How to Live in Los Angeles

Grow up in Culver City, Brentwood or even Glendale. Know early on that your neighborhood will define you. Move to Los Angeles only if you’re from weird places like Ohio or Oklahoma and quickly discover that people born on the East Coast don’t usually set foot in L.A. In fact, they pretty much despise the city. Everyone’s too sun-fried, too lazy, dazed at the beach, or so they think.

Have a normal upbringing. Get dropped off at gallerias in middle school and house parties in Eagle Rock when you’re in high school. Know someone who knows someone who works in the entertainment industry. When you’re older and in a different city, tell people that “Growing up in L.A., you’re just surrounded by celebrities. It really wasn’t a big deal.”

Go away to college on the East Coast and become friends exclusively with people from L.A. Talk about the city like it’s a nervous tic. “OMG, I miss In-N-Out so much right now! Did you ever go to Il Trem? The one in the valley? Ugh, I just want to lay out in the sun and drive around in my car, you know?” Say these things over and over especially when it’s snowing or a homeless person has just peed on your leg in the subway. These conversations about L.A. are never interesting, but they provide you with a sense of comfort. You feel safer somehow. People from Massachusetts or Rhode Island will overhear and treat you like an alien. You kind of are, but that’s okay. You’re going to move back after college anyway!

Graduate and move back. Go to a coffee shop at 3:00 in the afternoon to apply for jobs and find it packed. Wonder how people actually make a living here. Everyone always talks about a new exciting project in the works and drives a BMW, but they’re still hanging out at Coffee Bean in the middle of the afternoon with nothing to do. Something isn’t quite right here.

Know that people spend an inordinate time in hotels. They go to lunch in hotels, party at hotel lounges, read a book by the pool, but never actually check into a room. This is strange. L.A. is strange.

Grow up on the Eastide and rarely step foot west of La Brea. Grow up on the Westside and rarely step east of La Brea. Understand that the distinction between the two different sides of L.A. is very important to Los Angelenos, but never fully understand why.

Be from the Valley, but sometimes claim you’re from Laurel Canyon or Bel Air…ish. Know that the Valley has its own culture. Tarzana, Chatsworth, Northridge, Van Nuys, Reseda, even Studio City: These are the cities where the majority of the world’s porn is produced. The weather is usually too hot or too cold. There are lots of malls and Yoshinoya’s. A lot of people don’t like the Valley.

Experience some beautiful moments in Los Angeles. Driving on PCH in the warm wind and smelling the Malibu ocean. Seeing the beautiful spanish architecture of the homes in Hancock Park. Driving late at night through the canyons. These will be times when L.A. will truly feel like “the easy life”, like some weird magical utopia. And in many ways, it is.

Los Angeles can be a dichotomy though. Be surprised to see something natural. Forget that you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains and oceans. Spend a lot of time staring at fake breasts and strip malls.

Notice a glaring contradiction with the healthy lifestyles people claim to live in L.A. These are the ones who spend their days swimming in the ocean, eating their macrobiotic lunch, doing yoga. But at night, they call their coke dealer, rage at a bar and go to an after-hours party. For many people, L.A. is GTC: Gym, tan, coke. “But it’s organic…”

A few quick things: Traffic sucks, the Mexican food does not, there’s great radio stations. People say this a lot; “I love L.A. but I hate L.A.”

Come to grips with the fact that L.A. will never make sense because it’s very geographical makeup is on crack. It’s a series of freeways, dead-end streets and giant car dealerships. People feel alienated and detached from their community, but then drive three blocks to the grocery store and wonder why they never meet anyone new.

Life here is like living in a hazy dreamworld that’s drenched in sun and smog. People wear $200 tracksuits to dinner. They say and do strange things, and love every second of their freakshow lives. Discover that the city doesn’t take itself too seriously. People can dress their dogs in fur-lined outfits, buy a whole new face and it’s fine because they’re in L.A. They pay good money to be able to live here and look absolutely ridiculous. Come to the conclusion that L.A. will never adapt, you will adapt to L.A. Admire the city’s unabashed attitude and think you’re going to stay here for a long time. TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • kyle

    These are getting a little formulaic and repetitive to read.

  • annabgiles

    This is brilliant. I'm moving to L.A. eventually to pursue acting, and I alternately can't wait and dread it.

  • Scott Templeton

    You should write a How to Be Ryan O'Connell article that details your inspiration for the endless stream of How to XYZ articles that plague Thought Catalog.

    That would be cool.

    • Ryan O'Connell


    • Chillwave Gonzales

      Good point, all the “How To”s are getting pretty formulaic and estúpido.

  • JD

    “L.A. is like…Nowhere. Everybody who lives here is lost.” -Gregg Araki

  • ryan chang

    For many people, L.A. is GTC: Gym, tan, coke. “But it’s organic…” Yes, yes, yes. Surprised there was no mention of weed in this How To.

    • Xanni

      Smog makes it all organic anyway cause of VOC–volatile organic compounds

  • Bro

    eh this is somewhat accurate… to me..

    you should have mentioned that nearly everyone is pursuing an entertainment career. the amount of struggling actor twenty somethings is absurd…. “i just feel like i have something the other actors don't, i have a passion for acting”

    • Nativeangeleno Doug

      Actors only in Hollywood and West Hollywood. Most people here are NOT involved in the entertainment industry.

    • ryan chang

      other angelenos are just 'trying to be LA'

    • christine

      not everyone wants to be in front of the camera. Lots of people here are trying to have a career behind the lens.

  • Julian Tully Alexander

    I still hate La after reading this.

  • DSiegal

    surprisingly spot on for a new yorker. though yeah, weed bears mentioning. l.a. is weird.

    • Dave P

      The author is originally from LA

  • Bill A Pomerans

    very nice
    needs a bit more 'less than zero' influence to be perfect for my personal taste though
    more 'disaffected youth' and 'apathy'
    sweet though

  • Andrew

    You only love the Valley if you're from it.

    • kenny

      Actually, I think it's “You only hate the Valley if you're from it”

      • Sagedropin

        Kenny, Don't you really think that the Valley is a shadow of L.A? You to got to be near the ocean. The Valley came in last during the war with Lockheed. It's ten degrees hotter in the Valley, more smog, and flat. It soaked up the overflow from L.A.

      • Joe

        I grew up in the valley and it was okay until the 70’s when all the aerospace companies bega to leave. Now theres nothing really to like about it. It is a dump filled with too many immigrants and porno trash. It has rotted from the center out. The only nice areas are in the surrounding hills but the people here are not very friendly.

    • The JackB

      Spoken like someone who really doesn't know the Valley. I'll take it over the city every time.

  • Nicholas

    HAH I moved to Chicago from growing up in LA and I bring it up all the time. Nobody wants to hear my stories about the city, but I don't care. It makes me feel better. Most people from Chicago hate LA, but that makes me love LA even more. They'll never understand it, and that's fine because they don't have to.

    • Sagedropin

      But Nicholas, everyone hates anyone in New York. Boston is the city of Crime. L.A. is the port of Spanish conquest. All the beautiful people love each other in Fort Lauderdale.

  • TheYeasayer

    Annoy entrenched Angelenos by ignoring all of this and just doing whatever. Regularly traverse the La Brea border using public transportation. Be Brown and make less than $20,000 a year.

  • pfft

    you forgot 'kill yourself'

  • Jimdugan

    Move to LA to pursue an acting career. Wait tables. Sleep with scumbag producer to get on reality show where you try to get D-list celebrity to “fall in love.” Become a vapid waste of life. End up in porn.

    • Sagedropin

      No, Jimdugan, it's not that bad. The big hits like Damron took off from West Hollywood, and Aflack who shared the same place in West Hollywood. They did their run like the ball in a pinball machine, but by chance they hit a score. So many side off to smaller glory, and some make good porn in Van Nuys. Life is the normal curve with luck in control.

    • xanni

      And you forgot the meth and coke

    • Vman

      Soulless Dumbo.

  • Lrhodes

    Perhaps the dull and uninspired people east of CA lack the spontaneity and urge to take risks. Perhaps they need lives devoid of contradiction. How can a city filled with contradiction lack complexity. If everyone in California is lazy, how do you account for all the wealth? As for greed, I'll take entertainment over investment banking in a nano second. Search you own soul as to why you need to bash people who live where the dream that fueled American growth is at it's most intense.


      It is true. What would the Democratic Party do without California? I think the state has 45 electoral votes. You are talking about the whole of California which includes San Francisco, etc. Yea. Does anyone vote in L.A.? Florida is a pit of Republican torture. Here in Florida we elect anyone who is conservative, even guys heading to prison, like the gov.

    • Xanni

      Hollywood and entertainment (and probably porn?) industries are  an example of a dream that fueled American growth? Ahahaha… cheap skank prostitute “actresses” and other kinds of useless attention whore wannabes producing soulless, disgusting crap called American TV and hollywood movies. Yeah they're hardworking–having their hair done or blowing that producer is suuure a lot of work. I'd be really glad if all that vermin was taken care of by the next earthquake…

      • Vm

        You would know because you’re a gay porn star.

  • LokWan

    LA has so much culture spread over a huge span of land, you can't really characterize it. Some people think LA is full of Hispanics while others say it's full of Asians. They're all right- it really depends on where you're exposed to the most.

    • So what?

      It’s full of humans.

  • Nickerson Gardens

    Written by somebody who's never been south of the 10.

  • Christine

    LA is amazing.

    • your cousin

      I love it. I lived all over the world before I came here, and I can’t see any reason why I would ever live.

  • SoCalDiver

    I actually love L.A. – and I'm not in the entertainment industry, not into partying or clubs, and didn't grow up in the city (but did grow up in CA). I hate that those are the main associations with our city. I'm an outdoorsy person who enjoys going hiking, SCUBA diving, and surfing almost any day of the year (after work of course). THIS is what I associate with living here:
    ” Experience some beautiful moments in Los Angeles. Driving on PCH in the warm wind and smelling the Malibu ocean. Seeing the beautiful spanish architecture of the homes in Hancock Park. Driving late at night through the canyons. These will be times when L.A. will truly feel like “the easy life”, like some weird magical utopia. And in many ways, it is.
    Los Angeles can be a dichotomy though. Be surprised to see something natural. Forget that you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains and oceans.”
    Besides the perfect climate, ocean, and mountains the other reason I love L.A.? The diversity (cultural, socioeconomic, ethnic, etc.) and open-mindedness. Having lived in other cities in the U.S. and abroad, I really do love this about L.A. Plus, we pretty much have access to the best food in the world.

    • Sagedropin

      I live in Florida. What is beautiful about a brown mountain? I lived in L.A. before it changed into the monster it now is. If you really want to get into the deep insides of L.A. learn Spanish. Personally, there is too much variety of millions of people who think they are all alike. I was born in L.A. and grew up with the city until I retired to live in real heaven – Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

      • ugh

        Fort Lauderdale? Are you serious?

  • Marie Wood

    This article is such a cliche — old, worn-out, superficial views of LA (and predictable, especially if one is trying to establish himself as a writer New Yorker).

  • Thehec87

    Rule #1: Write about what you know.

    You don't know L.A., kid.

  • Pablito666

    I hate LA, and still I have such a hard time leaving…

  • Jscix1

    How do I get as far away from people like you as possible? Think i'll take the road over any one place anyday.

  • Jmraspa

    Los Angeles is 19 neighborhoods in search of a metropolis. If you're going to describe Los Angeles, it's important that you understand this. The geography (both physical and cultural) are unique, and have made L.A. grow in a manner different from any other city. This has both benefited and plagued Los Angeles.

    The political climate is also heavily linked to the geography of the city, and has hampered cohesive legislation and city planning for decades. The city will be best served if the Valley and West L.A. were severed from it, if only to relieve infrastructure degradation.

    I think you have watched too many movies, and even though you might be from this city, you don't exactly remember what it was like to live here. If you view the city through the lens of the celebrity/entertainment industry, you cannot grasp other elements of this city that subsist and thrive in happy separation.

    • Magneto

      I’m a native Angeleno and didn’t relate either. I’m guessing it’s because I’m not Caucasian. LA has a lot more cultures inherent in it than “fake breasts” and “In-N-Out” which are tired stereotypes. This city spans from the Valley to Whittier to believe it or not, Long Beach – even though the latter cop to OC  sometimes.

      We spawned the greats like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction and The Crue as well as NWA, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. Not everyone who grew up here dreamed of a life in entertainment… in fact, most of the people in this town who are phony are those who moved here for that very reason.

      Personally, I feel I can always spot a non-native Angeleno. They complain a lot. Natives usually have only two complaints: traffic sucks because of all the people who have moved here and… [insert something about New York].

      A native Angeleno loves this town from Olvera street and the candy-colored houses of Lincoln Heights to the saturated spectrum of sights and sounds lining the beach in Venice. They are an all-inclusive, down-to-earth person… who may have had their party days but it was more likely in someone’s janky backyard than a hotel.

      But maybe that’s just my blue collar version… oh, and we never get sick of the Lakers winning.

  • Orangetree

    I've never been to LA, but this stories a blatant rip off of Junot Diaz

    • alynn

       Oh, because the “how to” premise is so original and unique ONLY to Diaz. -_-

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