So, what’s Los Angeles really like? Ever since the Netflix show You and the movie Marriage Story (written by New Yorkers, just saying) have made it a point to highlight the lowlights of the City of Angels, it’s a question I get a lot. But it’s not a new question. Los Angeles is a strange place to have chosen as a person from the Netherlands. Don’t get me wrong: moving abroad as a Dutchie is perfectly normal. To London. Or Paris. Or Madrid. Even New York or Boston. But choosing LA is a little out there. Choosing LA says something about your personality. Because LA is Hollywood. LA is plastic surgery. LA is everything Amsterdam is not. It’s big, perpetually sunny, spacious, mountainous, has no real city centre, a grid-like layout, sparse public transportation, mostly post-19th Century architecture, and the car as the main form of transportation. It’s where people dream big and loud. Amsterdam is rainy, small, flat, has one city center, a circular maze-like layout, the world’s best public transportation, mostly pre-17th Century architecture, and the bicycle as the main form of transportation. Oh, and the motto is “just be normal, then you’re crazy enough.”
I’m sure the fascination behind the question “what’s LA like” therefore is part sincere. But the other part, perhaps, is the expectation of the answer that You and Marriage Story have provided. That LA is fake and shallow. A cultural wasteland. A tacky summer postcard inhabited by botoxed Barbies and imported palm trees. A smoggy suburb of full freeways and empty souls.
And relax, I’m not here to climb into the role of Defender of Los Angeles. As many LA transplants do, I both hate and love LaLaLand. Sometimes simultaneously. Honestly, I could write a book about LA and it inhabitants. But alas, I will not, since I am busy being an Angeleno cliché: working on a screenplay. I will attempt to condense my thoughts to a Millennial cliché though: a blog post. Here it goes, assumption by assumption…
So what is LA really, like, really, like?