7 Expat Experiences to Keep it Real in Los Angeles

By: Kristy Dixon

Los Angeles. Do you have visions of botoxed faces at the supermarket, paparazzi flashes on whitened teeth, red convertibles balancing surfboards and implants in bikinis? What about Mickey Mouse ears and blockbuster movie rides, celebrity spotting or palm trees waving over steroid pumping muscles?

In the past year I’ve observed all of those, and then some! You may be content with your thoughts of Los Angeles however, as an expat, I can tell you if your mind and eyes are open, this city sheds its clichés and shine with authenticity, natural attractions and wonderful surprises. Here are eight expat experiences you can have to prove it.

1. Genuine, polite, smiling people

Prepare yourself for red carpet treatment day to day. People will open doors for you, say excuse me, sorry and thank you. They will consider others even in traffic that makes your brain hurt. Out of nowhere they help when your bike chain breaks, when you look lost (and are) and when you seek local knowledge. Maybe it’s the 329 days of sunshine in Los Angeles but people genuinely smile at you for no reason and inspire you to do the same. The locals make you feel welcome and that has a huge impact on life as an expat.

2. Pass up poor acting for inspiring galleries, museums and history

For less than the price of a movie ticket you can satisfy your inner critic at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and play amongst lamppost installations or under a levitating boulder. Bus up to the timeless Getty Centre and see Van Gogh and Monet paintings for free. Dream up the next Jurassic Park visiting an open dig site of the La Brea Tar Pits. If you did see a bad film put it in some perspective by visiting the Museum of Death. They all beat sitting through terrible dialogue while someone crunches popcorn in your ear.

3. It’s more exciting to spot flora and fauna than Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

A concrete jungle with a desert climate doesn’t inspire hope of nature’s abundance. However, a little awareness and in no time you’ll be watching ravens, hummingbirds, gulls, ducks, butterflies, coyotes and even a mountain lion (they don’t fit in handbags). For a total flora fix I suggest the County Arboretum and Botanic Garden with spring flowers and stunning cacti, herbs and leafy trees, lush lawns and café friendly peacocks more colorful than the NBC logo.

4. Breathe beautiful air of high mountains

Escape all civilization in less than an hour's drive, head for the San Gabriel Mountains, a 110 kilometre (68 mile) long range with a 3,067m (10,064 feet) highpoint lovingly named Mt Baldy for it is missing “tree hair”. Unlike awkward, middle-aged movie characters the mountain only accepts a comb over in colder months, of snow. In fact, in Los Angeles you can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon with mountains so close! Other times of year the San Gabriels are a serene, beautiful playground of trails, pines and granite, sunshine and adventures.

5. Ride the ocean (no special effects required)

Put down those hire rollerblades and save yourself bruises on the backside. Pedal from north of Santa Monica to Torrance County on the actual beach. You can ride and wear anything, from a rusty clunker in your nicest summer outfit to a road bike in your favourite cycling team’s kit, nobody minds on this bicycle path winding its way through umbrellas and lifesaver huts for about 35 kilometres (22 miles). The Pacific Ocean sunsets will also lap away at any concerns you have for cinematography’s future, if that fails, stop at any number of bars along the way.

6. Real food with real flavor and every option imaginable

Go to an American fast food outlet and you get what you order. Pass up the franchises and chains and you find a gigantic selection of food and drinks for all appetites and desires. Expats don’t need to feel left out either as it’s possible, for instance, to smell out Australian pies in Long Beach, British biscuits at World Market, Thai Restaurants on Washington Boulevard or New Zealand lamb in Whole Foods. Plus the farmers markets here give Starbucks a run for their money, weekdays and weekends on every second corner it seems! In a fresh nutshell, California’s massive food bowl serves up some of the nicest food and wine you can enjoy.

7. Look really closely this city’s beauty is on the inside

Unlike the entertainment industry it harbors so famously, don’t make the mistake of judging Los Angeles from the outside with its concrete overpasses, droopy electricity wires and saturation of signs with fonts from 1992. Take a risk and step into a quirky looking cafe where you’ll find you’ve transported to a surprising interior, with modern designs and beautiful spaces. Walk suburban streets to observe no two houses are the same, instead discover an eclectic mix of architecture and intriguing local artwork, from Lady Gaga in the front garden, to a giant metal spider or plastic black swans. No matter where you’re from, in Los Angeles you can find a house inspired by your country.

So there you have it, Los Angeles can be real if you keep it real! Like any place, come to it with expectations and you will live those expectations. Live in a place with an open mind and open eyes and you will discover and enjoy things about that corner of the earth many locals may never notice.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKristy Dixon is an Australian expat living in USA. Blog description: Experiences and observations of a South Australian living in California with some little travels on the side...
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Contest Comments » There are 16 comments

Lyn Jefferies wrote 6 years ago:

Certainly some great ideas in this Kristy. It has inspired me to visit, I mean really look around LA next time I'm there. In fact that will be 2014.

Jessica Davis wrote 6 years ago:

What a great article! As an Aussie expat living in LA, Kristy's observations are right on the money, and reinforce my love of living in this vibrant city. Thanks!

Garth Wimbush wrote 6 years ago:

Lovely work as always Kristy. Makes me want to live there, and gels with my short experience of LA. I agree with your reference to the houses - fascinating all on their own!

Tia wrote 6 years ago:

It's nice to read a piece about LA that reveals more than the easy-to-spew fakery and glitz. Obviously there's a lot more to this city!

Adam Clay wrote 6 years ago:

Kristy is a writer of rare quality, I am converted! I shall cast off the gaudy rags that I have covered my West American perceptions in and bathe naked in all the glory that is California! Ready or not, here I come! Adam in Australia PS even the little text verification box agrees with with me, it spelt "sick mk?"

Paisley wrote 6 years ago:

Love reading about your adventuress in the big USA! What a fantastic adventure you are living.

Liz Milner wrote 6 years ago:

Being a nature girl at heart I loved reading about the alternative things to do whilst in LA, a place which has always struck me as a fake concrete jungle. I won't be so reluctant to go for a visit when I next get the opportunity; keep creating the inspirational reading!

Jess Von wrote 6 years ago:

Having never been to LA, this blog gives a very different insight into a city I would now like to visit! Great piece Kristy :)

Ellen O'Brien wrote 6 years ago:

My perception of LA is so different since hearing about it through you and your wonderful article. Where else in the world can you surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon!!!

Erin Faehrmann wrote 6 years ago:

My prejudice misconceptions of the US have always made me think "why would I go there, it's not different enough to Australia and aren't most Americans obnoxious?!". The more I read of your blogs the more I think "oh dear, it would be dangerous to go to LA because I may never want to come home". Living the dream Kristy xo

Melanie wrote 6 years ago:

What a great insite to what sounds like an adventurous city.

Mum & Dad wrote 6 years ago:

Wow! Look out, LA, we are visiting in 2014. Can't wait to see all the sights as described by you.

Mike Bee wrote 6 years ago:

Awesome summary Kristy. No doubt when I finally make it over there you'll be able to point out all the awesomeness in person!

Megan wrote 6 years ago:

Well, maybe this is a place worth visiting after all!

Hayden wrote 6 years ago:

Lovely post Kristy, easy to read with complete authenticity. I can just imagine sitting across the table at home listening to you, wine / beer in hand just catching up and describing LA as you have written. I actually can hear your voice as I read it.

Mike wrote 6 years ago:

Great article! It's really true about California and LA. There are so many stereotypes, but there are many more hidden gems... Every day is a new adventure!

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