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Toto, we’re not on the East Coast anymore


Since my awkward middle school years, I’ve said over and over that I would go to school in California. As a little girl, I dreamed of swaying palm trees, sun-kissed surfer boys and celebrities on every street corner. My family was convinced I was born on the wrong coast. Now, having lived in California for almost three months, I’ve realized I’m more of an East Coast girl than I originally thought. This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate Palm Drive, the attractive male population and world-renowned speakers and professors at Stanford; I’ve just found several unexpected and sometimes comical differences between the East and West Coasts.

The following are generalizations based on my own personal experiences and may not accurately reflect every person from either coast.

  1. Temperature

I’m from a historic suburb outside Philadelphia, a city best defined by its high-strung people and bitter winters. When I chose to attend Stanford last spring, I signed up for sunshine and T-shirt weather. Now approaching December, I certainly didn’t expect the winter coats and knee-high boots to come out so early. The other day I wore flip-flops when it was below 60 degrees and I received so many surprised looks. I’ve found that West Coast people have different definitions of the word cold. For those from southern California, temperatures dipping under 65 degrees seem to be equivalent to a New Yorker’s 32 degrees.

  1. Laws, taxes and regulations

A few weeks ago, I biked to the nearest CVS to pick up some over-the-counter medicine for my everlasting cold. I purchased a combination package of DayQuil and NightQuil, but before paying, the cashier asked for identification. Apparently in California, buyers must 18 years of age in order to legally purchase cold medicine. My look of surprise must’ve assured her I wasn’t of age to buy the medicine, but after looking at my driver’s license, she just shook her head in disbelief. I think I reacted the same way when I saw the sales tax on a clothing purchase at the beginning of the quarter. Exactly 8.75 percent, the tax is nearly 1.5 times greater than Pennsylvania’s standard six percent sales tax. This ridiculously high tax now encourages me to buy all my clothes online.

  1. Rad lingo

For people not from the Philadelphia area, the phrase “I love buying hoagies from Wawa” is complete gibberish. Here is the translation: “I love buying submarine sandwiches from a store similar to (but way better than) 7-Eleven.” Within my first week at Stanford, I learned how strange people from the East Coast actually sound. Making a Dunkin run, driving through multiple states in a few hours and eating the most superior bagels in the whole country are all foreign concepts. On the other hand, I’ve heard plenty of new vocabulary words from my fellow Californians including “hella,” “dank” and “gnarly.” I’ve bowed down to the king of fast food hamburgers, been awestruck at the existence of outdoor malls and drawn parallels between San Francisco’s sourdough bread and Philadelphia’s soft pretzels.

  1. Roadways or racetracks

The very first time I took “the” 101, I was a nervous wreck (and also wondered when a highway’s name became a noun). Highway driving generally makes me anxious, but driving 80 miles per hour with three lanes of cars on either side is a nightmare. The fact that motorcycles are lawfully permitted to weave in and out of traffic also flabbergasts me. In Pennsylvania, most highways are no more than three lanes, and the carpool lane does not exist. The alternating traffic light when merging onto the highway also does not exist, but I’ve concluded that it definitely saves lives. Trying to merge with a car two feet in front and behind is scary, especially with the right lane filled with tractor-trailers; trying to get five lanes over to the carpool lane with motorcycles whizzing by is much scarier.

  1. Reduce, reuse and recycle

I grew up in a pretty environmentally friendly. We recycled the recommended materials, carpooled often and used energy-efficient light bulbs. Because my extended family lives in southern California, I had some knowledge of the lasting drought before arriving at Stanford. However, I never realized the prevalence of eco-friendly measures: compost bins galore, biodegradable plasticware, extensive backyard gardens, etc. At home I used to be notorious for using up all the hot water. I’ve definitely tried my best to curb my shower time, but I can’t make any promises that I’ll make it under five minutes.


Contact Emily Schmidt at egs1997 ‘at’

Hi! I've always been a big believer that anything can make for an interesting story. I've written about everything from my love of ironing clothes to the Stanford hookup culture. If you have an idea for a story, I'd love to chat with you about it!