Let’s get something straight right out of the gate: I am a Californian who just happens to live in Georgia. I am born and bred in California… Santa Barbara to be exact. That city is in my insides, my heart, my blood, everything. But since I had to become a Valley Girl for my career, I lost a bit of my luster for Southern California. The mile after mile of dirty strip malls, the ghetto bird buzzing my crappy one-bedroom apartment on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, and the fact that my daughter’s only outdoor space was a parking lot littered with bad cars, forced me to make a decision. CNN helped that decision along by offering me a job. So we decided to pack up our lives and head to the South.
Sometimes it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Sometimes it’s the worst. I can say that 98% of the time it is a great place for us. There is plenty to love here. It’s so green. I am not just talking your average grass green… but hurt your eyes, dripping in jungle-like green. I guess that is due to the unreal humidity (that’s a minus on the Atlanta list). I had never set foot in the South, so it’s safe to say I moved here completely blind. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Southern hospitality is not a myth. It’s a real thing here. I had been told many times that I was too nice to be a Californian (not sure what that really means). Many of the people are very polite and willing to help strangers, and will do little things Californians would never consider. True story: I was struggling to shove a bunch of crap into my car trunk, and a man actually pulled over to help me out!
Just watch out when someone says “Bless your heart”. I’ve learned that it isn’t such a nice statement.
There is a pretty diverse mix of people in the Atlanta metro area. There’s a very large homosexual population here, which makes me very happy. There is obviously a very large African-American population. That was another driving force behind my decision to move here. My daughter is bi-racial, and it’s important for her to be around such a diverse group of African-Americans. Plus, I love dating black men… so for me it has been an eye-candy fest!
You can’t talk about Atlanta without mentioning the food. EVERYTHING is fried, or coated in mayo. And not just any mayo, it must be Duke’s.
Atlanta has billed itself as a foodie town. There are some amazing restaurants that have unique concepts and delicious eats. But (and this is a big one) the Mexican food here is laughable. I miss for-real Mexican food and tacos. I dream about tacos. The sushi here is also embarrassing. Without shame I admit I love fried foods, so the chicken here is life-changing. But nothing compares to LA restaurants.
Many also compare Atlanta traffic to LA. To these people, I say you have never driven in LA. But Atlantans do have some very creative moves on the road. My favorite is the Atlanta left turn. This is where a driver — not in a left turn lane — proceeds to make a left turn from the middle of the road, cutting everyone off! That is fun.
Another favorite sight is cops directing traffic during lunch out of fast-food restaurants. Yes, really. Atlantans love their fast food!
The women here are also obsessed with monogramming… everything! Stickers on their cars, necklaces with their initials, purses, sweater sets, and that’s just the beginning.
After a year here, I am pleasantly surprised by how happy I actually am. I love my house. I love my job (most days). I love the slower pace. I love that I can provide a better life for my daughter. I love that I never pay more than $3.30 for a gallon of gas (yeah I said it). I miss my family terribly. I miss the beach. I ache for palm trees. I am here for the long haul, although I will never claim to be an Atlantan. I’m a Cali girl for life.
*Robynn Love is a producer for CNN.