Nine Truths About Living in Los Angeles

Lots of Koreans; not much summer heat

Since half of my film Foreign Correspondents is about living in the city of Los Angeles, what better way to kick off the new year - soaking up the warm sunshine and blue skies while the rest of America freezes - with some myth-debunking truths about life in the City of Angels. And please, I'm not offering these up for argument. If you disagree, you disagree. It's cool.

  1. Best drivers in the world. LA is legendary for its traffic jams - always has been. So one imagines that LA drivers are rude, impatient, brain-dead, or suicidal. Not true. I have been to many, many cities around this planet, and I insist that LA drivers are the most competent, and generally the most patient, that I've ever dealt with.
  2. Best food in the world. LA is one of the most culturally diverse - if not the most culturally diverse (though New York and London might make that claim) - places on earth, so you'll find a ton of different ethnic cuisines. Because of the relatively low cost of living, as well as the close proximity to California's fertile farmland, the food is inexpensive, fresh, and plentiful. If your vacation plans include a lot of eating, and you have an adventurous appetite, LA rules.
  3. How diverse is Los Angeles? Of course there is the enormous Latino population, and the largest Chinese neighborhood outside of Asia. But LA is also host to the largest populations - outside of their homelands - of Iranians, Thais, Armenians, Israelis ,and Russians.
  4. Don't forget the Koreans. Many people don't realize how large the Korean population is in Los Angeles. There's almost 100,000 Koreans and Korean-Americans here - most of them living in Koreatown, of course.
  5. Don't worry about the earthquakes. I still hear people swearing that they will never move to Southern California because of the earthquake threat. And yet in this entire century, fewer than 200 people have died in assorted LA-based earthquakes. Only about 60 lost their lives in the great 1994 quake - out of a population of over 9 million. Far more Americans die each year in hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and cold snaps - none of which ever imperils the good people of LA.
  6. Hollywood is not a city! Despite its "honorary" mayor, who "presides" over landmarks such as the Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign, Hollywood itself is merely a neighborhood in Los Angeles. However, right next door, West Hollywood is its own city, with its own mayor, city council, and city laws.
  7. September is the hottest month. People talk about the blazing heat of a California summer, but the June/July period is a relatively mild time out here. In fact, while filming Foreign Correspondents in LA in July 1997, our production was greeted more often with cool, overcast skies (perfect for filming) instead of fiery scorchers. No, September is the month to watch out for, in terms of heat. Not to mention smog. Did I mention LA isn't nearly as smoggy as people believe? But don't come here during September if you know what's good for you.
  8. November is the stinkiest month. The citizens of Los Angeles pride themselves enormously on their lush gardens and lawns. Few cities have more beautiful front yards. So, for some reason, gardeners across LA choose November as the month to dump acres and acres of fresh manure across residents' lawns. Woe to any pedestrian who chooses this month to wander around residential areas without a nose plug.
  9. Gangs are not roaming the streets, hunting you down. One of the greatest myths about this city is its rampant gang-related crime. As the second largest city in America, crime should be expected, and people are warned to be careful and stay out of troubled areas. However, violent crime has been on a rapid decline over the past decade, and I and most people I know have never been the victim of a violent crime. [2002 Update: Forget that! Since I wrote this list, I myself have been mugged, and my former roommate has been mugged and shot.] Car thefts, however, are so commonplace it's pathetic. Sad to say. Don't keep your valuables inside your automobile.