“Weird” is an extremely relative term, especially when 18 years of your life were spent in a single subculture of a single California suburb.
This summer, I decided to step outside the normality of perpetual sunshine and for the first time in 12+ years, head to the East Coast. Approximately five minutes after exiting the doors of Logan International Airport, all I could think was: “This is weird… And why the heck do we need to pay tolls to get out of the airport?!” Let’s just say that my choice of a better adjective was lost along with my sense of direction as I traveled the exceedingly confusing streets of Boston. It was, and still is, a weird experience being here.
Yet I recognize that my perceptions of weirdness are entirely subjective and that to Boston natives, narrow roads paved from cow paths* represent normality. So I drew from the culture shock I experienced upon arrival to pinpoint 5 things one might find weird about California if not yet familiar with its unique wonders. (Note that all of these points are derived from reverse-reflection on my time in Boston, on California. Hopefully that makes sense in a bit). I now present to you a list highlighting 5 characteristics of California I suspect a newcomer might find weird – especially if coming from a town such as, say, Boston.
1) Everything in California feels new.
Boston is old. At least, that’s how I felt while tripping over the cobblestone roads of Beacon Hill on my way to an Italian dinner date in a small, narrow slice of a historic brick building. Yet I don’t mean to attach any negative connotations to my descriptor of Boston as “old”; on the contrary, I dislike how some people tend to view “new” as necessarily superior to “old”. In Boston, I often find myself in awe of the historical depth behind each piece of the city and its monuments. In California, most things appear to have sprung from the ground just yesterday, sleek glass walls and all. Forward-thinking communities like the Silicon Valley, in particular, look back on the past mainly to redirect its march into the future. While I am an avid fan of innovation, I appreciate that in Boston I am not forced to dig to find history – I am stumbling through it every day.
2) California is rooted in Spanish colonialism.
Important city names have been drilled into my head since elementary school, at a time I largely accepted what information was presented to me. It is only in recent years that I’ve recognized the historical and colonial roots by which cities are influenced, both in etymology and physical appearance. Thus, I take interest in the absence of Spanish city names (“San Francisco” and “Los Angeles”, to get you started) or Spanish Colonial Revival architecture here in Boston, where instead English names and Victorian brownstones dominate.
3) California weather makes sense.
In California, the sky’s appearance generally reflects the temperature. When it cloudy, it is cold; when the sun shines, it is warm. I cannot say the same for Boston and its humidity thus far. One rainy morning, I was plainly flagged as a newcomer for adorning four thick layers of clothing – it was something like 80°F degrees out. Another morning, I was warmly welcomed by the sun, only to find myself drenched in a downpour later that afternoon. Boston’s hourly weather forecast has become one of my most-visited websites since my arrival.
4) You know what else makes sense in California? The roads.
Although grid-patterned streets can seem boring at times, I have a newfound appreciation for its practicality when navigating. I can assure you that many angry drivers curse the earliest urban designers of Boston every day; it is extremely easy (and not fun) to miss a turn around here. I blame the cows*.
5) Californians actually obey pedestrian traffic signals.
Alright, alright – I’m sure most of us are guilty of jaywalking at some point or another. However, Boston citizens are shameless in their crosswalk struts when the pedestrian traffic signal clearly exhibits that bright red “no walking” hand. Under the gaze of a police officer. During heavy rush hour traffic. Bostonians will stop for nothing.
Of course, weirdness is heavily prone to subjectivity. I suggest you determine your own perception of California by giving us a visit; the Admissions Office would love to show you around. Hopefully you won’t find us too weird.
*While searching for an interesting article to support this claim, I instead found many articles explaining that this is actually a myth. Funny to imagine anyway.