3 steps to tolerating this terrible place I love:
LA is an acquired taste.
If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that LA is not likable. It doesn’t try to be, and we Angelenos don’t actually expect you to like it here. It’s a city that’s easy (in fact, fun) to hate. Difficult to love. I personally love to hate LA, and kinda hate how much I love it. It’s a city that is so unique, that is set up in a way that makes so little sense, that it’s quite understandable why people are underwhelmed when they come visit, in the same way that it is quite understandable why people want move here.
If you don’t like LA, just give it some time. It took me 10 years to learn to like LA. It wasn’t until a year or two into college that I started to understand it and in turn, start to love it. But I hope to show you how to at least appreciate LA.
First, you have to shift your frame of thinking. Don’t think of LA as a city. Think of LA as a clusterf*ck of mismatched neighborhoods, woven together in a patchwork fabric that together accumulates enough population to be considered a city. Then, explore each of these patches. Take time to understand the nuances, to see the uniquely LA mix of Hollywood culture, ethnic enclaves, and sometimes buried roots in Hispanic history. The best way to discover and enjoy LA is at the street level, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, investing some time to appreciate each the subcultures and everything that blends in between.
Not all of LA is for everyone. And believe me, those of us who have the (mis)fortune of living here all have extremely strong opinions about different parts of LA. But there is an LA for everyone, if you’re willing to go find it. If it’s not here, just move a couple blocks over and try again.
LA is not a pretty city.
For a city that has a reputation of being “shallow” and full of beautiful people, it’s ironic that you have to look beneath the surface to truly see its beauty.
LA is objectively…not a pretty place. Sure the weather is beautiful and the beaches are iconic. And sure, the palm tree lined streets can be photogenic AF against the clear blue sky. But this ain’t Paris; LA was not built with beauty in mind. The architecture is a mess. Everything mismatched and patched together much like the city itself. It’s at the same time claustrophobic and spacious. There isn’t a through-line, there’s no underlying story that helps make sense of it all.
It becomes painfully obvious that we lack an icon when you realize that the only “recognizable” landmark is the Hollywood sign. Literally giant letters perched on a balding mountain. Our downtown “skyline” is unremarkable. Palm trees aren’t ownable for the brand. Neither is the beach. When all the cities around the world light up their landmarks in colors, we literally light up the giant glow sticks of LAX.
Over the years, I’ve learned to accept the fact that LA isn’t beautiful. At least, not in the traditional sense. But it’s there. You just gotta be creative. Because when the sun hits at just the right angle and you crop it just so, I think you’ll find yourself falling in love with this city too.
LA is better lived, not visited.
Even as someone who actually loves LA, I don’t think it’s a great vacation destination. Our lifestyle isn’t exactly tourist-friendly. Normal in LA means navigating around the entertainment industry (ie: don’t bother driving through Hollywood Blvd on a weekday night), budgeting an hour to get anywhere in this physically monstrous and very decentralized city (lol @ all the people who visit and stay downtown, thinking it’s the city center. Jokes on you! But actually jokes on us, because we live in a city that makes no sense!), and oh yeah, dealing with the hell that breaks loose if it rains (seriously, we weren’t built for more than a sprinkle so please just cancel everything).
When it comes to tourism, we lack on the “tier 1” must-do attractions, but then go all in on the places that you usually save for a second or third visit, or you know, if you live here. I wouldn’t even know where to start to build an itinerary for a 3 day first time visit to LA.
You see, LA is a much better place to live than it is to visit. There’s very little to appreciate if you’re only here for a few days. But it’s the everyday moments, the random encounters that can only happen in LA that make it worthwhile. It’s a place that is better for coffee shop meetings than it is for sightseeing. We’re known more for weekday brunches and taco trucks than we are for reputable art institutions. When you think about it, we actually specialize in making LA feel like someplace else that carries a little more culture and personality.
The things we love are things that are way too quotidian for visitors to appreciate (though our idea of quotidian is very different from other places). LA is a place where work blends with play, but one doesn’t really have meaning without the other. Where we all share some kind of giant inside joke by virtue of being here. Where we welcome all, but hate everyone (read: overheard LA).
So if you wan’t to like LA, try living here, even if it’s just for a couple days. As long as you grumble about traffic and the weather, no one will ever know!