6 JUL - 2022
I can't remember a time where Ben wasn't talking about moving to Los Angeles.
He has always been obsessed with the bright lights, Hollywood stars and the "lifestyle" that newly minted LA residents seem to have. I don't blame him - watching movies of wealthy American's shopping Rodeo Drive on a regular Tuesday turned me on (did they not have jobs to go to?).
Now the boarders are open and we can all go about our pre-2020 plans, I'm assuming many of you will be acting our your best Carrie Bradshaw in NYC or Cher Horowitz on Rodeo. But is the "Great American Dream" all it's cracked up to be?
What sparked the move for you? Was it an initial job opportunity, or rather the idea of living overseas that caught your eye?
The biggest motivator for me was a change of scenery. Moving to LA has been on my radar for as long as I can remember, mostly inspired by my unhealthy love for celebrities and pop culture. I definitely think as a child you expect to move to Los Angeles and turn a corner and every possible celebrity will be in line at your nearest Starbucks. 17 year old me really did think I'd be ordering a Grande Caramel Macchiato with Ariana Grande by my side. Working in PR there’s a unique pull to these sorts of places because the industry just thrives here. I always had this dream of wanting to be at the Grammy's or walking the Met Gala stairs and without any specific talent, there's only one opportunity for me to be there and that's working for the next big stars team.
Tell us what you do in LA.
I work in Public Relations for an agency who specializes in B2B, tech and startup companies who are doing pretty cool things within their industry. It was a job I had back in New Zealand and was lucky enough to slide into their LA office, however to my surprise I'm working in what feels to be an entirely new job. PR in New Zealand is great, you have a good 3 or 4 news outlets where each story may fit, whereas in LA I'm pushing anywhere from 20 - 60 news outlets per brand pitch. While you'd think that more options would be easier to get coverage, it's almost 10x harder! You're one small fish in an overcrowded pond and I've learnt to celebrate the small wins - like when a journalist opens one of my emails.
Initial reaction to living in a new country:
Ugh the culture shock is REAL! I've lived overseas previously, in the UK for 3 months, but the USA is just something else. I've always said the past 6 months have felt like living in a history lesson! Capitalism is so real in the US, and it's bad. This country feels like it's purely driven by maximum profit, take healthcare for example. People aren’t cared for here, because if it were accessible then hospitals and insurance companies wouldn't be profitable. Yes, hospitals are a PROFITABLE industry. We take so much for granted living in a country like New Zealand, not always on purpose, but because that's our normal but the reality is there are so many other countries out there where you aren't taken care of. To everyone reading this, please appreciate your $5 prescription fees because mine can be $80USD+
Break down the living costs for us. How does it differ from your living expenses in New Zealand?
Living costs are my worst nightmare! I'm living in one of the most sought after cities in the world, but sometimes it really can feel like such a joke. For rent I pay $1175USD per month, that's $1,800 NZD per month, or $450 per week for a room. I live in a modern-designed townhouse with 3 other roommates, but we definitely don't live in the nice area of Hollywood. We’re on a main road that’s very noisy, a gas station that doubles as a car-wash and for some reason people find it acceptable to play music at full-volume at 2am.
I just went grocery shopping for my week and spent $88USD ($135NZD) and that got me bread, eggs, avocado, frozen fish fillets, frozen chips, bagels, cream cheese, milk, strawberries and blueberries, frozen pizza and a giant bottle of Vodka (only $8 which is the only bargain compared to New Zealand). Groceries aren't that cheap compared to New Zealand, if you want to eat like shit then it is, but food here is full of sugar so you have to be careful.
I also don't have a car, as great as it is that I don't have to pay for these fuel prices. Ubering is so f*cking expensive it's a joke, I'd sometimes spend $100USD+ ($150NZD) on Ubers in a week if I head out of the house 2 or 3 times. I catch the bus to work but this is more for social outings.
What's been the biggest shock for you?
Apart from how bad capitalism is, and how much of a scam I think this country can be, it's probably just the social interactions that happen in this city. It's true when people say you'll meet people who "are very LA". When going to parties you have to be accepted onto the guest list, this is usually an Instagram account that you have to be accepted into, and it will be based on how many IG followers you have. My friends say "how much clout do you have". I've been denied many times for too few IG followers! Also pre-drinking culture isn't much of a thing here in LA, people CHOSE to pay those ridiculous drink prices (worse in LA). Often I get invited somewhere at 9pm, to leave at 10pm, and the clubs close at 2am. Quite upsetting because pre-drinks are my favourite part of a night out!
Share some of the high and low lights of being a Hollywood resident.
There have been many highs for sure, notable face-value highs are catching Shawn Mendes at the club (childhood dream, check!), chilling in the artist section of Coachella Weekend 2, the city never sleeps and you're able to head out to bars on any night of the week and there will be an atmosphere! The weather is always so nice, and you can always find an awesome gig to catch and usually at a pretty decent price.
However, there are many lows for sure. The food (I think in the US) can be so bland and meh, and when you're eating out you're paying insane prices for it. You can definitely find good food if you want, but you'll pay an arm and a leg for the bill. On top of the menu price, you have to then pay an additional (approx.) 10% tax, and then another 15% for a tip on top of that. I dearly miss finding cheap, but delicious eats, all through Auckland. I have to set aside savings for a few weeks just to go out for dinner!
If you knew what you know now, would you still have moved?
Everything I know now you can probably find out online, or from what people tell you, but in all honesty it's a new ball game when you're living in it! I never expected to have this sort of reaction to living here but I did. I really do believe that in order to appreciate what we have in New Zealand sometimes you have to leave the country to understand what the rest of the world is like. I would never regret this decision in my life, I've made so many friends that I will cherish forever in my life, I've had so many cool opportunities that I don't think I would ever get anywhere else. This place is so glamorous from the outside, not so glamorous when you look at it at face value, but it really can be glamorous when you find the correct path.
Nearly a year on, What have you learnt from living in LA for a year?
As much as I hate to admit it, it's been really really tough and I struggle everyday. Living in LA seriously is the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far, financially, socially and especially emotionally. I've cried in bed at night more times than I can count. I walked away from New Zealand with a completely broken heart, but everyday is a chance to improve on your inner self and it's made me really appreciate it so much. You feel so lonely a lot of the time because your whole life is flipped upside down, I don't know what 70 Fahrenheit is, I don't know how fast 55mph is, I even have to check myself to use American spelling instead of British. It's like every aspect of your life is different and you just have to find a way to survive and adapt somewhat by yourself. Homesickness gets me everyday, if I could get on a plane and come home I would do it right now, no cap. It's all about finding the right coping mechanisms for sure.
What are your plans for the future? Will you continue to call LA home or return to NZ?
In all honesty, and as much as my younger self wishes this wasn't the case, I still struggle to see this as a place to settle down. It's been a tough time so far with adapting to this new life, how to find moments of happiness and comfort in a city that I'm terribly scared of. It does sometimes upset me how the economy and politics is built here, not to mention the amount of shootings and crime that occurs on a daily basis. I have found that everything I cherished about my life back home I struggle to have here, and it's almost a turning moment of understanding that I had to leave to appreciate what I had at home. For me I want to be happy in life, and live it to its full potential in an environment that I love. Is that LA? I'm yet to be certain it is.