10 things you'll only understand if you live in California Shutterstock/View Apart The view from the West Coast of the US is a bit different. There are some things you can't understand unless you live in California. Of course, there's more than one California culture. There are almost as many Californias as there are people living in the state. There are a few things, however, that many Californians share. Here are 10 things that most residents of the Golden State will immediately recognize. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
To say California is big is an understatement.
With a population of almost
40 million, California is by far the most populous state in the US. If it were a country, California would have the fifth largest economy in the world. Read more: 16 mind-blowing facts about California's economy
Within a state this big, one person's idea of California may be radically different from another's. The serene feel of the
Humboldt redwoods is a world away from the busy agricultural fields of the Central Valley or the sun-kissed surf beaches of San Diego. There are almost as many subcultures in California as there are microclimates.
Here are a few things that most Californians understand, but you might not get if you don't live in the Golden State.
Homelessness is on our doorstep.
Homelessness is on our doorstep.
Few places feel the homelessness crisis as viscerally as Californians. You can barely turn a corner in
Oakland or San Francisco without encountering a row of tents. The problem is even bigger in Los Angeles.
A UN special rapporteur called the living conditions for people without homes on Bay Area streets a
human rights violation in 2018. While different nonprofits and companies are trying creative solutions to ease the problem, their efforts have yet to substantially make an impact on the dire situation. Everyone has a right to the beach.
Everyone has a right to the beach.
840 miles of coastline. All of that — at least in principle — is open to the public.
Thanks to the California Coastal Act, in California, there legally is no such thing as a private beach. The idea that everyone should have access to the state's iconic coastline is one that
Californians will fight for.
While only the privileged few can afford mansions by the beach, they don't own the sand and the surf. That was reaffirmed last year when Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla
lost a multi-year court battle to keep the beach adjacent to his house off-limits to the public. In-N-Out Burger is the best fast food restaurant, period.
In-N-Out Burger is the best fast food restaurant, period.
You can take your
Chick-fil-A and your Popeyes chicken sandwiches. In-N-Out Burger is the best fast food ever, and you'd know that if you'd ever tried it.
Since the chain expanded from its
SoCal roots, all of California can appreciate the fast food that is actually quite slow. People line up to get a Double-Double with fries and a shake, and it's worth the wait.
The menu is as short — even when you count the
secret menu — as the lines are long. But, unlike some other fast food joints, In-N-Out Burger doesn't skimp on quality. While you wait and wait and wait for your order, you can watch as the army of people behind the counter juliennes whole potatoes for French fries. Each location grinds its own beef on-site and makes everything fresh. The chain has an old-school vibe that's oh-so-California. It's hard not to be a foodie.
It's hard not to be a foodie.
It's easy to understand why so many Californians are foodies. There are more than
700 certified farmers markets that offer fresh fruits and vegetables to shoppers year-round.
Restaurant culture thrives in California, too. The state boasts
90 restaurants with Michelin stars. But you don't have to spend big bucks to find and enjoy great food in California. You might find the work of an up-and-coming chef at a food truck. And there's nothing like the pleasure of finding the perfect bibimbap, lumpia, or aloo tikki at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant not yet discovered by the food-loving masses. The car is still king in California.
The car is still king in California.
California has way
more cars than any other state, but that doesn't fully explain the state's love affair with the car.
car culture is diverse and lively, and there's a car culture for everyone.
If you like art, you can turn your ride into an
art car by attaching anything from singing fish to mosaic tiles.
Lowriders take pride in their souped-up cars, which ride low to the ground and often bounce and pop with the help of hydraulics. The sideshow is an Oakland tradition of (often unsanctioned) late-night displays of vehicular acrobatics.
It's no accident that California is the birthplace of high-tech auto innovation as well.
Self-driving cars started in Silicon Valley and the Tesla electric car company is headquartered there as well.
Californians' obsession with their personal transportation isn't limited to four wheels, either. Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts roar into
Hollister every summer. And the Scraper Bike Team has given bicyclists a chance to join the fun and decorate their rides with brightly-colored tape that creates a kaleidoscope effect when riders start to roll. California is willing to stand up for its progressive values, even against the federal government.
California is willing to stand up for its progressive values, even against the federal government.
Progressive California has often found itself in conflict with the federal government over policy issues, particularly when it comes to the environment.
California has set its own
vehicle emissions standards for decades. When the federal government tried to roll back those standards and prevent California from writing its own, the state sidestepped Washington and negotiated a deal with automakers for the higher emissions standards. Climate change is real, it's here, and it's personal.
Climate change is real, it's here, and it's personal.
California is on the front line of climate change. The state has contended with years of punishing
droughts, and while recent winter rains have restored our reservoirs, water shortages and floods loom over California's future.
It seems like each year's
fire season is longer and fiercer than the one before. The effects of climate change feel very real and present for most Californians. If you haven't suffered from a fire or a flood, you probably know someone who has.
survey of rising temperatures by the Washington Post showed that large swaths of California, particularly in the southern part of the state, have already seen a temperature rise of close to or above 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement sought to keep the global average temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, as recent research has shown that even this amount of warming may have catastrophic effects. Fog is everywhere, and it can be dangerous.
Fog is everywhere, and it can be dangerous.
Fog is a part of life in many areas of California.
It's even become part of the local culture. The world's longest operating webcam is dedicated entirely to tracking Bay Area fog, and there was a massive uproar over the service's
planned closure. Thankfully for Californians, San Francisco State University stepped in to keep FogCam operating.
But fog has a darker side in central California — literally.
Tule fog rises up from damp winter ground and can create such a dense wall of fog that visibility shrinks to a few feet. Driving into a patch of tule fog can have deadly consequences. It's caused numerous accidents, including a pile-up in 2007 that involved 100 cars and trucks.
Luckily for residents, lower air pollution levels in California seem to be
reducing the amount of tule fog. Racial and ethnic diversity make California stronger.
Racial and ethnic diversity make California stronger.
California is a
majority-minority state, with more people of color (67.2%) than white people (36.8%). California also has a larger population of immigrants than any other state. Los Angeles County alone is home to more than 11% of all immigrants living in the US, according to Migration Policy Institute data.
embraces this diversity. The state government fought for the right to declare the whole state a sanctuary state for immigrants. Studies have shown that diversity leads to better decision-making and more useful scientific research. Many say that California has become culturally rich and financially prosperous because of its diversity.