A Californian in Boston

A California girl is transferred from the west coast to the opposite side of the country.

Until the end of August of last year, I had spent my entire life in California, except for two short interview trips. When I say California, I’m specifically referring to a part of northern California. California is quite large so there is a lot of climate and topographical variation within the state.

I began writing this list of the differences I observed, after my first three months in Massachusetts. However, since I kept having more things to add to it, I decided I wouldn’t post it until it was time for me to leave. Not all the differences I describe are regional; many are how my lifestyle has changed now that I am no longer living with my parents.


  • In late August, temperatures were still in the 80s after sunset. That is so surreal to me, because back at home, it cooled down when the sun set.
  • It’s quite common for winds to reach 30 mph. (It’s also quite common to see broken umbrellas discarded at the side of the road.)
  • Autumn here feels like winter in California. The highs here are the lows there!
  • It’s much drier here in the winter–I mean autumn (and winter). My lips and skin are always dry.
  • Another consequence of the dryness is that static electricity is an actual problem. I’ve gotten shocked on my doorknob many times now. It’s worse when I’m wearing a sweater. I used to think this was just some obscure example mentioned in physics classes.
  • In the winter months, the sun sets at 4 PM. It’s pitch black by 5 PM
  • Snow! Falling snow is so beautiful. I had fun playing it.
  • The warmest time of day is not necessarily 4 PM. It can actually be warmer at night than it was during the day.
  • After enduring several days of below freezing temperatures, I now think 39 °F is warm, because my cheeks aren’t stinging!
  • Spring is quite lovely, but it doesn’t happen until mid April. Where I’m from, spring usually comes some time in March, so this was a long winter for me.
  • When it’s warm, it’s humid!
  • Thunderstorms are quite common during the warmer months. Where I’m from, it seldom rains during the summer.


  • There are so many ornate wrought iron fences here. Back where I come from, fences are primarily wood or chain-link, and occasionally brick. Only rich, posh people living in gated communities had wrought iron fences, but they weren’t so ornate.


  • Lots of old cemeteries right by busy streets
  • Plenty of historic sites with beautiful architecture in Boston! I’m talking about castles, too.
  • It’s quite common to see plush lobsters, of various sizes, in store windows.
  • I’ve been walking through shady alleys on a regular basis. Well, they’re not that shady, just kind of stinky, and it has more to do with the fact that I am downtown than the east coast.
  • Away from the city, the roads are tree-lined. This is common in the east coast, since it also looked that way in Maryland, and pictures of Connecticut.
  • There are TONS of tulips and daffodils in the spring, and they last for two weeks. Where I’m from, you’re lucky if you can get five, and they may last for just a week because it’s too warm for them.



  • Public transportation in Boston is very convenient. There is no need to check a time table before heading out to the subway station, because trains come about every five to eight minutes. In fact, there is no time table. All there is is the time of the first train and the last train and the frequency, which changes according to peak and off times.
  • Traffic is quite scary, but it might have more to do with the part of town that I’m in. Cars don’t stay in the same lane for more than 10 seconds at a time. I’ve seen many cars run red lights. Pedestrians don’t cross according to the signals, which stalls traffic.
  • There are many intersections in which the crossing signal changes to allow pedestrians to cross both streets at the same time. All cars are stopped and people can walk diagonally across the intersection. It is nice that you only have to wait once to cross two streets.
  • On the bus, there’s a ribbon that you press to indicate the driver to stop. I was confused the first time I saw that, because in every bus I’ve taken up til then, including the ones in New Orleans, there was a cable to pull. My cousin was with me and said that the buses he took in Florida were like the ones here.

Changes in my diet

  • Fruit tends to be more expensive here than it is in CA because much of it is transported here. However, whenever I see CA Grown on boxes and stickers, I think “like me!” It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. 🙂
  • The bottled water brands are primarily Poland Spring and Nestle. It was strange, since I’m used to seeing Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead.
  • The major grocery stores here are Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, and Market Basket. I don’t think any Bostonians have heard of Safeway, Nob Hill, or Lucky.


  • I got to hear the Boston accent. I don’t have much of an opinion about it, though my classmates have laughed at how they pronounce certain words.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use the phrase “it’s a doozy” until coming here. There was one professor who use it a lot, so I thought it was unique to him, but later another student posted something with it, so that’s when I wondered if it’s a regional thing.
  • Same goes for having never heard the term de novo before, but that just might have to do with the subject matter that I’m studying. Almost all the professors have said it.

People here don’t seem to care as much about recycling as people in California do. It may just be that the medical students don’t want to “waste” precious time by walking 7 steps over to the recycle bin, or sorting out their recyclables from their trash. (I have often transferred recyclables from the trash to the proper recycling bin.) However,

  • There is no bottle deposit
  • Very few people use reusable bags when shopping. Back in the early 90s, only hippie types brought cloth bags to the store, even though children’s educational television shows in the 80s already encouraged such behavior. Now, using cloth bags is the norm where I’m from. In fact, my hometown banned plastic bags last year (and they’re not alone). If I really believed strongly enough in caring for the environment by using a reusable bag, then I wouldn’t care about seeming like a strange hippie type; unfortunately, my self-consciousness wins.

Edit: On April 24th I decided that I am no longer concerned about looking like a weird hippie type. I’m a proud Californian who cares about the environment. By using my reusable cloth bag during my last month in Boston, I effectively reduced the use of 11 plastic bags.

Massachusetts observes Patriots’ Day, so I got April 15th off! I had never heard of it until after I arrived here and was checking the academic calendar. If you’re also wondering what the heck is Patriots’ Day? There’s an explanation here. The Boston Marathon is held on Patriots’ Day. Given the events at this year’s marathon, I guess more people are aware of it now.


  • no sales tax on clothes less than $175. How awesome is that?

Someone posted this list awhile back, and while I thought it was amusing, I have not experienced and don’t agree with everything on it.

In the words of the Bee Gees, “Massachusetts is one place I have seen… I will remember Massachusetts”

Original Post 5/26/2013


4 thoughts on “A Californian in Boston

  1. lol…I saw your comment at blogger `Forget this, I’ll be at word press. I just said the same thing after fooling with word press but haven’t gone back to write it there yet! 🙂 So i added this link to my reading links so i can find you. Mercy! 😉
    The tulips are Beautiful!

  2. It’s funny how different parts of the country have their own slang and accent’s that are hard to understand or even know what they mean. When i moved here the word-Tire, Tower and Tar are all pronounced the same way. They all sound like tar. I can’t count the times i have had to ask which one a person was talking about. The first year being in Ky. i had driven to NC for a visit. Upon returning to my little upstairs apartment over a garage there were 2 guys standing at the top visiting my neighbor. There were 2 apartments above this garage. They saw me pulling luggage out of the trunk. They very nicely asked if they could help me pack it. I said thank you I’m not leaving but returning home. They laughed and asked again this time saying ” help you get it upstairs” Never in my life had i heard Pack it in that context! They could tell by my accent i was not from there and laughed it off. Our winters are much colder.but the summer is the same as NC. The landscaping is absolutely beautiful here. NC is nothing but pine tree’s at least from 3 to 4 hours from the coast on hwy 40. Every once in a while i might see a lone pine tree and cringe. 🙂

  3. It didn’t take too long to get used to it. I just do not say pack it or tar for all three words. lol!

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