50 Ways to Know You’re from California

Randy's Donuts

Some things are uniquely Californian.

Although I was born and raised in New York City and its suburbs, now that I’ve been living in California for 20 years, I feel like a native.  It seems a bit strange to say such a thing, particularly since I remember that when I arrived in the Bay Area in the ‘90s, I thought it looked a lot like New Jersey.  The homogenization of America notwithstanding, I still believe that each region has maintained at least a few quirks and peculiarities.

This makes me think of one of my favorite novels, E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.  Her protagonist, who moves from upstate New York to his ancestral home in Canada’s Newfoundland, initially experiences a bit of a culture shock.  However, he realizes that he has finally made the transition when he orders fried bologna for breakfast at a diner and one of his new friends remarks “You have gone native!”

You know you’re from California when . . .

  1. You’ve eaten bok choy and jicama… at the same meal.
  2. You know what a California stop is, and you have the ticket to prove it.
  3. You know the difference between Pico de Gallo and Coto de Caza.
  4. You pronounce the Spanish names of California cities without a trace of a Spanish accent.
  5. You don’t think pineapple as a pizza topping is strange.
  6. You really do know the way to San José.
  7. You write “San Jose” without the Spanish accent mark.
  8. You like avocado on all your sandwiches.
  9. When you want an avocado for your sandwich, you go out to the back yard and pick one off the tree.
  10. You refer to every expressway or parkway as a “freeway.”
  11. You don’t refer to numbered highways as “routes,” but you preface every highway number with the word “the” (“the 99,” “the 101”).
  12. You’ve been to Disneyland more than five times… as an adult.
  13. You can explain in detail the driving route to Mexico, although you’ve never actually been there.
  14. You’ve eaten at Pea Soup Andersen’s… both of them.
  15. You know the Grapevine isn’t in a vineyard.
  16. You’ve been stuck on the Grapevine in a snowstorm more than once.
  17. You know where the State of Jefferson is located.
  18. When someone asks you for directions to Stateline, you say “The one in Tahoe, or the one down by Vegas?”
  19. You know the correct pronunciation of “La Jolla.”
  20. You have mandatory earthquake preparedness drills at work and at school.
  21. You know what the EDD is (and you’re glad you do).
  22. You know what the FTB is (and you wish you didn’t).
  23. You know which roads into Yosemite are open in the winter.
  24. You get angry when anyone mentions “high speed rail.”
  25. You know the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but you think Niagara Falls must be pretty close to Manhattan because they’re both in New York.
  26. You drive for 12 hours without crossing state lines. (Oh, all right, some Texans can also do this.)
  27. You know the difference between Rancho Cordova and Rancho Cucamonga.
  28. You don’t think that Santa Clara is Santa Claus’ wife.
  29. You’ve FAXed yourself to work.
  30. When someone says they’re from the South Bay, you say “which one?”
  31. You know how to get from Milpitas to San Francisco and back without paying a toll.
  32. You’ve had to install snow chains on your tires to get to the beach in Santa Cruz.
  33. You think sourdough bread is one of the five food groups.
  34. You don’t think that Shasta is a brand of soda.
  35. You know what “the palm and the pine” means… and you know how to get there.
  36. You’ve seen scorpions, black widow spiders and snakes… and all of them were in your house.
  37. You know the difference between Chino and Chico.
  38. You got a DUI from the CHP on the PCH.
  39. You think poppy seeds belong in your garden, not on a bagel.
  40. You know where to find the “Sun Fun Stay Play” and “Water Wealth Contentment Health” signs.
  41. When you book an “Oceanside” room, you expect it to be near San Diego.
  42. You’ve eaten garlic flavored ice cream.
  43. They stole your peaches at the ag station.
  44. You like eating pomegranate seeds.
  45. You don’t know what Hellmann’s mayonnaise is.
  46. You know the difference between carne asada and carne adobada even though you can’t speak a word of Spanish.
  47. You’ve been cruising, but you’ve never heard of a midnight buffet.
  48. You know what “Cyn” stands for.
  49. You think formal dress means wearing socks.
  50. You pay a five-cent deposit on a soda bottle but only get 2½ cents back when you turn it in to the recycling center.
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4 thoughts on “50 Ways to Know You’re from California

    • Absolutely, Rachel! Each summer, garlic ice cream is a popular feature at northern California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival. Gilroy, which is in the Bay Area, bills itself as “garlic capital of the world.” Judging by the olfactory assault when one passes through town on Highway 152, I would have to agree! Garlic ice cream is also on the menu all year round at The Stinking Rose restaurant in Los Angeles, which is where I tried it (prior to my vegan days, of course). It is made with vanilla ice cream and whole cloves of garlic. Let’s just say that it is quite powerful. My tongue was burning!

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