4 Ways Being Bicoastal Isn't Nearly as Glamorous as It Seems

Splitting my life between major cities with major differences has taken some getting used to.
Publish date:
June 18, 2016
travel, Los Angeles, new york city, Bicoastal

I've dreamt of being bicoastal since my first trip to LA. As a born-and-(kinda)-raised New Yorker, everyone said I'd hate LaLa Land. The people are weird, they said. The traffic is bad. They go to dinner at like 7:30 and their bars shut down at 2. But I was still drawn despite the reviews.

My love for spirituality and budding interest in veganism seemed to make me a good fit for Cali living, so I scraped together enough for a ticket and headed west.

I was in love as soon as I got off the plane. There was something about the energy of the city that made it feel like home. I hiked the canyons and lazed at beaches and did every drug-free LA pastime I could fit into my schedule. I went back a few weeks later. I went back again a month after that. In the past 10 months, I've been to LA seven times and am packing for visit eight tonight.

But this bi-coastal thing, to quote Adam Levine, is not always rainbows and butterflies. Splitting my life between major cities with major differences has taken some getting used to.

Culture shock

There's a distinctive way of living in both New York and LA. New Yorkers do. There's always a client to meet with or a project to finish or a startup to start up. Everyone is in constant work mode, trying to stay ahead of the pack.

Californians... well... don't. They definitely have a grind of their own — they just go about things a lot more lax than I'm used to. I've never seen so much funemployment! People move out there to pursue their dreams and seem to get caught on staying afloat, and with all the ways to make a quick buck out here, you'd think people would fall back on being semi-professional audience member isn't unreasonable. They're quick to reference that one big break from two years ago, but aside from another big audition next Thursday, it's hard to tell what's happening with their careers. There's a culture of chill that's become the norm, and it takes some getting used to.

I'm a New York native with the spirit of a yogi, so I can appreciate both ways of life. I think we have a moral obligation to be successful. It's true lots of New Yorkers have shady ways of making it to the top, but most people move to Manhattan to get a much-needed push to be their best selves. New Yorkers are incredibly passionate about their obscure niches and spend countless hours perfecting their crafts. It can result in a lot of success, but the constant stress and coffee binges leave people a bit haggard.

Californians, on the other hand, are more into self-care. A lot of it seems to be vanity-based, but if Crossfit earned you that glorious physique, more power to ya. I appreciate their cultural acceptance of alternative living because those are all huge parts of my life, but I've never seen people so content with their barista career.

I tap into the personality of the other coast wherever I am. I'm a super-spiritual vegan girl whenever I'm in New York, and scolding my LA friends for not chasing their dreams. I brag about everything my New York friends are doing when lazing around my LA crew, but when I'm en route to LAX, I tell my Brooklyn friends I'm heading back to the Best Coast.

I haven't found peace in one or the other. It's a classic "grass is always greener" situation where I spend more time thinking about the perks of the other instead of being present wherever I am.

Social gatherings

"What are you doing on the 17th?"

"I'll be out of town."

I'm the queen of missing parties. I'm amazed I even get invited anymore. I worked so hard to make surrogate friends in LA while keeping up with my classics in New York but I'm often on the other coast for pivotal moments in their lives.

I usually don't sweat it. If my attendance at your 29th birthday party is so important, check with me first before deciding on a date; if you send wedding invitations 6 weeks in advance, you're the problem.

But New York and LA millennials are equally self-absorbed. They set things up based on their terms and pout when I'm not around to celebrate.

It's also impossible to know if you have friends in LA. Californians always seem to have an ulterior motive — something I was oblivious to during my first two visits but am becoming more aware of with every trip. Do you really want to hang out with me, or are you just hoping I write a HuffPost article on your one-woman show?

The only reason I have friends in New York is through childhood. If I had to make new friends in my late 20s, I'd be screwed. New Yorkers have mastered the art of being alone together. There is rarely a moment when you're physically by yourself, but the collection of cold shoulders sure makes you feel that way.


The popular modes of transportation in each city are equally confusing. I get the NYC subway. Learning the map and memorizing the lines is a basic survival skill for any New York teenager. You take the 2 instead of the 1 and end up on the East Side enough times, you'll learn the subway like your life depends on it. But I get how it's confusing. Especially on weekends. You just want to get home but you find out the C decided to be the F for the weekend.

Now what's more confusing to me is driving in LA. My friends know my navigation skills are hopeless and I have to be chauffeured around, but I have no sense of distance or time. I'm painfully prompt, so the "I was stuck in traffic" excuse doesn't fly with me, no matter how legitimate.


Contrary to popular belief, the difference in temperature between the two coasts is annoying year-round. Winter is obviously the hardest. How do you pack when it's 28 degrees on one coast and 82 degrees on the other? I waddle off the plane at LAX with my winter coat tucked under my armpit and no clue where to put it for the next two weeks.

I spend my afternoons basking in the glow of the California sun, until it leaves us stranded. Cut off shorts feel like a bad idea after 8 p.m. I honestly consider pulling out that winter coat. That sudden drop in temperature happens year-round in LA and makes it impossible to pack accordingly.

The bicostal temperature difference in the summer is almost just as bad. California summers are brilliant and beautiful. New York summers are the perfect temperature to find a well air-conditioned public space. You can't where clothes that cling to you when it's 85+ in New York, but the nights are something else. It's the only relief from the heat and people are out. Meanwhile, in LA, I'm packing a sweater for a dinner date in August.

Landing and hoping you're appropriately dressed for whatever outside has to offer is one of the gnarliest things about bouncing from coast to coast.

But at the end of the day, I'm more glad than annoyed that the two biggest US cities are uniquely their own. I'm happy I have the opportunity to experience the quirks of either coast and can navigate the world with both the tenacity of a New Yorker and the coolness of a Californian.