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What they say: What do you do?
What they mean: Do you have any industry connections?
Everybody in Los Angeles is interested in the film industry. Since it’s all about who you know, almost every time someone at a party or meeting (or restaurant) asks about your job, they’re thinly veiling a request to see if you can introduce them to your work colleague the line producer, who just HAPPENS to be working on the next Breaking Bad.
What they say: I’d like a number two, animal style, extra fries.
What they mean: I want my burger with mustard baked into the patty, extra spread, and grilled onions, In-N-Out employee.
In-N-Out, the ubiquitously delicious Californian burger chain, offers a very simple menu pasted on the wall of their shops: hamburger, cheeseburger, French fries, shakes. For those in the know, however, there is an entire “secret menu” that includes variations like number of patties, cooking options, and even vegetarian options for those who don’t enjoy the meat in their cheeseburger.
What they say: Oh, you live in the Valley?
What they mean: Where even is that?
The San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles proper, is cheaper, hotter, and further away from the cool stuff happening than most Angelenos want to be. I lived in North Hollywood (nothing whatsoever to do with Hollywood), and it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to come out and visit. Understandable — Pasadena and North Hollywood, two neighbourhoods in the Valley that are literally 20 minutes apart by car, are unreachable by public transit without going all the way downtown and all the way back out again. You might as well be in Northern California, and we all know how Angelenos feel about people from San Francisco.
What they say: It’s so nice to meet you! We’ll definitely have lunch, I’ll call you.
What they mean: I’ve already forgotten your name.
My experience in Los Angeles was that people were very enthusiastic about spending time with you if they thought you had industry connections…otherwise it was all talk, little follow-through. Everyone is pretty busy and time is money; Angelenos know not to expect a real connection out of every meeting and understand that you’re just being friendly. Visitors might think they’ve made a new best friend and get confused over why they never get a text back.
What they say: There was a Sigalert for the 405, so take the PCH to the 10 to the 110 and meet me in Chinatown.
What they mean: Highway 405 is at a standstill, so follow the Pacific Coast Highway to I-10, which connects to I-110.
Every Angeleno I know has extended conversations about directions, literally every time they are trying to get somewhere. Since they spend roughly 80% of their days driving, a lot of recognizable shorthand has arisen. Only people from SoCal refer to freeways with a definite article (“the” 10 instead of “highway 10”) and most will give you complicated directions that vary based on time of day. “Sigalerts” are traffic warnings issued by news media. You’ll never run out of conversation topics with traffic to talk about.
What they say: Let’s get some tacos!
What they mean: Let’s get some tacos!
Everybody likes tacos. And you can often get them from somebody’s abuela on a portable cart on the street corner for a dollar apiece. Her carnitas will melt in your mouth. Yum.