A few months ago, when I first knew I was moving to LA, I asked everyone I knew for suggestions on where to live. For some reason this is a really exciting topic for people, maybe because deep down everyone just wants to feel like they know more than others. But eventually I stopped asking (that didn’t stop the advice from coming), because I realized something important: People give terrible advice.
I should rephrase that: People give biased advice. They recommend that place where their boyfriend used to live that still gives them fond memories. They pass along second, third, and forth-hand information as gospel. They form irrational attachments to places they’ve never visited. They go to Yahoo! Answers and poll complete strangers to help them make a decision that will affect every moment of their waking lives for the next two years.
Do I sound jaded? Perhaps I am. I like to think of myself as principled.
In case anyone is actually interested, here is the full list of LA neighborhoods that people have recommended to me (in no particular order):
- Downtown LA
- Los Feliz
- Echo Park
- Santa Monica
- Mar Vista
- Culver City
- Highland Park
- West Hollywood
Can you see my frustration? For those of you who aren’t familiar with LA geography, this list spans multiple price points as well as most of the county. Some are upscale while others are not. Some are in the valley and others are on the water. Some are urban and some are suburban. With such a vast array of choices (and very little personal knowledge of any of them), where on earth am I supposed to start?
Distance from school isn’t clear-cut, either. Sure, Culver City is geographically closer to USC than Glendale, but it requires taking the 10 freeway, which has been described to me as the busiest freeway “of all time” (said in a Kanye West voice). Google Maps is little help as LA traffic is notoriously bad, and a journey that takes 15 minutes in the middle of the day will take 45 or more during rush hour.
These considerations aside, I’ve realized that I just don’t trust other people’s opinions. One person’s “quiet and safe community” is another person’s “old lady snoozefest.” “Young and hip” can also mean “overpriced and full of drunk twenty-somethings.” “Affordable” is just a hop, skip and a jump away from “crawling with gangs and homeless people.” Once I started getting completely opposite reviews of the same neighborhoods, I realized I needed to start paying less attention to what was being said and more to who was saying it.
Bottom line: KNOW YOUR SOURCE. Does this person live like I do? Value the same things I do? Will they put up with things that I would never in my right mind consider acceptable?
Second-to-bottom-line: VISIT THE CITY YOUR OWN DAMN SELF. Get a feel for the neighborhoods, the distance to shops and restaurants, the commute to school. I’ve heard of people who plan to choose an apartment without visiting it first. “I just can’t take the time off work…I can’t afford the plane ticket…I just don’t have time…I can always move later.” For the love of all that is holy, don’t do this. The last thing you want to deal with in your first weeks of business school is an ant-infested hovel with no hot water and neighbors that have loud sex directly above you.
Besides, no matter what your friend told you or what you read on GMAT Club, the only person who can decide which neighborhood is right for you…is you.
Or, in this case, me.