The ultimate guide for incoming [So]Californians


“Why is everything ‘problematic’? Didn’t we just pass a Dunkin’ Donuts? WHERE IS THE 101?”

Welcome, Californian* freshies! And fret not, my pretties, for while you have entered the realm of brazen taxi drivers and actual seasons, the East Coast is a happy little place, albeit quite different from your home back West! You may have already noticed some striking differences, and perhaps some subtler ones. Certainly, we can all agree that the vibes are mad different. The disparities might not be as apparent while you are on College Hill; Brown nicely accommodates people of all backgrounds and origins— I mean, c’mon, it’s Brown. Venture out of the bubble, however, and things become rather odd. I will do my best to try and help you navigate this new land and become familiar with some common trends.

*Let me clarify that I am in no way negating Northern California’s existence. As a SoCal native, my knowledge and advice is limited to my home turf. No discrimination here.

Prepare to dismantle stereotypes, because most of us actually have not met Brad Pitt:

Oh look, it’s not us!

Upon hearing that you are from California, especially SoCal, your peers will most likely ask, “Do you go to the beach like every other day?” “How many movie sets have you stumbled upon?” and “So if you’re from California, why aren’t you tan?” It’s like they expect everyone’s lives to be an ongoing episode of The Hills. Sadly, though, this is real life, not an excellent TV show. Most of us don’t really go to the beach that often because traffic is a bitch, sand is an even bigger one, and let’s face it—we’re caught up enough in our busy lives as it is. After all, college tuition ain’t gonna pay itself! Hollywood is nice and all, but it’s always flooded with disoriented tourists and one too many Marilyn Monroes. Beverly Hills is a blast… if you enjoy overpriced froyo and sycophantic store employers. 

Oh, and for the record, you might have to emphasize that no, you do not own a Chihuahua or a Fendi purse or a Chihuahua in a Fendi purse.

Dealing with slang appropriation (your intonation in “hella” is hella wrong)


While people may associate the Californian vernacular with vapidity, they are awfully quick in adopting it. You bet I’m judging. As a Southern Californian, you get used to hearing “valley girl” talk on a daily basis, and eventually find that it’s actually quite endearing.  Northerners are also accustomed to the word “hella” getting thrown into every other sentence (see, I didn’t forget about you guys). But, when you listen to a Bostonian implementing words like “chillin” and “gnarly,” for example, you can’t help but to feel a tad uneasy. Maybe the context is way off, or maybe they just done gone butchered the word. Don’t worry though, because you’ll be doing the same thing!  It may have begun already. Are most points your peers make “valid” or “problematic”?  Is your professor “wicked” smart? Has “definitely” become an inextricable part of your being? If so, your East Coast renaissance has begun!

Rude people, but not really

We will cut you… a slice of cake.

We need to get something straight. The people on the East Coast are not all rude, and they’re not all on a mission to darken your laid-back, tie-dyed California point of view. In fact, it’s rude of you to think everyone here is rude just because the cashier at Chipotle didn’t smile extra hard when handing you your burrito. In general, East Coasters are more assertive and outspoken than people in California, and they will call you out on your BS. It might take you a while to get used to their frequently employed sarcasm and/or dry sense of humor, but just go with the flow, like a good Californian. Plus, you’ll see a side to the world that you’d miss out on if you hadd stayed in California. I mean, have you tried the clam chowder here? One bowl is enough to cure your In n’ Out blues.

North Face, Loafers, and Cuban cigars: A Facebook Tale

People actually look like this

He’s on a boat. She’s on a boat. Their flippin’ cat is on a boat. We Californians might love our colorful beaches and surfboards, but East Coasters love their lakes, rivers, and aquatic sports even more— as reflected on their Facebook pages. Your new friends from the East Coast will have profiles that may strike you as weird, but you will learn many helpful East Coast pointers from them. For instance, who knew crew was such a big deal over here? And J. Crew, for that matter. And apparently Martha’s Vineyard isn’t named after Martha Stewart— who knew? Another prominent trend here, especially among the affluent, is posing with a big ass cigar. In the vicinity of a boat. But this way of flashing wealth isn’t unique to the East Coast. Out West the boat would be an Escalade, and Martha’s Vineyard would be a post-modernist home in Bel Air.

Where’s downtow-oh, we’re already here…

Ain’t she a beauty?

If you’ve ever taken the metro, or even worse, driven to downtown LA, you know how painful an undertaking the voyage can be. There’s just something about the placement and distribution of downtown that makes it inaccessible, even for those who live nearby. The nice thing about Rhode Island is that downtown Providence is so close by, at walking distance from campus. Downtown Providence is much tinier than downtown LA, but it makes for a cozy atmosphere. The quaint little streets will warm your heart, and the art scene is booming. And it’s more tolerable than downtown LA in the sense that it’s not as overwhelming, and the local hipsters are actually not insufferable.

Walking is hard

Like, really hard

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you will walk more on a daily basis here than you’ve ever walked back home. This might just be a college thing, but if you’ve ever visited UCLA or Stanford, you know that more people use bikes, skateboards, and Vespas there than they do here at Brown. You will also see more people walking on the sidewalks in Rhode Island than you do in a typical Cali city, but that’s a good thing! Walking is excellent for your health, even if it’s a drag— if you’re not used to it, your feet will hurt the day after, and they might swell up to resemble those of a hobbit. Look at the bright side, though— all this walking will give you killer legs unlike anything that pilates class on the beach can offer. There are a few things to be particularly wary of, though. The sidewalks here tend to be rocky and uneven. Some are so extremely narrow that you have to walk them in a single-filed fashion. Drivers on the East Coast are notorious for driving like mad men, and there is a complete disregard for pedestrian rights. If you lack coordination to begin with, may the odds be ever in your favor.

“Should I not be wearing Uggs right now?”: Wardrobe existential crises

Who am I?

Californians love their Toms and find them painful to part with, but it must be done when it starts getting cold. Toms are fashionable and comfortable, but frostbite isn’t. You might wonder if Uggs are the better option, then. Sure, the general consensus is that Uggs are never the better option, but in California they are at least acceptable when it starts getting chilly. Sometimes, you might even see them worn on the beach during the summer along with short shorts, and they’re still OK. Alas, East Coasters are not as lenient in the Uggs department. There seems to be an overall aversion toward Uggs. So yeah, they make your feet look like those on your 2nd grade drawings, but they’re extremely comfortable and warm. And, screw conventions right?! You can wear leopard print crocs if you damn want to.

Winter is coming 

...but not Jon Snow unfortunately

…but not Jon Snow unfortunately

Finally, you may have heard it millions of times already, but it cannot be stressed enough: on the East Coast, there is actually a stark distinction between summer and winter. Crazy, I know. Winter strikes at the start of November. You will witness barren trees (as barren as your pre-finals soul), a lot of snow, and a lot of runny noses. First and foremost, you need to forget everything you learned about winter from ABC Family Christmas movies. Yeah, you can go ahead and spend your day making snow angels and building forts and having snowball fights, but the fun is short-lived. Snow sticks, and it’s dirty, and it melts once you’re indoors. Oh, and forget about curling or straightening your hair, sista/brotha. Hair does not respond well to freezing temperatures. You’ll fare best putting a beanie on that shit and calling it a day. Speaking of which, beanies, earmuffs, scarves, and gloves are invaluable accessories. You’ll want to keep as much of your body covered as possible. Invest in one good down coat, one that is long enough to cover your legs, and a sturdy pair of snow boots. And remember, layering is key; you can not have too many thermal shirts, socks, and fuzzy leggings. You might be surprised at all the different places your body can get chilly.

It will be perfectly natural for you to shed a few tears at first as you suffer from beach and Disneyland withdrawals. “California knows how to party”, and you can’t argue with 2Pac’s logic. But, I can guarantee you that Brown’s amazing community, and Gail’s prolonged “hellos”, will quickly heal your wounds.

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