LEFT VS. RIGHT COASTERS: Is there really a rivalry? by John Francis

Is there really a rivalry?

Where’s the beef? There’s been a lot of talk, Internet chatter and articles about a so-called feud or rivalry between the East Coast and West Coast, Left Coasters and Right Coasters, New Yorkers and Californians, even New York pizza and California pizza.

But is there really a rivalry, much less a feud? There probably hasn’t been a real (maybe too real) feud since the Tupac-Biggie rapper beef from the 1990s, but that hasn’t stopped folks from vigorously stirring the pot on online chats and social media.

We’ve all heard the disses and stereotypes: Californians are all laid back, too informal, nice, blonde, surf, wear shorts and flip-flops every day, spend all their free time at the beach, walk slowly, eat organic granola, kale and locally sourced cheese, drink frou-frou coffee, spend more time in their cars than they do their homes, smoke pot all the time, have multiple tattoos and piercings, and have therapists both for themselves and their dogs.

New Yorkers are all rude, aggressive, irritable, always in a hurry, walk fast, talk a lot, work too much, drive (if they drive at all) like madmen, eat only pizza, hot dogs and bagels (with a schmear, of course), drink diner coffee that looks like mud and tastes worse, are class conscious, especially when it comes to schools they attended, are neurotic (evidence: every New York-based Woody Allen movie), and smoke like chimneys.

Of course, these are all stereotypes, but they wouldn’t be stereotypes if there wasn’t a little bit of truth to them.

And when we talk about East Coast versus West Coast, we’re really talking about New York City and Los Angeles or NYC and LA. Sure, you have D.C., Boston, Philly on the East Coast and if you want to extend it farther, Virginia, North and South Carolina and Florida, but let’s be real, when most people say East Coast, they mean New York.

And when most people say West Coast, they mean L.A., never mind that there’s also San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento and San Francisco and, of course, Washington and Oregon. But Let’s face it, nobody’s thinking of Oregon when they say “West Coast.” Oregon is in its own special category. Have you ever seen the television series “Portlandia?” They may call California, as the old joke goes, “The Cereal State” because it’s full of fruits, nuts and flakes, but Oregon is the organic, “farm-to-table” granola with soy milk of states.  

Here’s a recent online thread that compares New York and California to brothers, the older one who stayed home and the younger one who went West to seek his fortune.

“If you mention the West Coast to NYers, you often get some kind of snarky statement — it’s almost as if they view the West coast as some uppity younger sibling who should know their place and spend more time acknowledging the superiority of the East Coast.

“It’s the status thing again. West Coasters are the pioneers who left home, who start companies in their garages and build and invent and try new things (e.g. Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Valley, crazy Hollywood). The East Coast can sometimes act like the aloof older brother who stayed home to take care of the folks and wants to be respected for it, pursues things more of out of a sense of not wanting to be left behind (e.g. Silicon Alley).

“The East Coast brother is indeed smarter — especially in booksmarts and in refined taste — but he could stand to loosen his collar a bit. The West coast is more fun and crazy, but could stand to learn some essentials regarding taste and should really take time to read the classics.”

Here’s how one online poster put it, and in no uncertain terms:
People from NY say “F–k you” and mean “Hi, how are you?”
People from LA say “Hi, how are you?” and mean “F–k you.”
People in LA will stab you in the back.
People in NY will punch you in the face.

A little extreme, granted, but with a kernel of truth; New Yorkers will tell you that they’re not rude or mean, just honest and direct because they’re more focused. Californians will tell you they’re not laid back or flaky, just open-minded, casual and willing to try different things — like avocados.

New Yorkers think Californians eat avocados every day and put it on everything. Not true. Californians only eat avocados every other day and especially if they’re eating Mexican food, which Californians tend to do a lot because there are so many great Mexican food joints in the state. Besides, you can buy one for about $1. And who doesn’t like guacamole?

Here was an actual online thread that for some odd, but understandable, reason, discussed the merits, or lack thereof, of avocados:

Poster #1: “I’m in NYC, and when I think of West Coasters (specifically California folk), I think of: blondes, ‘health food’ diet trends, avocados and other ‘weird’ food, fake boobs, fake tans, plastic surgery. Basically that ‘West Coasters’ are all about the superficial, as opposed to ‘us New Yorkers’ who are not.”

Poster #2: “What’s weird about avocados?”

Poster #3: “I don’t think it’s the avocado that’s perceived as weird, it’s the quantity and frequency in which they appear in Californian cuisine. It seems true to me, but that’s probably because I always ordered food with avocados when I was in California. Because they are awesome.”

Poster #4: “A friend from CA actually described how some of his friends describe West Coasters as ‘avocado’ — and then, when NYC friends move to CA, they’ll rag on them for ‘going avocado’.”

Granted, people on both coasts are a bit insular. California thinks that “back east” is everything east of Nevada, while in New York, “out west” is everything west of the Hudson River. Everything else is “flyover” country. There’s even a famous New Yorker cover from 1976 by renowned illustrator Saul Steinberg, “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” that shows New York basically the center of the world with the rest of the U.S., plus Canada and Mexico on the other side of the Hudson merely as a rectangular piece of land with a few rocks strewn about.

So, even back in the 70s, New York had a bit of a superiority complex, which is understandable since it’s much older, wiser, and more cosmopolitan than the hippies and freaks out in California. The Golden State (yes, even the nickname connotes sunshine, cheeriness and tans), is content to be hipper, more casual and diverse.

Or as one online blogger put it:

East Coast: “The universe revolves around us!”

West Coast: “There’s a universe?”

The bottom line is, both coasters have things they can boast about and things they’re a little ashamed of. And there is some basic truth to the stereotypes. There’s something about the sunny weather and forgiving social environment of California that makes people more informal and casual. And there is something about the hard winters, sweltering summers and the pace of life that make New Yorkers tough and hardened. Everyone can agree on that.

Just don’t bring up the difference in pizzas from New York and California. Fuhgeddaboudit, because them’s fightin’ words. Now we have a feud.


All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title for more information.
American Hot ‘wing: East to West Coast on a Honda Goldwing”
by Derek Seymour and Jane Seymour:
Humans of New York
by Brandon Stanton
Lucky Peach Issue 21: The Los Angeles Issue
by David Chang

Video: New York vs. Los Angeles – click here
Quiz: Are You More East Coast Or More West Coast? – click here

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