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Culture Shock! California: 03/06/09

I'm a native Californian. I grew up in southern California, about 24 miles north of the border, went to college in Santa Barbara and now live in the Bay Area. So what am I doing reading Culture Shock! California by Mark Cramer, a travel book about my home state? Curiosity of course. It's good to take an outside point of view to get a new perspective on things.

Culture Shock! California was published in 1997 at the start of the real estate bubble that popped about two years ago. With the dot-com bubble growing too, incomes were rising as were property values. There was money to be made in building: malls, homes, and amusement parks. Southern California got hit more by the madness of new buildings and widening freeways. Stretches of the I5 around Disneyland are almost unrecognizable to me now.

Coming into the midst of this building frenzy, Mark Cramer's initial pessimism about the state makes sense. His thesis s that there is no "sense of place" in California because of the over abundance of strip malls and franchises. Driving along the major highways it's easy to get that impression but go a few miles off the main drag and the neighborhoods reveal their personalities. And as you go north from the border, the state takes on a different feel. Likewise, go east and it's different again.

The book has a chapter on the state's history, a look at immigration through the years, a look at a "typical Californian" (conclusion, there isn't one; we're a state of iconoclasts), some tips on etiquette for social and business situations and some tips on fitting in and surviving. At the back of the book is a quiz to see how well the reader is ready to travel to California. I took the quiz and passed with flying colors, so I guess I get to stay.

Although I had a few quibbles with Cramer's observations and wished he would have covered more of the rural pieces of the state, I enjoyed the book. I think he did an admirable job at capturing the California culture and the differences at least between northern and southern California. His comparisons of Los Angeles and San Francisco were fascinating. If I come across more books in the series (the first one being Culture Shock! Bolivia, I will read them).

Comments (4)

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Comment #1: Saturday, March, 7, 2009 at 13:04:04


The publicist read Culture Shock: Italy before her trip to Florence and Rome and found it to be very helpful and informative. Well written and easy to read.

Comment #2: Monday, March 9, 2009 at 21:21:40


If I ever get my trip to Venice, I'll look for Culture Shock: Italy.

Comment #3: Saturday, March, 7, 2009 at 14:21:48

Amy @ My Friend Amy

This might be interesting for me to read. I've been living here for 4 years and still feel like I'm in culture shock. ;)

I read Culture Shock! Japan and Culture Shock! France before going to each of those countries.

Comment #4: Monday, March 9, 2009 at 21:25:24


I will read more books in the series especially if I plan on making any trips.

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