Project LA – “Do you know what? I think I have been here before…”
The thing about Los Angeles I have realised during my first few weeks living here, is how everything seems really familiar, when in fact it is all very different. Culturally, I think it is because Angeleno’s speak English, things are written in English, and unlike if you were to say, go to Paris, there is none of the extra effort involved in hoping you’re saying the right thing in a totally different language.
Another reason it all seems so familiar, is that everyone in the English speaking world is familiar with the way of life through all of their television shows we import. In fact, speaking of films and television, I think the reason that everywhere in Los Angeles feels like I’ve been there before is because, in fact, I have; either sitting in the cinema or on the sofa (which I must now call a couch) watching my favourite shows.
Something I knew would be different in LA, but I was not sure quite how different, was the food. As I expected, fruit is mouthwatering and cheap, as it is all grown in state in the Californian sunshine. Again, I expected all American food to be packed with hidden sugars, but I did not realise to what extent until I had tried a few things. As far as breakfast yogurts are concerned, I’ve had to resort to Total 0% Greek yogurt as any of the supposedly low fat flavoured yogurts in the supermarket have so much sugar packed into them I can taste it coating the roof of my mouth.
Bread also, I’m going to have to hunt out a bakery for breakfast time as the bagels I get in the supermarket (incidentally, the same as cheap mozzarella cheese balls) taste of and have a slight texture of plastic. The supermarkets themselves are also as confusing as hell. You think you’ll find certain things in certain sections because that is logical, to a British person shopping in British supermarkets. Right? It works for me like that in France. Unfortunately, here the cake decorations and vanilla extract are mixed in with the cooking herbs and spices in Whole Foods, and the salt and pepper are at opposite sides of the supermarket – it takes me ages if I’m looking for something in particular!
Another thing about living in LA is that it somehow makes you feel compelled to do LA things all the time, until you start doing them without even thinking. For example, going to the gym. I think I went to the gym more times in my first week in LA than I did in the whole of last year, and I think with my cute new UCLA branded Victoria’s Secret workout clothes, I don’t actually hate it. To my friends back in England’s shock (none of whom could ever imagine me going to the gym voluntarily), it is just something I do now.
I also seem to be having almost daily Starbucks (which is thankfully a much cheaper habit than it would be in London). I had one of those Trenta super size Starbucks the other day, full of Berry Hibiscus Cooler. Before I had experienced a day walking in the Los Angeles heat I could not understand why anyone could want a Starbucks that large, but I think I drank it in about 5 minutes flat, then refilled it with water and gulped it down again.
An LA thing that really disconcerted me at first is how everyone is really, scarily nice here. The checkout girl asks you how your day has been, people on campus stop when they see me looking confused at my map (the UCLA campus is so much bigger than any English university I’ve ever visited), and people at road crossings make conversation with you while you’re waiting for the white man to show it is safe to walk. The only thing I don’t think I’ll ever get used to here is that jaywalking is illegal, which has started to irritate me no end. Can you imagine, I don’t think anyone would ever get anywhere in London if it was illegal and you could get fined for just crossing the street wherever you want!
Not that you would believe it from this months slightly critical column, I actually adore living in LA so far, and I think I am going to be very happy here. I’m writing this on a chilled Sunday morning in one of the shady spots on my balcony, after a late breakfast, and I can see palm trees and the historic old Fox theater’s spire on the horizon. You know all the little things that make somewhere ‘paradise’ like beautiful weather, blue skies, and great stretches of beaches? Imagine them applied to one of the worlds biggest cities and you’ll be halfway towards imagining where I am writing to you from.