Given that California is in the news lately because of the fires in Southern California, I think it’s time for a quick lesson on one of the fundamentals of California culture for my non-Californian readers. You see, the interesting thing about California is that because it’s such a large state, it’s incredibly diverse. And, for some reason, people have all these misconceptions about California which are usually rapidly dashed when they arrive here.
I’m also opening the floor to you here, gentle readers. Is there some aspect of California culture that you’ve been dying to learn about? Some slang term I use that completely puzzles you? Some rumor you’ve been longing to have confirmed? You want to know what the state song is? Hit me in the comments. You know there’s a California mystique, and here’s your chance to dip your toes in it.
The most important thing to know about California is the fact that California is actually two states.
Now, before you run to your atlases, I should admit that this distinction is cultural, not geographical. But California is definitely composed of two states. There’s Northern California, and there’s Southern California. Also known as NorCal and SoCal. There’s also Central California, but we don’t talk about them.
Southern California has the palm trees, movie stars, sunny weather, and disgustingly huge mansions. They also steal Northern California’s water and give us a generally bad reputation, because idiots from other states think that all of California is like Southern California, thanks to Hollywood. I mean, I suppose we should be thanking Hollywood because all the idiots move to Southern California to pursue the California Dream instead of bothering us up here. But my point is that Los Angeles and points surrounding are not California. Even the Angelenos admit it. Also, Southern California has stupid slang.
Northern California has the redwoods, dirty hippies, fog, and disgustingly huge mansions. We are vastly superior to Southern California in pretty much any way that you care to name, and I don’t just say that because I live here. It’s just better. We have a higher concentration of top flight universities, for example. Like, oh, Berkeley, Stanford, and UCSF. We also aren’t completely socially backwards, like Southern California. Our only real shortcoming when compared to Southern California is that we have more hipsters than they do, but we’re working on a hipster relocation program which will hopefully export them all down south.
Now, another interesting thing about California is that it’s actually a conservative state. I know, I know, you always read about silly liberals in California, but we’re not actually a liberal state. We have several concentrated pockets of liberals, with just enough of a population to swing towards liberal causes. Obviously, I live in one of those pockets, but if you check out a map of California with election results overlaid, this state is a sea of red, people. And if you actually paid attention to California election results, you would notice that, as a whole, the state leans towards the conservative; after all, we were the first state to formally define marriage as being between a man and a woman, much to my shame. This is because the bigoted right wingers are better at organizing than the hippies, and they know how to get out the vote.
Those people who hate America in San Diego? Yeah, that’s actually one of the wealthiest hardline Republican neighborhoods in California. Central and Eastern California are in fact filled with rabid Republicans. It’s true. Sometimes we fling patchouli and dismembered deer at each other over the Central Valley, which is why our wine is so fantastic.
California culture is complex, and it’s weird, and it’s basically unfathomable to people who don’t live here. There’s no single “California lifestyle” to aspire to, there’s no such thing as “California cuisine,” and please, stop calling San Francisco San Fran, Frisco, or SF. It’s San Francisco or the City.
I imagine that many people who live in idealized places struggle with the images that people have of their homes, and it probably annoys them as much as it annoys me. Sometimes, of course, it’s just entertaining to see how misinformed people are.
It’s very rare to see California cooperating as a state, unless we’re doing something completely insane like recalling the governor. The rivalry between NorCal and SoCal runs too strong in us, as do our fundamental political, racial, class, and religious differences. It’s not that surprising, really, when you think about the fact that California is larger than some countries, and we’ve had a tempestuous history which even includes a brief period as our own republic.
Definitely time for a two state solution.