In Defense of Staying in San Diego

San Diego Waterfront Public Park
San Diego Waterfront Public Park | f11photo/Shutterstock
San Diego Waterfront Public Park | f11photo/Shutterstock

Editor's Note: Last week, we ran a story about the reasons for leaving San Diego. After you, our readers, reacted, we thought it only fair for a born-and-raised Southern Californian to opine on what it means to stay.

There's a story that I've encountered time and time again in California media that never fails to irk me as a lifelong Southern Californian: “I moved to SoCal from Wherever, USA, and now I’m leaving, and here’s all the reasons why.” *throws laptop across room*

As someone who was born and raised in Southern California (raised in Chino, moved to San Diego to attend SDSU, and never left), I feel especially protective of my home. I’ve traveled a lot, and because of this, I can truly appreciate how lucky I was to be born in a place with incredible weather, food, and diversity.

So when I see my fellow writers knock my birthplace, it tends to, let’s say, unnerve me. In fact, I’ve read pieces like these so often, that if I had a nickel for every time I read a story about someone from somewhere who came to LA “on a whim” or to San Diego “because it sounded fun,” then wrote a story for a national publication, telling the rest of the world what it’s “really like to live” in Southern California, I’d have $12,907.85.

These writers are, of course, entitled to their feelings and have had their own experiences that confirm their beliefs. Maybe they really had a rough go of it here; it’s hard starting over in a new place. My issue is with them telling the greater internet-o-sphere what they think it’s like to be a Californian after living here for what equates to about a minute of their lives. In my readings, I’ve found that most of these disenchanted folks have similar gripes, so here’s my counter to each. And guess what, people: It's not so bad to live all of your life in Southern California.

San Diego

"I want to see the seasons change"

Did you not notice the beach? The desert? Our firestorms that have made national news? The fact that we’re in a serious drought and global warming is, like, super-real?

Look, I get it; I like scarves and boots too. But guess what, America? We wear them here too! The only difference is that it’s not a necessity six months out of the year like it is in whatever wintry hellscape you come from. It’s possible to wear them from about mid-December through February, and that’s about it. Maybe we’ll get another El Niño in the spring, but probably not. We’re known for our sunshine; that’s kind of our schtick.

If you really care about seeing brown leaves and pumpkins, you can go up to Julian or Arrowhead and check some out. But generally speaking, we’re not going to look like Connecticut in the fall. Because guess what -- we’re California. We'll gladly take 65 degrees and sun in January over the negative-degree windchill in Chicago during the same time. Or year-round fresh produce vs. none in virtually anywhere else in the country.

San Diego Old Town Market
City of Angels /

"No one in California is actually from California"

Correction: No one YOU know is from California.

California has been a state for 166 years, and apparently no one has actually grown up here? Girl, bye.

San Diego is a very international town. We bring people from all around the world to work, study, and live here. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of out-of-towners tend to gravitate towards other people also not from here. They make friends from work, or maybe at a Packers bar where everyone else is also from Green Bay, and that’s their circle -- the end. So I find it unfair when the complaint to anyone who will listen is that "No one here is native." My closest friends and boyfriend are natives, my family members are natives, old classmates of mine are native, and I have a friend who literally has ancestors buried in the historical Old Town Cemetery.

"Everyone in San Diego is superficial"

Everyone YOU know in San Diego is superficial.

Did you think you were going to meet genuine people trying to make it as a screenwriter in LA? Did you expect to meet your soulmate at a networking event in San Diego?

As a writer, I meet loads of people every day, and I’ve made maybe one genuine friend out of that mix. Yes, I get along with many editors, other writers, and publicists, but the group of people I consider my heart-of-heart friends are a very small group completely unrelated to my work. They’re friends I went to college with, who introduced me to their childhood friends, who I’ve shared strong communication with, as well as a number of plates of food.

You can’t surround yourself with a very specific demographic of people (again, usually NOT from San Diego) and then make the general assumption that everyone is out to get something from you. Unless you’re at a networking event, in which case they are, which is usually a job.

Pro tip: If you’re looking to make long-lasting friends, then go where the natives go and ingrain yourself into our society. You’re rarely going to find me hanging in PB, because generally, natives don’t hang out where non-natives do. Join a club, take a class, shop in South Bay, visit restaurants in La Mesa. Just don’t set yourself up for disappointment by visiting places where 99% of the clientele are tourists; you’re not one of them anymore, you’re one of us.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park | meunierd /

"California doesn't have any culture"

My biggest traveling pet peeve is other people comparing the place they're visiting to the place they live. Going to France and saying, “Hmph, this isn’t like the US,” or going to San Diego, and saying, “Hmph, this isn’t like New York City" is completely unfair, because they're entirely different places with their own unique ways of life. That's why you travel in the first place -- to experience those places on their own terms.

Comparing the culture here in San Diego to, say, New York City's -- the epicenter of diversity, food, not to mention a much larger population than ours -- is irritating and elitist. Of course we have a culture here; it’s just different than anywhere else.

We’re a border town with the busiest international border crossing in the country. We’re a military town with the largest military base on the West Coast. We have a booming biotech industry. We have a strong beach-bum culture because, yeah, our beaches are obviously great. We have the best craft beer in the country. Our art galleries span from La Jolla to Barrio Logan. Calvary Baptist Church in Barrio Logan was once visited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Chicano Park celebrates gorgeous murals and history on Chicano Park Day every April. John F. Kennedy once spoke at San Diego State University, a top school (I’m a little biased -- go Aztecs!), not to mention our other highly esteemed universities, like the University of San Diego, University of California, San Diego, and Point Loma Nazarene. We have the best tacos ever. Our culture is reflective of who we are as a place, and if that doesn't jive with you, that's fine. More tacos for the rest of us.  

san diego surfer

"San Diegans are never on time"


I get that it can be annoying to have to confirm an hour before your plans to ensure you’re not stood up, but looking at it in another light can be helpful. When I made dinner plans for Wednesday last week, it sounded like a great idea; but come Wednesday, I had a crappy day at work, traffic was horrendous, and I still hadn’t done any form of exercise that week, so now dinner isn’t sounding great. It doesn’t mean we’re never going to follow through with plans, or that we think you’re naive for holding onto them. It just means we changed our minds -- it’s nothing personal, and if you’re the one who’s late the next time we meet up, then you get a pass! No shaming here, it’s a two-way street.

Here’s the thing: Maybe while looking at us through your own lens, you found we weren’t your cup of tea, and that’s OK. Feel free to enjoy your experiences elsewhere. Meanwhile, I'll be here enjoying my own “authentic” experiences, like daily farmers markets, incredible Mexican food, spectacular sunsets, and a home that’s most definitely where my heart is.

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Originally from Chino, California, Michelle moved to San Diego in 2000 to attend San Diego State University, and never left. The daughter of immigrant parents from Quito, Ecuador, she’s a fluent Spanish speaker, a lover of travel, a foodie, a wannabe yogi, and an accomplished freelance writer. Follow her life adventures on her website and on Twitter @MichellePoveda