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What's It Like Moving From NorCal to SoCal
California Voices

What's It Like Moving From NorCal to SoCal

We're finally settling the Northern California vs. Southern California debate: which one is a better choice for you?

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4 min read

March 28, 2022

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Growing up in the Bay, you naturally hear a lot of the NorCal vs. SoCal debate. I grew up a loyal Northern California girly assuming that naturally made me more grounded than my Southern California friends (because I was farther from Hollywood, duh). Here I am writing from the most cliche L.A. cafe and eating my words.

I grew up in Walnut Creek, went to school in Berkeley, and worked in San Francisco before making the move to L.A. I made the move after a few good visits, which allowed me to shed the “they’re fake” assumption often heard to describe L.A. residents. As a transplant, I frequently get asked about the differences between NorCal and SoCal, so here we go. 

There's no denying that Northern and Southern California have a lot of differences when it comes to terrain diversity.

If you’re familiar with the Golden State, nothing is that shocking about the transition to/from Northern and Southern California. You still get the perks of being able to arrive at the beach, the mountains, or the desert within a day’s drive. The rent is comparable… sad about that one. An abundance of cuisines, a diverse population, an active lifestyle—all essentials for me when it comes to Northern California vs. Southern California

Some of the differences between Northern and Southern California

What does feel different is the aesthetic. Each new storefront and restaurant I step into is a reminder that personal style is more top-of-mind down here. It may feel like an extra effort in some senses, but I also really enjoy the showing of style I’ve seen. It’s driven by a level of effort and confidence that I respect and feel inspired by. 

If you are focused on tech/startup life, the Bay Area really is the perfect place to start your career. If you want a variety of options for networking and job prospects, L.A. has more of a mix with a heavier focus on entertainment. This also sprinkles in some variation amongst the dating options. I've heard many of my friends describe the prospects in NorCal as “lacking in variety,” while down here there seems to be less of an archetype. I have also noticed amongst my younger friends that the Bay Area is a much more political environment, especially within my Berkeley bubble. Predictably, it is also much more explicitly liberal in the Bay.

If you thought you're going to use public transportation in Southern California, you'll have to rethink that big time.

Contrary to what I’d heard, the people I’ve met in Southern California have been extremely kind. The drivers not so much, and you do need a car down here, so buckle up (I had to). Nobody I’ve met has favorable words for the public transportation options in Southern California, so I have yet to attempt it. Luckily, I live in Venice which is extremely walkable, but when I want to leave Venice, the car is a must. This leads me to something I’ve been missing since the move. 

I’ve had a bit of trouble finding varied hikes here. I know they exist. I am near an abundance of beautiful nature, however, I haven’t experienced hikes that vary in environment and are under a two-hour drive. I miss driving less than two hours to a hike with a waterfall, surrounded by tall trees, and still getting those coastal views at the top—such a Northern California perk (if you have favorites please send them my way)!

Foodies, rejoice! You won't have to sacrifice anything when it comes to delicious meals whether you're in NorCal or SoCal.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be very happy in either NorCal or SoCal. So. Much. Quality. Food. I am still learning my favorites in L.A., but I have noticed if you’re plant-based, you won’t struggle here at all. Every restaurant seems equipped for the many dietary restrictions with loads of plant-based and gluten-free options. The number of plant-based restaurants and health food cafes and shops has been hard to miss. You won’t have to compromise on taste if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian. You’ll also still get those farm-to-table options if that’s important to you and fresh seafood as well. The Bay Area does have a greater number of Michelin-star restaurants than SoCal, so if that’s important to you, then the Bay wins. 

Warmer beach days and more sun/less wind have been the highlights of the move for me. Clearly not a winter girl. I love that I can still hop in the car if I want to snowboard and be in the mountains the same day, but that there are far fewer overcast days. 

I hope these observations are helpful for anyone interested in the differences between Northern and Southern California. My first tip would be to visit before making assumptions, I was very off about what I thought L.A. would be and I bet the reverse has been true for my L.A. friends who came up to Northern California. Having spent most of my life in the Bay Area, this move has provided much-needed “newness” for me while also keeping a sense of familiarity that is comfortable during a global pandemic. 

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