Dos and Don'ts

Social Etiquette: Business and personal interactions in Los Angeles are usually marked by a cheerful, breezy courtesy and lack of confrontation.

Dress: "California casual is about looking trendy. This doesn't mean a T-shirt and jeans or shorts and flip-flops; dressing to go out or eat out in L.A. is all about dressing up your jeans with great accessories, like a hip handbag or shoes. The look may be 'casual,' but there's nothing easy, or inexpensive about it."—Mari Florence, publisher, Hungry? Los Angeles. Because of the temperate weather and casual vibe, most anything goes, fashion- (and modesty-) wise: You'll see short skirts, stiletto heels, bare dresses, even bikini tops.

Road Etiquette: Because no one really gets anywhere without a car in Los Angeles, road manners are essential. Be as polite on the road as you would in person: Do not rely excessively on your horn, cut off other cars, tailgate, or—for your own protection—express road rage.

Parking Etiquette: Don't steal parking spots. If you use valet parking (usually $5 and up), remember to tip the valet ($1 to $2), unless there is a "no tip" rule in effect.

Special Freeway/Road Features: California streets often have a middle lane denoted by a broken yellow line: Move into this lane before making left-hand turns. In heavy traffic, freeway meters are in effect at some on-ramps; stop and wait for a green light before proceeding. The carpool lane is the left-most lane of the freeway; enter it only if you have one or more passengers (some lanes require two or more), or risk hefty fines.

Celebrities: Celebrity-spotting is very much alive and well in L.A. Angelenos freely use the words "somebody" and "nobody" to denote notables versus non-notables. If you see a crowd of gawkers, media, or both, it's a good bet "somebody" is there.

Phrase Book

Bueno: Good, in Spanish

Hella: Extra, extra good, as in "that's hella cool"

The "405": Freeways are referred to by number, not "highway" or "route"

California stop: A lazy driver's rolling pause at a red light or stop sign

Where do you live?: The thinly disguised screener for the start of every new relationship

Who do you know?: Badly disguised notion that who you know defines who you are—or at least whether you can help the person you're talking to in some way

What do you really do?: Playful belief that every server, salesperson, or fill-in-the-blank serviceperson is really an aspiring actor, screenwriter, filmmaker, or musician

L.A. breakup: The practice of drifting apart, rather than confronting a relationship-ending issue between friends or lovers

"Eastside" versus "Westside": Opposing halves of the city. Dividing line is thought to be La Cienega Boulevard, or Fairfax or La Brea Avenues

WeHo: West Hollywood

NoHo: North Hollywood

SanMo: Santa Monica

South Bay: Southlying beach communities: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach

The Valley: San Fernando Valley


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