Expat Life,  The United States

Our Life in Los Angeles Over Three Years: Why It Never Felt Like Home

Last Updated August, 2021

Ahh Los Angeles, a city of dreams, sun, surf, sand, and.. Hollywood. The largest city in California and the second-largest urban area in the United States remains a destination for many people from around the world. They come to visit, they come to stay. And learn what life in Los Angeles is all about.

When I visited Los Angeles for the first time in my life I knew right away I wanted to move there. And who wouldn’t, right? In this city sun shines every day, palm trees bend along the way, the mountains are on the right, the beach is on the left, everyone seems happy and content.

Life in Los Angeles.
Every new day in Los Angeles is sunny and with blue skies. It is a dream, isn’t it?! But sometimes visibility is poor due to pollution in the air. Can you spot it?
life in los angeles
Palm tree life in Southern California

On one December day, I flew to LA with my friend from a snowy, windy city in Kentucky state. Most of the country at that time was getting snow, ice, and lower temperatures.

In Los Angeles, unlike the rest of the country, the weather was almost perfect. Daily temperatures were 60-70 degrees and the sun was smiling down on us. Besides the weather, we felt how vibrant, diverse, health-conscious, and entertaining LA was. I experienced love from first sight which convinced me that LA and I were meant for each other.

life in los angeles
First time in LA, December 2013

At the end of our mini-vacation, my friend and I returned to freezing Kentucky having a dream in our hearts to go back to a world-class city.

At that time Mark and I were dating and planning our future together. Both of us were ready to leave Kentucky and experience other corners of the U.S. We knew we didn’t want to stay on the East Coast, but where to move next was not clear as well.

The same friend, I traveled to Los Angeles with, was planning to move to a city of angels and offered to relocate with her together. It was a sign and it was an answer. We agreed pretty quickly without analyzing and evaluating this offer for long enough.

I personally was very enthusiastic about the opportunity to call the city that fell so deeply into my heart our home. And since I was so eager to move to the sunniest place in America, everything else didn’t really matter.

life in los angeles
Santa Monica – one of LA districts where Mark and I used to work

Mark also got excited about the opportunity to move to LA even though he has never visited himself. He trusted my emotions and went with my gut. We believed that moving to Los Angeles meant getting exposed to endless opportunities, saying “goodbye” to winter clothes, enjoying summer every day during each season, and just being happy because we were going to be in LA.

What a mistake it was to believe that the land of promises was ready to receive us with open arms. The reality turned out to be completely different from what we have expected and drew in our minds.

My mistake was to base my decision on the move to Los Angeles after spending only a week there as a tourist. And also listening to stories of my friend who extolled the city’s virtues.

Our mutual mistake with Mark was not to leave LA after we spent a year there. We felt something was wrong and the city was not the place for us, but we kept lingering on in Southern California for almost 4 years. I guess if we left on time then we would have probably found fewer downsides about life in Los Angeles.

Some resources say that Los Angeles is one of the healthiest cities in America. A lot of people exercise, eat clean, and lead a healthy lifestyle. We were working, commuting, and stressing out so much that rarely had time, energy, and desire to work out. But we loved to hike some trails during our time off.

Don’t get us wrong, we are thankful and glad we got to live in LA. We had wonderful moments there.

Yet, the level of daily stress was too high, anxiety and at times depression was taking over. Both of us developed a few health issues related to the pressure and tension of daily life in the largest city in California.

After going on our around-the-world trip and leaving LA routine behind, our health improved. And we got back to our happy and true selves.


So here are the main reasons why life in Los Angeles was not for us: 


life in los angeles
Calabasas, a city in Los Angeles County, some of the most expensive real estate is here.

We are not the first ones who will tell you that life in Los Angeles is expensive.

It’s mainly expensive because of unreasonably high prices for housing.

Prices for groceries are almost the same as anywhere else in the country, gas prices are higher compared to the countryside, but not more than in any other large city of America, restaurants are more expensive, entertainment is probably about the same.

But housing is taking away a good chunk of money out of each paycheck. Comparing to all other states where I used to live, including Washington DC, the most expensive place for me personally was LA.

Most of the large cities in America are expensive. Boston, New York, Washington DC, Miami, San Francisco. It is very costly to live in all of them. But while other cities have higher prices, average wages in those cities are higher to match.

The problem with Los Angeles and actually the entire California region is that locals have lower incomes and with having higher prices they can’t rent or buy a house without sharing it with somebody else.

We thought we were making good money while working and living in LA. In reality, we were spending almost all of it on basic necessities.

We lived comfortably, but without any luxury. Our salaries went towards rent, car loans, car and health insurance, phone bills, utilities, gas, groceries, occasional eating out and entertainment. Nothing extravagant or extraordinary. For gas alone, both of us paid together five hundred dollars per month just to commute to and from work.

life in los angeles

This house used to belong to someone, but today no-one lives here. It’s open to the public for a visit. But what a nice view, don’t you think so?


Just a few days ago I read an article that Los Angeles got the worst traffic congestion in the U.S. for the sixth straight year. Oh yeah, during the time when we lived there it felt like it was the worst. We drove in rush hour in Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, and have never spent nearly as much time in traffic as we were spending in Los Angeles.

For me personally, it was taking on average 1 hour 20 minutes to drive one way to work, instead of regular 25 minutes. It wasn’t even a rush hour yet and we didn’t live too far. Howbeit, it was taking a good chunk of my time to commute. I was leaving our home usually around half past five in the morning with hopes to make it on time at seven o’clock. And I was still late sometimes.

With LA traffic we never knew when was too early to leave to be on time. Every day each of us was spending up to 3 hours just to commute to work and back home. Some of my colleagues were spending more time because they lived farther. If we wanted to explore the surrounding area, the time spent in a car was adding up.

I remember one time when driving on Saturday morning from Calabasas to Disneyland in Anaheim, it took us 2.5 hours to get to the park instead of 55 minutes without traffic. Leaving on Saturday before 8 am didn’t mean that there was not going to be any jam. LA was always so unpredictable! And many times it was just so frustrating and disappointing!

We have known only two people in LA who told us they didn’t mind traffic and actually enjoyed being stuck in it. They told us they could listen to their favorite music or call a friend to chat over the phone.

Well, all our friends were busy living life and there was no-one we could call every single day just to jabber. Plus, we personally preferred spending 3 hours of our time each day on walking, hiking, spending time with each other, talking to someone face to face and doing something meaningful than just being caught in a traffic jam.

Traffic in LA steals your time and it steals your life. Unless you live close to your work or work from home then you might be spending fewer hours in a car. But once you want to get out and explore the city, go to the beach or mountains, you will learn really quickly what LA traffic is all about.



In the beginning, we experienced some sort of euphoria regarding the weather. After spending years in the states with humid and nasty winters it felt wonderful to move to non-ending summer.

We thought that time has stopped.

There was no rain, no snow, no slush, and no season. In the beginning, every day felt like summer. We could work on our tans, swim in outdoor pools, or wear shorts and tanks most of the time. We felt great, but only for the first six or seven months. There was way more to life than getting a tan or spending time in a pool.

To some, it may sound strange, but we started to miss foliage, first snow, rainy days, and seasons. Plus, after the first year in LA, we learned that it was not that perfect summer with many colors, flowers, and beautiful days as you may think of. Most of the year in Los Angeles is usually very hot (unless you are hanging out near the ocean all the time), too dry and plain.

The only time when you can enjoy green colors, blossoms, and flowers is from February to April. All other months look pretty much alike. 

By the way, if you want to visit LA when the weather is at its best, go at the end of winter or beginning of spring. From December to February the weather does not feel like summer at all. Sometimes it’s raining and some other times there are very strong gusts of cold winds, coming from nearby deserts. Many times we were wearing winter jackets and boots because it was that cold.

At the end of April, the beginning of May heat is coming back and the grass, trees, and leaves change their green color to yellow very quickly, leaving everything around look as dry as straw.

Do not expect to experience seasons in Los Angeles. Sure, you can always escape to the nearest mountains, but even there you won’t get a lot. Besides that, it usually takes from two to three hours to drive to a wilderness. We guarantee you won’t be able to leave LA’s heat and busy life on a regular basis.

life in los angeles
Most of the year in Los Angeles is dry. Nature often looks tired and lifeless.
life in los angeles
Life in Los Angeles
life in los angeles
By the way, California experiences many droughts. Just to show you how high the water used to be in this reservoir. The yellow part you see on the picture was under the water some time in the past. Castaic Lake, one hour north from Los Angeles.
A lot of people have misconceptions about the weather in Los Angeles believing that the temperature is 75F (23C) degrees year-round. It is wrong. There are many days with temperatures more than 100F (37C) and quite a few days when it’s cold. Winters in LA sometimes get very chilly and windy, making you wear your warm clothes. Especially it gets colder near the water.


We don’t have anything against LA residents. But this city is definitely not a place where you want to experience how welcoming, friendly, and nice American people are. This is probably the only place in the U.S. where the most self-centered, boastful, and glaringly materialistic people live.

It is part of LA culture to buy fancy houses, cars, clothes, and other things in order to feel important. What you wear, what restaurants you go to and what shop your jeans come from comes to the fore. During all our years spent there, we noticed how much show is put on a display in Los Angeles. So many people love to pretend to be someone they are really not.

Probably every third person you meet in the city of angels will tell you that he or she is a producer, director, well-known actor, model, singer, music writer, app creator, company CEO, and so on when in reality he or she has a totally different job.

I have known people who have been working for years in housekeeping, bartending, retail shops, but claimed that they were Assistant Directors or Producers who were working on a “big TV show or movie project”. Others got a chance to serve a drink to a celebrity, take a picture with him/her, and later state that celebrity was a friend or someone they used to work with while shooting a new movie. We have hundreds of stories like that. So fake!

It felt like LA was a land of broken promises where dreams of many people did not come true, but they kept knocking on closed doors believing how important and awesome they were. Also, there was often an impression that those storytellers felt ashamed of their true selves and what jobs they held. Why would they lie and make up stories?

No doubt, there was a percentage of people who were lovely, genuine, and down-to-earth. The majority of residents, unfortunately, were opposite to that, making it challenging to live in LA.


If we had to summarize, we would just say that our values did not go along with what Los Angeles was about. We love living simply, going to church, and connecting on a personal level with others.

In Los Angeles it was difficult.

Most of the people were either too busy with jobs and careers or too self-absorbed. It was challenging to make friends (not acquaintances) and connect with others. We appreciate the slow pace of life, more quality time with each other, and the balance between life, work, and family. Things, houses, cars, clothes, job titles do not matter. The weather alone is not a defining factor and cannot substitute other things in life.

There were a few more reasons why we left Los Angeles, but these five were the main ones.

LA was our base for almost 4 years, but unfortunately (or who knows, maybe, fortunately) it never felt like home. From the very first day in Los Angeles, we didn’t feel comfortable, but we were hoping to adjust and start liking it one day. With every new month, it was getting more and more difficult and we were not able to adjust. Now, looking back in time, we are questioning why we didn’t leave sooner.

Thank you, LA, for having us, and thank you guys for reading!

Have you visited or lived in LA? Let us know in comments how your experience was!

If you are planning to visit Los Angeles, check my guide to the best weekend getaways, LA to Palm springs road trip, and best stops on the Los Angeles to Salt Lake City drive. It will definitely give you some ideas on where to go and what to do to get the most of your trip! 
Life in Los Angeles

Anya is originally from Ukraine but in heart she is a citizen of the world. She is working online and that’s why has an opportunity to travel slowly and live in different countries around the world. At present time, she is living between Lviv, Ukraine and Istanbul, Turkey. On this blog, her main goal is to inspire others to travel to under-the-radar-places and discover the world while working remotely.


  • EarlGreyKick

    Californian here.

    I don’t understand people’s love with our “sunshine weather”. California is – fundamentally – a desert. Many parts of the state even have their top soil eroded leaving dry rocks. Our plants are spiky cactii. Our air is the driest after Nevada.

    California is very profession driven. Los Angeles has the entertainment industry and San Francisco the tech sector. And our culture, fundamentally is tough and frontier. Historically this was the Wild West and we still have Cowboy towns, Rancheros and ‘Rodeo Drive’.

    California is physically and culturally Frontier-Land. Most people should know this before moving here.

    • Jake Tiesler

      I’ve been here 11 years now, and like you I’m from a more traditional background Nashville,TN

      I agree with everything above, this is very helpful.

      I want to move but always wonder if leaving a good job for better values is worth it, thanks for sharing.

      • Anya

        Hi Jake, thanks for stopping by! I was doubting for 8 months either it was the right decision to leave LA or not, especially considering how much effort (and money) I invested into moving and settling there. But after I moved, I was so happy and regretted I actually didn’t do it earlier.

        Overall, I stick to the belief that if I am in a place that destroys me from within as a person, I have to leave and change the surroundings. There are hundreds of opportunities in this world that allow us to move around and find that place where we will feel at home. Especially now, in corona world, when there are so many remote jobs.
        Anyways, I wish you luck and hope you will make the right decision!

        • Gabriel

          Hi Anya. I read your post with interest. I used to live in LA and did so for almost 14 years, from 1993 to 2007– I moved there for school (UCLA) when I was 23 and stayed after graduation. I have to say that when I first moved there and even until I moved, I loved it. Things were different then– housing was affordable; gas wasn’t as expensive etc. Though, traffic has always been bad. I left in 2007 b/c I was unhappy with my career and wanted to live closer to family. And so I have lived in El Paso, Texas since 2007. But I visit LA often for long weekends– and in fact, just got back about 3 days ago. What I saw there shocked me. The homeless population is out of control and it is sad to see that a “world class” city doesn’t know how to address this situation. The gas prices– (I was riding the metro the entire time, so I got to see how things really are– as opposed to being hidden away in a car)- are ridiculous. In essence, I kept thinking, “why would anyone willingly live here?” I mean, if you’re going to pay a lot to live there, you would think you do so b/c it’s nice there. Well, a place isn’t “nice” just because there’s a beach and ocean; it’s nice becuase of how the people live there. And if thousands of people can’t afford housing and live on the street, that is not “nice.” I’m glad I live where I live for different reasons. For one, my mortgage payment is less than people pay for a tiny one-bedroom apt in L.A. Anyway, happy travels and good luck. Gabriel

          • Anya

            Hi Gabriel, thank you so much for your input and for a quick update on how things in LA are now!

            When I was reading about homeless people I actually remembered how many of them were (and I believe still are) in Santa Monica where I used to work. I remember how one day after work I was approached by a homeless woman who asked me to buy her food stating that she was starving (although she was in excellent shape and looked great), and I bought into that.
            While walking Santa Monica Blvd looking for a place to eat, that lady shared a lot about her life emphasizing how happy she was to live on the street, don’t owe anything to anyone and don’t have any debt but get social welfare from the government.
            When we finally walked by one restaurant, I offered her to buy a soup with burrito to what she responded: “Nah, I want a burger with fries and soda in this restaurant around the corner…” and pointed out where to go.

            It was soo odd. She was starving but didn’t want the food I offered and was happy to live on the street.
            Later, throughout the months, I encountered similar situations with other homeless people and those experiences taught me that these people were pretty happy to live like that and be homeless. It was not bad luck or misfortune. It was their own choice.
            Among all the countries I traveled to, homeless people in Los Angeles (and San Diego) have the best life. And you are absolutely right, for some reason, local government is supporting their lifestyle.

  • Nigel Pearson

    I’m an Alabamian who was once stranded in L.A. so, I’m sure the way I experienced it was not typical.

    It was somewhat disturbing. Besides the obvious problems like homelessness, high cost of living, etc. It seemed that the environment was really uncared for and there was a sort of “everyman for himself” mentality combined with an ” only the paranoid survive” mindset.

    I have since been to L.A. once more and 2 other cities in California. I have had better experiences in Cali but, that has always stuck with me.

    Again Cali is a nice place but, it just wasn’t for me.

  • Marian

    I reviewed several posted articles about living in Los Angeles and none mentioned the crime. After living there 9 years, I left shortly after the Rodney King riots. Yes a long time ago, but a few months before, 2 friends had been mugged and my apartment (2 blocks east of Beverly Hills) was broken into. Yes, this was a long time ago but the feeling of how random crime was will never leave me. Yes, this is a problem in all big cities and I guess that is why it wasn’t mentioned. I lived on the Central California coast for 15 years and rarely locked my doors. But there too, the ridiculously high cost of living (taxes, vehicle fees, rent, gas, park fees, etc.) finally got to me and most of my friends (many friends and associates worked 2 jobs to “survive”). Most of my friends and I left with the ongoing mass exodus from CA. Most friends still there were parented in so they inherited homes. I’m always appreciative of my time in Los Angeles and California, but the I am much happier with a slower, more affordable pace back in the South .

    • Anya

      Hi Marian, thank you for sharing your experience! That’s true, I didn’t mention crime for that reason that it’s pretty common in all big cities.
      We personally didn’t feel unsafe in LA, although crime is high in this city for sure. When we lived in Kentucky, which is considered one of the safest states, I was robbed at my workplace in Lexington in the safest neighborhood by a guy who pretended he had a gun. It was pretty scary.
      So you can have a negative experience pretty much anywhere…

      • EF

        Hey Juniper,

        I’ve been in LA for 18 years….unfortunately! Yes it has given me good memories…but unfortunately this city, and state, is deteriorating by the second; going down in flames. I’ve tried to hold on to “hope” that this place would get better… but it hasn’t! Anya nails it perfectly! And being here for so long, fighting the good fight, my wife and I are ready to better our lives, and go! The politicians are running this place into the ground….not caring about you, or any other resident…unless you’re an Elite. So thank you Anya for giving me even a bigger sign that it’s time to move on. And Juniper, I hope you do succeed immensely here…. but don’t be surprised if it becomes a “climbing MT. Everest” situation. God bless🙏🏼

    • Curious Lady

      Moved to LA next to City West/Downtown neighborhoods and learning to appreciate living here. It is high voltage, best way to describe. Always turned on. I survive living here by traveling to middle of nowhere in desert or mountains on a weekend about 2x per month or staying back in OC at a hotel just to get a break and walk around some old town and sip coffee.

      I use living here to work on my inner meditation and mindfullness amongst chaos or high voltage living. Focus on the inner which alters the outside world. Helped tremoundously in falling in love with City of LA living. My favorite spots are Elysian Park, Vista Hermosa Nature Park, and the other side of Griffith on Riverside Dr.

      I do sleep with earplugs at night because loud outside. At end of day, living in middle of nowhere or in mountains just as difficult but in different way. I am learning to adapt here to a different environment. Takes time.

      Also single woman living alone and making it out here alone. Got my own place and one of those who drives a German luxury vehicle. Guess why LA vibes with you, tough like the city with its own definition of beauty.

  • Jason

    I actually appreciate the judgmental article. It’s honest and real—and factually correct…something LA, and California in general, is not. That’s probably why Juniper is offended, and why most of the complaints about judgement tend to come from LA and environs. Is a different culture and in most views, a bad one.

    • Anya

      Thank you, Jason, for your comment. I am happy to hear there are still people who appreciate articles that highlight realities as they are! That’s what I am always looking for in others and what I am trying to do myself.

  • ME

    Eh, some of this is true. Traffic sucks but you must live quite far for a commute THAT long. Personally, I do wish we had seasons, but it’s way easier to function when weather is consistent. Most of the “elite” and judgemental people are from non-locals/natives. It’s not hard to spot the Kardashian-wannabes. Cost of living is high, but actually much lower than other cities like SF, NYC, or Seattle. The biggest difference between LA and those cities is you save on a car (loan/lease, insurance, and gas). Again, I don’t understand how you spent $500/month on gas, that’s an absurd amount and you must be commuting from quite a distance. In terms of values, sure church is important to some and if it is, you make it a priority.

    While there are some key points in this article, it seems like you didn’t really invest yourself in the city and it’s culture, and came with the same judgemental attitude you say others around you had.

  • Melanie

    Hi! Native Angeleno here. Well, Angeleno by way of Glendale, Beverly Hills and now Westlake Village. I agree with everything here! But I would say anyone moving to LA — one of the biggest, most exciting cities on the planet — expecting small town feels is also dreaming. LA has opportunities no other city has and that is why it is competitive and aggressive and overly materialistic. That is why it is exciting and sometimes as you know exciting also means getting out of your comfort zone. Wages are small but for someone like me, that motivates me to fight for a higher wage. It’s that competitive edge that makes me strive for something better because it’s worth it here. Life is incredibly good and fun when you reach that comfort level. And if you are a native or just hang out long enough, you find those little authentic enclaves that are not expensive or showy. I run from the trendy places.

    I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I didn’t have this drive to have a good life here. Sometimes I feel like it’s the confict that forces me to face my fears, get past them and achieve success. But that is me. It is not for everyone and if it’s not for you, it’s TOTALLY understandable. And that is just one person’s perspective. I will one day retire and move to some small European city, but that’s only when I’m ready to hang up my spurs.

    • Anya

      Hi Melanie, thank you for your input! Different people perceive this city in different ways, that’s for sure. It is definitely very helpful to learn about the experiences of others, so thank you very much for sharing!

  • Sean McGuire

    I’ve just moved to LA in April and I’ve known from the first day that this wasn’t where I want to be a decade from now. I agree with a lot of what you mention here. But I’m here because I’m starting my life over at 31 and trying to jump start a career in the film industry. The reality is right now in America that there’s only three places to be: LA, NYC, and maybe Atlanta. I’ve lived in NYC for 6 months and loved it but struggled with with getting work and had to leave just before the pandemic. I think often about going back. Even though it’ll be just as expensive in terms of housing, there are seasons and I won’t need to have a car. I loved walking everywhere every day and taking the subway. I loved how it put me face to face with my community and allowed me to have a dozen spontaneous genuine interactions with people on a weekly basis. But I intend on sticking out in LA for at least the next 3-5 years so I can get some momentum in my career and finances. I really don’t have any illusions about LA at all. I know it isn’t where I want to be by 40.

    • Sean McGuire

      I’ll also say that I’m only paying $750 in rent by living with two roommates in east LA so far. Which is alleviating a massive amount of stress.

    • Anya

      Thank you, Sean, for sharing! I was reading your comment and remembered my friend. She moved to LA just for the same reason as many others do, I guess.
      I wish you lots of luck with your career and hope LA will bring the best for you!

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