7 Things You Should Know if You’re Moving to the West Coast

Jon Fesmire | October 25, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

Have you ever visited a foreign country? If you have, you know that you find surprising differences, even if you just go to another English speaking country. This could be cuisine you didn’t expect, societal attitudes, clothing you’re not used to seeing, and more.

If you’re moving within the U.S. from the East Coast to the West Coast, you may expect things to be not so different. After all, coastal areas in America tend to have more liberal values, both areas have beaches, and after all, both are part of the same country.

You’re in for some surprises. The good thing is that most of them are positive, so let’s explore some of what you’ll find along the coast in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Marijuana is Legal, but Not Pervasive

Yes, all three West Coast states have made marijuana legal for recreational use. Adults 21 and over can purchase it at specialized shops in Washington and Oregon, with shops coming to California sometime in 2018.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re a bunch of stoners, or that you’ll see many people out smoking weed in public. Driving under the influence of pot is illegal, just like it is with alcohol. In fact, things don’t seem much different, except that our states now collect the taxes on legal marijuana sales.

We Have Tech Jobs

Do you work in tech? If so, California, Oregon, and Washington are great places to be. The largest tech center in California is Silicon Valley, in the greater San Francisco bay area, but check Los Angeles, Irvine, and San Diego as well. There is a cluster of tech companies in Portland, Oregon, called the Silicon Forest, and you’ll find additional jobs in Seattle, Washington. Don’t forget Redmond, Washington, either, the home of Microsoft.

We Have Great Weather

Let’s start with Southern California. It’s sunny most of the year, and we’re grateful when it rains. Summers get hot, but in most areas not especially humid. Get a place with air conditioning, and you’ll be fine, but most of the time you’ll also be comfortable walking outside. Winters range from warm to cold, but temperatures rarely drop below freezing.

Northern California has mild weather year-round and a Mediterranean-like climate. The summer is warm, but rarely does it get especially hot. Winters go from warm to cold, and any day of the year, unless it’s raining hard, is a great day to walk on the beach. Coastal Oregon has a mild climate with rain, and occasionally snow, in the winter, with most snow falling in the Cascade Mountain Range. Coastal Washington has frequent rain, mostly during the fall, winter, and spring, with fairly dry summers. The colder time of the year does see snow and frozen lakes. Basically, the farther you go north, the more you get a feeling of four seasons.

Climate Events

While we have our natural disasters, and they are a downside to living on the West Coast, they are generally not as devastating as those on the East Coast, the Midwest, or the South. We don’t have to deal with things that plague the East Coast nearly every year. These include the Polar Vortex and hurricanes. We get snow (even in California, though mostly in the high mountains), but rarely unbearable snow, and hurricanes are unheard of.

We do get the occasional earthquake, especially in California, and geologists have been saying for decades that we’re due for “The Big One.” Still, our buildings are made to be earthquake resistant. The newer the building, the safer its construction.

Due to the dry, hot weather we get in some areas, we sometimes have forest fires that can get out of hand. If you live in a city area, you will be safer from these than if you live in a more rural area.


We understand that New York and other East Coast cities have some amazing pizza and other cuisine. However, where do they get a lot of their produce?

Yes, from California.

Here, we have fresh fruit and vegetables year round. Really fresh. Get a ripe avocado from the grocery store. You don’t even have to make guacamole with it, though that’s delicious. Just put some on your turkey sandwich, and thank us later. Ever tried an artichoke? Many people don’t know the proper way to eat a steamed or boiled artichoke until they’ve been shown by a Californian.

How about Mexican food? In California, we have a large hispanic population from Mexico that knows how to make authentic Mexican food, and it’s amazing.

The West Coast is Environmentally Conscious

Do you enjoy being able to eat in a restaurant without inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke? You can thank California for getting that trend started, being the first state to ban smoking in public. In fact it’s illegal to smoke in indoor public places throughout the West Coast states. In most areas, we recycle (though some more conservative counties are behind the curve). We love and enjoy our parks and natural environments. Yes, you could call us tree huggers, and we’ll take it as a complement.

The West Coast is Beautiful

Speaking of natural spaces, we have Yosemite National Park, Mount Saint Helens National Monument, Sequoia National Park, and more. You can visit, take long hikes, and camp in a tent or cabin.

“The Golden Rolling Hills of California” isn’t just a Kate Wolf song. You can drive through them, and in many coastal areas, you can see them off to the east. They’re lovely.

You haven’t seen a sunset until you’ve watched one from the beach in any of our states. The yellow sun lowers to the water and casts beams along the waves. The sky and clouds may turn to orange and yellow, or even purple, extending in streams, swirls, and bunches. Then the sun falls out of sight. On weekends near sunset and after dark, locals may light bonfires in pits on the beach, burning driftwood, talking, laughing, and smelling the tang of the ocean.

It’s Your Life

All along the coast, there’s a general acceptance of people living a traditional or alternative lifestyle, and people are relaxed about it. Of course, like anywhere, sometimes you’ll run into a hot head, but most people are just minding their own business, and if you strike up a conversation, are likely to be friendly.

So, have you decided to move here yet? If you do, research different areas to find a good fit. One helpful site is NeighborhoodScout, where you can look up everything from demographics to real estate information to crime rates. Also, look up the website for any city you’re interested in. Most have a wealth of information about things like schools, parks, local programs, and libraries. Even if you already know where you’re moving—perhaps you just got a great job on the West Coast—look up this information to get an idea of what to expect.

Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

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