When most people think of California, they think how they portrayed in Hollywood movies with year around sunshine, palm trees, beaches, and celebrities on every corner. While this is definitely part of California, it is only one aspect. California is a large and varied state with a range of industries, style, climate, culture, landscape, cost of living, and colloquial speech. If you are interested in studying, working, or simply traveling in California, it’s important to know the differences. In this article I will describe some generalizations unique qualities of the different regions to give you a better understanding of the state and what areas are the best fit for you.

The Regions Of California

California is divided into three main parts. Southern California (SoCal, Northern California (NorCal), and the Central Valley (the Valley). There are many large to small cities throughout but the most important are the capital city of Sacramento, and Napa in the Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara in SoCal, and San Francisco, Sonoma, and San Jose (Silicon Valley) in NorCal.


California has the largest GDP in theUnited States, almost 2.5 tCalifornia San Francisco Golden Gate Bridgerillion US dollars, as compared to Spain’s GDP,which is approximately 1.4 trillion US dollars. The main industries are technology, aerospace, agriculture, tourism, and entertainment. Agriculture is huge in the Central Valley, and some of the best and biggest wineries that rival those of France and Italy are in Napa Valley and Sonoma County in NorCal. San Francisco and the Silicon Valley in NorCal are of course home to the biggest tech giants such as Yahoo, Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Salesforce as well as many burgeoning startups. And if you want to get into entertainment in almost any form, Los Angeles is the place to be. The job market is booming now and is therefore a good place to look for jobs. But keep in mind the industries tie to the regions. Also take note of that fact that San Francisco is the most expensive city to live in in the US, so if you are looking at salaries, you must calculate the cost of living.


California is a very large state. It takes almost 12-16 hours to drive the length of it. It also has microclimates in many areas, meaning you can drive for 10 to 15 minutes and experience significantly different weather. In Southern California there are two distinct climates, tropical beaches and the dry desert. NorCal is known for its dense redwood forests, rain, and foggy weather. The Valley is simply hot and dry in the summer and cold and dry in the winter. And yes, there is even snow. Lake Tahoe in the North East is one of the best ski areas in the country.


California is typically a very casual state, as compared with say New York City. We wear flip-flops and t-shirts as much as possible but there are slight differences between regions. The south is generally know as being slightly more fashion focused because of the entertainment industry, especially with a greater eye towards cosmetic surgery and brand names. Northern California is stereotyped as being casual to the extreme. You could see someone in a Star Wars t-shirt and crocs (horrible I know!) in the middle of the day that could be a billionaire tech company owner.


The country is a diverse melting pot of different cultures. PeopleSouthern California Beach from all over the country and the world come to live in it and it is therefore hard to attach specific cultural characteristics to anyone, however there are a few that generalizations that are known throughout the state. First, NorCal is the most liberal part of the state. It is home to many intellectuals, hippies, and open-minded thinkers and tends to vote the most liberal politically and socially than any other part of the country, whereas SoCal and the Valley tend to be more conservative. On a whole though, California is a very liberal state and follows forward thinking and is open-minded and proud of it.


California is great place to live and travel, but it is much more than the California of the silver screen. It is a diverse state with unique attributes, job opportunities, and living styles.