What do tourists think of Angelenos? We asked around

Pedestrians on the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard on August 11. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

This summer we started asking readers to submit their most urgent business questions over Los Angeles and California.

Then we put the questions to a vote, allowing readers to decide which question we would answer in story form.

Our latest winner was submitted by Blanca Trenado, a lawyer living in West Hollywood: “How do tourists perceive Angelenos? What do we look like / feel like to them? “

I love to travel – and I happen to write the Times’ Escape Bulletin – I was therefore particularly enthusiastic about the idea of ​​delving into this subject. I called Trenado to find out more about why she asked this question.

“I always hear, when I meet people from elsewhere, ‘Oh, that’s something in LA’ or ‘Oh, you’re so LA’, but it always comes from people who live elsewhere,” Trenado explained. .

She heard it at a recent party in LA where some of the guests were visitors from New York. One person must have asked a friend to check her phone for her, saying, “I can’t take my gloves off, because of my outfit. Another member of the circle said, “Oh, my God, this is the most LA thing I have ever heard. “

“It makes me wonder if you actually experience this in LA or [is this a] preconceived notion? ”Trenade asked.

In other words, to what extent is tourists’ perception of Angelenos influenced by the expectations they bring with them? Is it even possible to separate the two?

Of course, it is difficult to speak of “tourists” in a group. “Visitors to LA could be people from San Diego County or Humboldt, or they could be from outside California or outside the United States,” said Mechelle Best, chair of the management department. of Cal State Northridge Recreation and Tourism. “Their perceptions of Angelenos may differ due to their own background. “

Likewise, there is no typical Angeleno. “Does this mean someone who was born and raised in LA, or does it mean meeting someone who moved to LA last year?” Best asked.

LA is a diverse place, home to some of the richest zip codes in the country, but with a median household income of $ 62,142 and 18% of the population living below the poverty line. Almost half of the population identifies in census data as Hispanic or Latino, while Asian residents and Black residents represent 11% and 9% of the population, respectively.

When people like the partygoers in Trenado describe something like “so LA,” they tend to have a more specific image in mind. It starts with the lifestyle, considered ultra health conscious but also glamorous and trendy, said Don Skeoch, director of marketing at Discover Los Angeles, the region’s tourist board.

“They believe everyone gets up at 6 am and we all have our half-coffee soy milk chai latte. And then from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., we either go to yoga class or to Pilates class. Then we work from 9 to 12, ”said Skeoch, who explained that Discover Los Angeles has held focus groups around the world to learn more about potential visitors to LA.

“Then at noon we have to rush to an energetic lunch, whatever it is … And at 5 o’clock we are all on a roof somewhere having a glass of rose and watching the sunset. . “

Linked to this image is a common – and off-base – assumption about what the average Angeleno does for a living. “People really expect everyone to be in showbiz to some extent,” said Dara Mihaly, managing director of travel company ExperienceFirst. “When people come to LA, and we actually show them the different neighborhoods, and they see how diverse it is, it’s kind of a surprise.”

The way tourists interact with the city during their time here can determine whether their experience of Angelenos ends up echoing their expectations. Coming to town with ideas shaped by television, movies and social media, many “just want to live their dream of LA,” said Francesca Romana Puggelli, who teaches in the applied psychology graduate program at the ‘USC.

People generally want their expectations met when they visit a new place. As travelers we often think, “I spend so much money and time planning my vacation… I really push myself to see what I plan to see and live the way I plan to live” during that he was there, Puggeli said.

Therefore, if visitors see Angelenos that do not fit their preconceived idea of ​​what people are in Los Angeles, they may experience a sense of cognitive dissonance and seek to resolve it by deciding to believe the outliers are just other travelers or workers who get to town, Puggelli said.

While some visitors may appreciate seeing their seemingly upheld expectations, Mihaly says she tries to challenge the stereotypes of people about LA when visiting. “After spending six hours with someone in the car, representing the city… They’re like, ‘Wow, you’re a human who has that life of your own apart from wanting to be a celebrity. “

“If you stay more and more in LA, and you meet different people in different fields, you see that LA is not the stereotype, it is much more than that. It’s a lot more complex, ”Trenado said.

If there is one impression of Angelenos shared by visitors who really took the time to get to know the city and its people, it may be that they are, as a rule, relatively easy going.

“As a foreigner I always hear about the mad rush of LA, I think it might be a little more excited than I had been through,” said Paige Rockers of Overland Park, Kan., who has visited LA many times.

Instead, “Overall, I think people who live in Los Angeles have a pretty laid back attitude,” Rockers said. “I think part of it could be things like the traffic that [Angelenos] still have to face. “

When I conducted an extremely unscientific poll of my friends, this typically cold behavior was the quality they spoke of most often.

“Everyone was very nice, just a little laid back, like ‘You mind your business, I take care of mine,'” New Jersey resident Caitlin Duffy said, describing LA as “wide, varied. and great experience “.

So we’re known to be chilled out – but the jury is still out on whether we’re as hot as our famous mild weather. “Before I visited recently, someone sent me a tweet that said the difference between New Yorkers and Angelenos is that New Yorkers are nice, but not nice. And the Angelenos are nice, but not nice, ”said Meaghan Coffey of New York. While she acknowledges that Angelenos tend to be more welcoming and friendly on first meeting, she thinks kindness is “impossible to analyze on a two week visit.”

In short, Trenado’s suspicions are for the most part correct: When tourists feel like everyone they meet in LA is “so LA”, it’s probably because they see us through the sky. prism of the preconceived ideas they brought with them. But it’s good. We Angelenos are (mostly) cold about this.

Have a pressing question about LA and California? Ask us here.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Comments are closed.