In the weeks leading up to my move from California to Massachusetts, my parents continuously asked if I was at all nervous.
And every time I simply thought, why would I be? I’m just going to school on another coast with students from all over the place? I thought I wouldn’t be in for any surprises. Turns out, New England culture is a lot different than the Golden State. The shock started the weekend I flew in to spend some days in the Boston area with my mom, and has continued hitting me each day here at Amherst.
Here are the top eight differences I have noticed between California and New England culture:
Food: Both coasts are obviously huge on the fresh seafood, but one thing I am definitely missing from California is the authentic Mexican food. Taquerias are nowhere near as frequently found in Massachusetts, let alone western Massachusetts, where Amherst is. On the note of ethnic food, Asian food, from pho to sushi to dim sum, is also big in California (in particular the Bay Area). However, this isn’t to say Massachusetts doesn’t also have its share of flavor. After just a few hours roaming around Boston, it became apparent that cannolis are a big deal there. Also, the Italian and Mediterranean cuisine I’ve tried in Massachusetts has been extremely good as well, which are not nearly as popular in California.
Slang: From what I’ve noticed thus far, there isn’t really glaring slang used in Massachu- setts, other than the word “wicked” being used frequently. However, my California “hella”s and “so like”s stand out way more now than before. I was actually quite taken aback when someone asked me to explain what it meant (for those who don’t know, “hella” is a replacement for “very”).
Driving Habits: Drivers in New England are maniacs. There’s no nicer way to put it.
Driving at a minimum of 80-90 mph just to keep up with the flow of traffic is not normal in California. Sure, drivers still cut each other off in their rush to get to work, but nobody is just gunning it 40 mph over the speed limit on a regular basis. It seems to just add to the New England attitude of not caring what anyone else thinks of what you’re doing.
Weather: It blows my mind that New England actually has four seasons. I’ve only been here for a month and I have had to put away my tank tops and flip flops. In California, you could get through the “winter” with a hoodie, maybe a North Face pullover if you really needed. I’m starting to get the feeling that I’ll need to look like a marshmallow to survive December here.
Dressing Style: The difference here probably has to do with the versatility in weather on the East Coast, but nevertheless, people dress so nice in New England. Cashmere sweaters, plaid shirts, suede boots—the preppy look is so well executed. In California, people are in their Brandy Melville crop tops, Hurley T-shirts, and Rainbows year round—not to say the casual look isn’t cute in its own right, but there’s something really nice about seeing people in scarves as the weather starts to cool down here.
Touristy Stuff: Everything tourist-related I walked past in Boston had to do with Paul Revere or the Founding Fathers or some monumental event in the initial development in American history. I actually saw a tour guide dressed in the traditional colonial breeches, cloak, cravat, and fancy hat out in broad daylight. American pride is so real out here in New England since so many of the events in colonial history took place here.
In California, however, the tourism scene is very different. People love to go see the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, and Alcatraz in the north, and The Hollywood Sign, Walk of Fame, and San Diego beaches in the south. Another thing the East Coast has none of are the missions from the Spanish colonization of California. These litter the state and are big attractions for religious and nonreligious tourists alike.
Attitude: The stark difference between the laid-back California life and the “no chill” hardcore attitude of a New Eng- lander continues to surprise me. A classic example using academics is how everyone in California could be considered a procrastinator, do- ing their papers the night before they’re due, while a Massachusetts kid will be ahead and already do- ing next week’s homework. Also, I was particularly shocked by how New Englanders will say what’s on their mind, even at the risk of sounding rude; Californians like to see themselves as “polite,” but they are basically acting fake to avoid confrontation.
Ethnic Makeup: There are lots of white people in Massachusetts. A lot. Not that California doesn’t have its share of white people, but compare 73.5 percent white (as reported by the US Census Bureau 2015) in Massachusetts, to 38 percent in California. California also has more foreign-born people, including Hispanics/Latinos and Asians. Were I not spending most of my time on a diverse college campus, I’d be having a major ethnic shock. The lack of ethnic diversity present in Massachusetts adds to underlying threats of racism and discrimination that are more likely to occur.