By Jessica Oaks

Los Angeles is a city, but don’t move here expecting to find New York City in miniature, or Tokyo in the States. LA just isn’t your average urban hub, so before you pack your bags you’re going to need to temper your expectations of how a major metropolis should look and feel.

Here’s a quick primer that will help you make the most of your days as a newcomer in this quirky cool city:

You Will Need a Car: Sure, you can bike LA, but this is a city that was built for automobiles. Yes, you can survive in this city without a car but your quality of life will be non-existent. Los Angeles is huge, it sprawls, the roads are wide and it’s just not a walkable city in the way NYC is.

But, You Can Budget: The benefit to driving everywhere is that you’re not constantly assaulted with temptations that are available just over every threshold. The same shops you’d be hoofing past in Paris are now flying by your passenger side window at high-speeds. Slow down just for an overpriced coffee? Nah.

They’re Not Kidding About the Traffic: The traffic around here is BRUTAL, so factoring in an additional 45 minutes to an hour for your commute makes sense. The city doesn’t have the best reputation for driving, and consistently ranks in the top five worst US cities for traffic.

You’ll eventually figure out the optimal time to leave, but give yourself way more time than you need initially. If that doesn’t cut it, use a few of these tips for driving in LA.

Study the Road Layout Like Your Life Depends on It: Because it probably will. Get to know the 101, 405 and 10 highway; how they revolve around the city; and how you can use Santa Monica Blvd, Olympic Blvd, Pico Blvd, Sepulveda and Wilshire Blvd to find your way around the gnarliest traffic jams.

Read the Street Signs: Not just the first time you park, but every time. LA is known for its famously confusing array of parking signage, and fines start around $60 (that’s on the low end).

Parking enforcement officers are everywhere and they will not cut you any slack just because you’re new around here.

Finding an Apartment: Finding somewhere to hang your hat in the trendier or safer areas of LA can feel nearly impossible. And the competition for what does hit the market is pretty fierce. Before you start the search, figure out what you really want (price range, top priorities, which neighborhood).

Take advantage of the internet— utilizing an apartment finder like For Rent can give you the inside skinny on some great Los Angeles apartments you might never have found otherwise.

Start Getting to Know People ASAP: Unlike in other cities where finding hot spots is as easy as taking a stroll, LA is a city of secrets that will only open up to you as you connect with locals who know what’s hot and what’s not. The good news is that a night out will frequently mean a night in – like in someone’s dining room, where you’ll eat well for the price of a bottle of wine for the host.

The Uniform is Distinctly Casual: Something about the weather around here – and the indoor outdoor lifestyle – has inspired a look that’s anything but formal. Jeans are de rigueur, sweats are acceptable, and business casual is actually comfortable.

You’re Going to Get Your RDA of Vitamin D: Los Angeles has 300+ days of sunny, gorgeous weather each year, so pack your running shoes. Excited about celebrity spotting? Combine that with some fresh air and exercise at Runyon Canyon, or these recommended hikes for your first year in LA.

This is a City That Sleeps: There’s plenty of nightlife in LA, but this absolutely is not a city that never sleeps. In fact, it’s a morning town at heart, with plenty to do after the sun comes up. And you might as well get up with the sun considering that most of the city’s amusements shut down by 2 a.m. at the latest, and its residents tend to go home early anyway.

Finally, what you should remember in your early days in LA is that eventually you’re going to love it here. This is a city of transplants, and everyone has a story.

Someday soon you’ll be telling your own ‘how I got here’ story – no longer a settler, but a newly minted Los Angeles local.


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