I am not a California native. I was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. However, after living in Southern California for close to five years, I have gotten used to one of the common words and phrases used here. Some of these are not California-specific, and can aid any non-native English speaker in communicating with or understanding others on the West Coast.
“Angeleno” is a noun, and represents a native or inhabitant of Los Angeles. This is sometimes used for those living outside of Los Angeles, if they are still in the Los Angeles region. Even city documents will mention implementing changes for Angelenos.
“Cali” is an abbreviation of “California” that only non-Californians use. Nearly every other U.S. state calls California “Cali,” but Californians hate this. Avoid using “Cali” if you want to seem like a native Californian.
“Rad” was used more frequently by Californians a few years ago, but you may still hear it today. This is used as an adjective to describe something that is cool. Northern Californians often say “hella rad”, meaning very cool.
“Gnarly” is used predominantly by surfers in California, but because I lived in Huntington Beach for a few years (also known as Surf City), I have heard it quite a bit. Gnarly is often used to describe good waves, and can also be used to describe something that is cool. Gnarly, rad, and “sick,” are interchangeable slang terms, that are generally used in a positive way.
If someone is excited for something, you may hear them say that they are “stoked.” But if they are not stoked, they may “bail,” meaning that they will skip something; not show up, or leave. This phrase is heard in California but can be heard in certain places around the United States.
While many states use the saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” California generally does not get rain in the Spring. Instead, you will hear, “June gloom” in California. This refers to the sky being cloudy and overcast most of the day, especially in the mornings. By July, Southern California usually returns to its normal sunny self.
As a California native, I know Californians often take pride in where we are from using terms such as NorCal for Northern California, Bay Area, CenCal for Central California, and SoCal for Southern California to represent our hometowns. All of these have their own unique identity that make these terms special because of the culture, diversity, agriculture, scenery, national parks, and overall history of these areas we live in.
NorCal, a region located in northern California, is most easily recognized by the city of Sacramento, the state capital where Arnold Schwarzenegger once served as the governor. Aside from the capital, NorCal is also known for being a “foodie heaven”- as the birthplace of the farm-to-table movement, home of wine country, and the location of four of the 12 restaurants to receive three Michelin-stars in the United States. It houses the largest railroad museum in North America where restored engines and cars are exhibited. It is home to some of the tallest trees in the world located in Redwood National Park. In addition to these infamous trees, this region has one of the largest concentrations of ski resorts in the world in the city of Tahoe. With an abundance of outdoor activities available year-round and gastronomy culture, NorCal a great place to visit if the great outdoors and food are your thing.
The Bay Area is a region located along the northern coast of the Pacific around the San Francisco Bay, Oakland and San Jose. Significant landmarks include the notorious prison of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Aside from these landmarks, cable cars and Levi’s jeans were invented here. One of the oldest and most established Chinatown’s in the United States is located here, with origins dating back to the Gold Rush. Controversial claims about the invention of fortune cookies were created in this Chinatown area as well. The Bay Area is also home to Stanford, one of the world’s leading research universities. One section of the Bay Area, known as Silicon Valley, houses some of the top tech companies of the world including Google, Facebook, Apple, and Tesla. While this developed tech sector makes the Bay Area the most expensive region in the United States, it is still a paradise for anyone looking to get into a major tech company.
Though CenCal is a region often overlooked because of its location, it is not lacking in culture and identity. Known as the Great Valley of California, agriculture is the primary industry producing an array of fruits and vegetables with Fresno proclaiming itself as the ‘Raisin Capital of the World’. The world’s largest trees are located at Sequoia National Park and the highest peak in the lower 48 states, is Mount Whitney. Of all the universities in California, the latest one was built in Merced, located near Yosemite National Park. It is a major tourist attraction and famous for the Half Dome where The North Face apparel company fashions its company logo from. In Madera, the Fossil Discovery Center is the site of one of the largest middle-Pleistocene fossil excavations in North America; while in Atwater, the Castle Air Museum has the largest display of military aircraft in the state. Although known by few, CenCal is surrounded by everything and growing.
SoCal is known for many reasons, from the bright lights of Hollywood, to Disneyland, to the San Diego Zoo. Aside from these attractions, Los Angeles is the only city in California to have all four major professional sports and previously hosted the Summer Olympics of 1984 and will again in the year 2028. The world’s first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in 1940 in San Bernardino and has spread throughout the world, while In-N-Out Burger has become an icon eatery of SoCal. Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest places in America, with the lowest point below sea level being located there as well. Fallbrook is known as the Avocado Capital of the World. With more than 150 breweries, San Diego held the title of Craft Beer Capital of America, crafting flavors of all sorts. With so much to do in SoCal, it is ideal for anyone regardless of age.
Each part of California is unique and different, with a rich history and culture that distinguishes the differences amongst each area, California is truly a state like no other, a place for anyone who plans to visit or live.
Jason is first year of graduate school majoring in Social Work. He was born in Fresno, CA but raised in Merced, CA. He comes from a huge family with parents who are immigrants of the Vietnam war. Because of this, Jason understands the importance of education and the struggles some may go through to achieve their education. Shortly after high school, Jason joined the Marines, serving for nearly 10 years. While in the Marines, he had the opportunity to travel the world and experience the various cultures showing him how important the English language is to some. In his free time, Jason likes to train martial arts and workout for mud obstacles races such as Tough Mudder and Spartan. He loves the outdoors such as hiking and camping. Aside from the outdoors, Jason often likes to keep up with current events and research what is happening around the world to help him get a better understanding of world conflict. He looks forward to working with international students and being a support for them by showing them they belong her
By going to school at USC you are essentially surrounded by every type of environment. You have beaches, mountains, deserts, and forests. With just a little bit of an adventurous spirit there are a plethora of activities that you can participate in. Surfing, skiing, hiking, and biking are just a few of these. Los Angeles is a truly special place to call home for a couple of years.
During one weekend last year some friends and I decided to go camping. We didn’t know where we wanted to go, so a simple Google search directed us to a spot in Northern California called Big Sur. It was roughly five hours away by car, and we planned a fun road trip and subsequent camping experience.
We left early Saturday morning form Los Angeles and hit a steady rhythm of 80mph until we got past Ventura. Once I looked up from the road I couldn’t stop.
Waves formed and fell in magnificent fashion along the still dimly lit coastline. I could see the dedicated dawn patrol surfers floating in the water and riding glassy high crested waves.
The sunrise was starting to sparkle off of the water and we decided to keep pushing onward. By the time we had reached Morro Bay I had to stop.
We ate breakfast at a small diner while giving sideways glances at the giant behemoth rock jutting from the ocean.
Morro Bay is in an area called San Luis Obispo, about an hour and a half past Santa Barbara.
Although the drive could get tiresome at times the PCH, otherwise known as highway 1, makes for magnificent scenery. I would highly recommend driving during sunrise or sunset. The Channel Islands hug the coastline and for me elicited thoughts of adventure. Each island is big enough to be it’s own trip, with Catalina Island being the most industrialized.
I pondered about the Channel Islands while I ate my eggs and toast in Morro Bay. The waitress filled up the stained white mug at my table, and I sipped on the piping hot coffee. People were starting to slowly file into the small diner. First, the elderly came for their early breakfast and tea, and then young couples with small children. We watched all of this from a booth by the window. It felt like we were in our own world.