5 Fundamental Errors Transplants Make When Moving to Los Angeles

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“Please don’t move here” is a refrain you’ll often come across on comment sections of local blogs, subreddits, and message boards whenever the discussion of transplants moving to Los Angeles comes up.

I get it.


Transplants are an easy scapegoat for traffic, high rents, and other issues of overcrowding that Angelenos face in their day-to-day lives.

But as a rule I think it’s a good thing that people want to move to L.A.

In fact I would be more worried if people were actively fleeing Los Angeles because it would a death knell for the future of where we live.

To me, a city’s character and greatness is defined by its people. The more talented, unique, smart, hard-working folks we add to the mix, the better off we’ll all be. And the greater the demand is to move here, the more of those kinds of people we can attract.

Makes sense, right?

That said, I want the prospective transplants to have a clear understanding of what they’re getting in for.

I started thinking about what mistakes people make when they first move here, drawing on my own experience, stories from friends and the countless doe-eyed threads from people looking for advice on the transition to L.A.

In the end I came up it’s a list of five overarching points of what not to do when moving to L.A.

There are my thoughts.

[RELATED10 Tips on Moving to Los Angeles Every Future Transplant Needs to Know]

Kenneth Hahn View of DTLA
A view of downtown from Kenneth Hahn Recreational Area. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

1. Asssuming L.A. is Like any other Big City

Human beings are hard-wired to learn from experience (though it may not seem like it all the time). I think the issue is sometimes we misapply what we learn and/or assume that a particular set of experiences will seamlessly translate to a new, somewhat related challenge.

Well, you know what they say about assumptions…

Don’t be arrogant about what you think you know about Los Angeles because, well, there’s a good chance you’re wrong. Experience living in San Francisco, Chicago, or even New York won’t inform you on some of the challenges of living in the city of angels.

By the very nature of it’s newness (relative to other major U.S. cities), geography, and urban planning that’s totally reliant on the automobile, L.A. is an absolutely unique (and massive) beast to attempt to get your arms around.

Start by admitting ignorance, and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

2. Underestimating the Cost of Living

The cost of living in Los Angeles is pretty harrowing.

If you tell someone you’re moving to L.A. without an identifiable source of income (in most cases, a job), you’re going to get a serious eye-roll.

If any part of your strategy involves crashing on a couch until you figure out to find find a “decent one-bedroom in a nice neighborhood for under $1000” you’ll be laughed out the door.

Researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs have found L.A. to be the most unaffordable rental market in the country, with Angelenos, on average, paying about 47% of their income on rent.

I guess my point is you need to recognize your budgetary restrictions right off the bat and ensure your expectations line up with reality.

101 Freeway Traffic
Typical day-time traffic on the 101 moving through DTLA. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

3. Miscalculating Your Commute

Unless you’re one of the lucky folks who gets to work from home, you’ll be dealing with some sort of commute.

And guess what? Everything you’ve ever heard about how nasty Los Angeles traffic, it’s all true.

Five miles in another city might mean a 5 minute commute. In L.A., it could be 90 minutes, depending on the time of day.

The easiest way to mitigate this is by choosing a residence / apartment / home that’s in close proximity to where you work. Seriously, I can’t underscore how important that factor is.

In fact I’d go as far as to say if I had to give only one piece of advice for everyone moving to L.A. it would be simply, “Live near your work.”

Of course understanding that circumstances and budgets being what they may, not everyone is afforded that opportunity.

For those, here are a few strategies for mitigating the traffic hurdles of our city.


And no matter where you decide to live in L.A., make sure you vet your choice by asking these 10 essential questions.

4. Staying in a Bubble

One of the major consequences of L.A.’s sprawl is that it tends to marginalize exploration of the neighborhoods you don’t normally frequent. We all kind of nestle into our tribal regions, and there we stay, locked into our routines.

Many westsiders never make it past La Cienega. I know people in WeHo who abhor the notion of getting within shouting distance of the 10 or the 405.

I get that everyone is entitled to their own approach when it comes to how and where they spend their time, but if you make the effort to explore and get outside your comfort zone, your experience of Los Angeles will be 10 times richer than the average Joe Angeleno.

So where to start?

Here are couple ideas:

(and I promise you, if you read through these you’ll realize how much more L.A. has to offer than all the touristy stuff you normally see)

Exploring Griffith Park
Exploring Griffith Park is one of the many joys of living in Los Angeles. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

5. Failing to Have a Plan

My closing point is something that applies universally when moving to any new locale, but is particularly relevant when making the leap to a city as challenging to live in as L.A.

Have a plan. Like, seriously. Have a plan. Otherwise you might as well pack it in right now and move back home.

For me, it comes down to the basics: who, what, where, why, how.

Start with the obvious…. the where. Los Angeles. Duh!

But why are you moving here? Is there some burning desire you need to fulfill? Is there a dream to pursue? Was it simply that L.A. offered the best school you could get into or perhaps the job offer with the highest salary was in SoCal? Are you simply bored?

First and foremost, you should understand what’s motivating your move because that motivation is what will carry you through if and when you face hurdles along the way (you will).


And if the motivation is weak or labored or in any way half-ass, maybe step back and reconsider what you’re doing in the first place.

Assuming you’re sure about the transition, what specifically are you hoping to accomplish? And, just as importantly, is there a specific timeframe you are aiming to achieve it in? The first step is getting what you want is knowing what you want.

Once you verbalize what it is that you want and can identify your source of motivation to achieve it,  you can begin plotting out the how. That’s the real work. The nitty-gritty of plotting logistics and budgets and tasks and to-dos. If you can make it this far with your plan, you’re ahead of 99% of people who ultimately decide to move to Los Angeles.

Finally, remember that just as a city is defined by it’s people, a life is defined in relationship to others.

Our hopes, dreams, goals, jobs, and pretty much any experience you can think is either reflected in, shared with, enhanced because of or hindered by the people we meet and interact with along the way.

So be good to each other.

Oh, and good luck in your move!


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