When you move to the Bay Area, people tell you “Rent is high!” and “Public transit exists!” But they don’t think to mention a lot of the day-to-day differences that take newcomers by surprise. I’ve been here a few years now, but some of the more striking ones are still fresh in my mind:
- You have to shove gasoline nozzles in really hard, or gas won’t dispense. This is important to figure out quickly. I visited about five different stations and nearly emptied my tank before I realized the pumps weren’t broken—merely guarding against escaping vapors.
- Most local shops welcome dogs. They indicate it by putting a water bowl out front.
- Surfer speak like “right on” is unsurprising, but there’s also a trademark, rapid-fire “yeahyeah”, used to indicate casual agreement. I like it.
- Cars don’t require yearly inspection, but you do need a “smog check” every two years. California doesn’t care if your brakes work or your wheels stay on, as long as your emissions are clean.
- There are Bizarro World versions of various food products. Hellman’s mayonnaise doesn’t exist, but Best Value comes in a cosmetically identical jar. Twizzlers are replaced by Red Vines, a slightly waxier alternative. And when you say “skim milk”, you get quizzical looks. Ask for “fat-free”.
- Winters are mild—you’ll love it—but many trees still shed their leaves. However, they simply turn brown and fall off; there’s no pyrotechnic detour through reds or yellows for any but a few. However, if you ask your native coworkers, they will wax poetic about the fall colors and tell you the exact coordinates of the one red tree in town.
- Turn signals don’t work. My theory is that the lingering Reality Distortion Field bleeds the charge right out of the relays.
What about my fellow transplants? Got any more?