What You Should Know Before Moving to Los Angeles

You'll want to know what to expect before you pack up and relocate to the City of Angels.

U.S. News & World Report

What You Should Know Before Moving to LA

Downtown Los Angeles skyline at sunset with palm trees in the foreground

Don't expect to find the perfect neighborhood right away. You may need a couple moves to find the part of Los Angeles that you want to call home.(Getty Images)

In September 2017, designer Ryan Zimmerman packed his bags and boarded a flight to Los Angeles with a one-way ticket in his hand. After working in corporate fashion, he was hoping to build his own streetwear label.

“New York is a fashion hub, but less so for manufacturing. It had become increasingly clear as my brand evolved that LA was really the place to be; American fashion is made in LA," Zimmerman says.

Zimmerman isn’t alone in moving to LA to chase his dream, where his company, Arzee, is an established clothing manufacturer. It has never been easier to move to another city for a job, a relationship or just a fresh start, and it has also never been easier to stay in touch with friends and family back home.

Should You Move to Los Angeles?

At a time when so many jobs allow employees to work remotely, we are a more mobile workforce, and society, than ever before. And LA – like New York City, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and San Francisco – is a major city to which ambitious people often flock to pursue all kinds of personal and professional dreams, and not necessarily to try to establish a career in Hollywood.

If you think LA might be for you, there are a few things you need to keep in mind prior to packing up your car or buying a one-way ticket to LAX:

  • You may have to move more than once to find the right neighborhood.
  • The weather is almost always perfect, or close to it.
  • The environment matters in LA.
  • You'll need a car.
  • You should plan for traffic problems.
  • It isn’t always easy for single people to meet someone.
  • It's not just for those trying to make it in Hollywood.

You May Have to Move More Than Once to Find the Right Neighborhood

“Really, LA is many population centers that kept expanding until they met one another,” says Dean Hansell, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for California who moved to LA from the Midwest in 1980, and currently lives in the Hancock Park neighborhood. “This is one of the reasons why each neighborhood looks and feels so different from the next.”

Anyone who moves to LA will have to decide where they want to put down roots. Living in Beverly Hills can be very different than living in Silver Lake or Venice, for example.

“The commercial parts of LA like Downtown or Century City look like most other urban centers, but the residential architecture in LA is really eclectic and exciting," Hansell says. "And even with earthquakes in mind, individualistic Angelenos built houses in the styles they wanted, so you can drive down a street and see a midcentury modern house right next to a Spanish colonial, Hollywood Regency or Art Deco. And then if you drive down the Wilshire Corridor, you'll see high-rise apartment buildings that might make New Yorkers feel right at home.”

Because LA’s size (and traffic patterns) factor into everything, choosing the right neighborhood is of paramount importance, and newcomers might not get it right at first. Like so many other cities, the cost of living isn’t cheap, even though it may be more affordable than San Francisco or New York.

The Weather Is Almost Always Perfect, or Close to It

“I love saying, 'Just another day in paradise,’ whenever I step outside,” says Charlie Schuster, a real estate agent with Compass in Beverly Hills. “It’s so much easier to plan life when it’s generally sunny and in the 70s. There’s no doubt that the weather positively affects our great quality of life on a daily basis.”

The weather truly does make a difference. If you’ve had a bad day, the sunny, temperate weather will help to uplift your spirits. Furthermore, the beautiful weather inspires people to get outside and enjoy the beach in Venice or Santa Monica, a hike in the Hollywood Hills canyons or a drive up the coast to Malibu.

The Environment Matters in LA

Angelenos are very aware of the environment and how it affects their lives, in part because Los Angeles is near the ocean, enjoys mostly sunny weather and has a history of soldiering through smog, earthquakes and fires. Residents are usually on the front lines of conversations about climate change, automobile emissions, organic eating and ocean pollution.

In addition, the environment directly affects the food. Due to the topography and geography of Southern California, the produce is among the best in the U.S.

“California produce is top-notch,” says Sherry Klein, a screenwriter who moved to West Hollywood in the late 90s, but now lives in the Los Feliz area. “My kids love regular trips to the farmer’s markets, and the food scene is exciting. There are so many farm-to-table restaurants and pop-ups, and eating seasonally is a local luxury.”

You'll Need a Car

Other than an often-overlooked bus system, there is no major, widely-used public transportation system.

For a city that is roughly half the size of Rhode Island, yet doesn’t have a comprehensive subway or trolley system, it’s no wonder that cars have become part of daily life. “Everything is really spread out, so we regularly spend a lot of our day in the car driving to and from meetings and appointments,” says Joannie Burstein, an LA native and talent and literary manager and producer based in the Pacific Palisades.

It’s not just about getting to and from work or dinner, either. “Getting to and from the airport is one of my least favorite things (about living in LA),” says Hernan Lopez, founder and CEO of podcast network Wondery. Lopez, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, travels often, and says getting to and from the airport is “a bigger issue than it might be in another city.”

You Should Plan for Traffic

There’s a reason you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car: LA’s legendary traffic. Sitting on freeways like the 405 or the 10 is almost a painful rite of passage for LA residents. It is a constant annoyance, and anyone headed to a meeting should not only “plan accordingly,” says Matthew Seamons, who grew up near San Jose, California, and is a managing partner of Crimson Media, “but you really need to organize your day around the traffic patterns. It’s magnified by our lack of good public transportation.”

Avoid being late by factoring in the potential for bad traffic. It’s not unheard of that a 10-mile car ride across town might take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the roads.

It Isn’t Always Easy for Single People to Meet Someone

Angelenos have an unfortunate reputation for being flaky, though it's a quality that can be found in any city. Perhaps because it’s difficult to get around, making social plans can be hard and it’s easy to cancel on someone. After a long day at work, the idea of a long drive in traffic to meet a friend for dinner can be exhausting.

“Sometimes it seems like nobody is accountable for showing up to anything,” says Jordan Zucker, an actress, cookbook author, and founder of Girls Guide to Sports. She has lived in West Hollywood for about 20 years.

“Trying to find love in this city is really hard,” says Seamons, who got married two years ago. “With a city full of beautiful people and ever-shortening attention spans, coupled with the desire to avoid traffic, dating is tough. And with so many ambitious people in gig-to-gig careers, our personal lives don’t always come first.”

It's Not Just for Those Trying to Make It in Hollywood

Many major cities across the U.S. have a single dominant industry, and in LA, there is no doubt that it’s entertainment. “I love the cache that Hollywood gives to LA,” Klein says. “Film and TV people and productions are part of the daily landscape, but of course that’s not all there is here.”

Zack Lodmer, an attorney and yoga instructor who grew up in Malibu, adds: “This is a land of dreamers and self-starters. Living in a seasonless place right on a fault line with some of the worst traffic in the western hemisphere isn’t for the faint of heart. LA has been and continues to be a mecca for artists, musicians, foodies, actors, entrepreneurs and creatives of all types.”

California has always been a magnet for adventurers, explorers and those with open minds, and for that reason, creatives have been flocking to LA for decades. “Great minds live here,” Seamons says. “We lead the nation in forward-thinking around social justice, animal advocacy, health care and much more. It’s exciting to live in a place where art, music and culture are constantly pushing the boundaries of creativity.”

Hansell adds: "If something has never been done before, that's not particularly relevant for Angelenos when they're making decisions. We are not just creative – we are inventive and proud to be progressive."

LA has its quirks like any city, but generally speaking, residents love it. "I couldn't do what I'm doing anywhere else," Zimmerman says. "I came here with a dream and it's hard work, but it's happening."

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