angeles.

-101 freeway signage can lead to confusion, just remember 101 S = 101 E and 101 N = 101 W.

-When you hear natives referring to “Little Santa Monica,” they are referencing South Santa Monica Boulevard (the street that runs parallel to Santa Monica Blvd through downtown Beverly Hills).

-Motorcyclists are allowed to split lanes on the freeway.

-If you have a passenger in your vehicle, use the car pool (diamond) lane on the freeway on-ramps to avoid waiting for the on-ramp traffic signals on weekdays.

-Talking on your cell phone and texting while driving is illegal, unless you are using a hands-free device.

-You can park on the yellow curb after 7 PM and all day Sunday, unless otherwise posted. The same applies to green zones, which are only in effect from 8 AM to 6 PM. That’s nice to know too.

8. Give yourself more time to catch a movie. The amount of time to reach the ArcLight in the Sherman Oaks Galleria from your parked vehicle is 10-15 minutes due to a highly inconvenient design and a busy elevator. If you’re notoriously late, it’s in your best interest to avoid theatres in large sprawling shopping meccas like The Grove, 3rd Street Promenade, Westfield Century City, and The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center. Knowing the quirky, smaller theatres has benefits: the historic Vista Theatre in Silverlake is known for its generous leg room and the Valley Plaza 6 in North Hollywood is a $3 theatre that serves $1 hot dogs.

9. One word: helicopters. Most L.A. natives refer to the omnipresent LAPD helicopters as ‘ghetto bird,’ and yes, you will hear their frantic fluttering on a daily basis, especially if you live in East L.A. These helicopters monitor traffic, wild fires, and law offenders. Learn to ignore them, unless their search lights are shining around your apartment building at 3 AM—then you should be concerned.

10. Your L.A. native friends will never drive to your apartment. They will gladly meet you somewhere—anywhere—but not your apartment. If you befriend someone who lives in Brentwood and you live in Eagle Rock, I hope you like driving to Brentwood. L.A. natives also dread driving “over the hill” and they never want to use the 101, 405, or 10 on weeknights. As for your DTLA friends who travel frequently out of state, good luck making them understand the need to leave DTLA once they are home. If they can’t bike to your apartment, you have to go to theirs.

All photos by Jena Ardell.

This Yodel by Jena Ardell