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An Irish Girl's Guide to LA Living

Updated on October 24, 2016

Table of Contents

(Fade In)
1.It’ s not all Glamorous – be safe
2.You need a car for everything
Celebrity Sightings
3.Sometimes it’s about the glitz
4.The Nightlife culture is completely different
Work Experience
5. Working vs. Wages
Social Life
6. Food and Fun

(Fade In)

In the height of the forgotten ‘good times’ most Irish people knew someone who had briefly lived in New York by means of a J1 visa. With direct flights from Dublin, a strong Irish community and the lure of guaranteed "amazing" trips, New York was and continues to be a Bucket List Destination for us all.

Los Angeles on the other hand – not so much. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no one I know who would pass up the opportunity to visit LA LA Land but in comparison to New York, not a huge amount of Irish people get the chance to live there. With little to no Irish community (with the exception of Colin Farrell), no current direct flights from Dublin and the prospect of potential earthquakes to contend with, not nearly the same number of Irish people have been able to experience LA as a second home.

My travelling companion and I were two of the lucky few. Finishing up our respective studies at the peak of the worst recession Ireland had ever faced, and with the recent addition of a year long work and travel visa, we decided to ditch the one year Australia rite of passage in favour of hightailing it off to the land of glitz and Glamour.

What we discovered? It’s not always about the glitz. Here are the top six lessons we (sometimes) sorely learned:

Capital Records, Hollywood


Rodeo Drive


1. It’ s not all Glamorous – be safe

At the time of our trip the currency exchange rate was it its highest. At one point, one Euro was worth $1.50 meaning that we could afford to splurge in the name of a Hollywood experience. During our one year stay we were lucky enough to live in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, two pretty nice places to stay as I’m sure you can imagine. We had done our homework and knew that these were amongst the most central and safest locations that LA had to offer. Two friends of mine (who shall remain nameless) who visited LA on their way home from Australia on the other hand were not so lucky and stayed in an exceptionally shady part of the city where walking alone was not advisable.

2. You need a car for everything

LA doesn’t have the strong public transport system that New York’s is renowned for. Busses account for most public transport options and they add an inordinate amount of time to your journey (i.e a journey that takes roughly 20 minutes by car, takes roughly an hour and 30 minutes by bus, and that my dears is with an awful lot of bus switching and praying that you don’t miss your connection.) Public transport is most definitely frowned upon by most locals and the lack of a car elicits nothing but sheer puzzlement (You don’t have a car? Seriously?) Nevertheless, the presence of LA’s many many steep hills and the fear of driving on the other/wrong side of the road, meant that we spent our year in LA without a car. We like to think that we’re the better for it, as we got to see so much more of our adopted home than we would if we had been gripping a steering wheel in terror.

Our preferred mode of transportation


Walt Disney's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame


3. Sometimes it’s about the glitz

Since LA and its surrounding areas are reliant on the entertainment industry to provide jobs for its citizens this has fringe benefits for wide eyed Irish girls. Shows filming on LA's many studio sound stages regularly need audience members to provide the laughter and these are free to attend. Be warned though, audience wranglers will purposely overbook, so an invitation is not a gurantee of admission (as we learned to our detriment). You might also have the opportunity to go to free preview movie screenings months ahead of scheduled release in the US (and probably what feels like years ahead of Ireland). Studios try to gauge audience reaction ahead of general release so they can tweak anything that needs improving. Similar to TV shows, an invite does not guarantee you a seat. If there’s something that you like the sound of, aim to arrive at least an hour ahead of schedule (otherwise bye bye sneak peak of new Ryan Gosling movie.)

It's also worth keeping your eyes peeled for celebrity sightings. They happen more regularly than you'd think and can occur in the most "normal" of places (our favourites include Jack Nicholson, Ryan Gosling and Drew Barrymore all sighted strolling down the street). Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to be around LA for what is known as awards season you can have a stroll around the Dolby Theatre (the longstanding home of the Oscars ) during Oscar week and watch the red carpet being rolled out.

The night before the Oscars


The Hollywood Bowl


4. The Nightlife culture is completely different

One of the biggest culture shocks we experienced was that of the nightlife.Bars and clubs are not only more prevalent, but they are also much more expensive and oftentimes much more selective about admittance than in Ireland. If you're planning a night out, plan ahead.

If nightclubs are your thing try and get in touch with club promoters who might be nice enough to put you on Guest Lists so that you won't have to queue. If bars are more your style, the Sunset Strip boasts many world famous establishments. The Roxy amongst others, often has great and inexpensive gigs from Artists who might be well known in Europe but not so well known in America.

There's also the issue of getting to and from your preferred establishment of choice.

For two Irish girls who were brought up to seriously frown upon those who would drink and drive, we were shocked and more than a little appalled to discover that Angelenos frequently get behind the wheel after a couple of drinks. Their reasoning? “LA is so spread out and it’s impossible to get cabs.” We were lucky in that the areas we lived in had bars etc located within walking (in flats) distance. We didn't find cabs to be prohibitively expensive and discovered that public transport runs quite late. We also knew which busses could take us where (God Bless Google Maps) all of which meant that we never had to break our code of not drinking and driving.

5. Working vs. Wages

If like us you’re heading to LA to gain practical experience be warned. Most entry level positions particularly in the entertainment industry are internships, most of which do not pay. I was lucky enough to enjoy a fantastic first internship with a world renowned producer in which I learned everything to do with the entertainment industry. My second, though thoroughly enjoyable, I felt didn’t teach me a lot. It’s up to you to decide what works for you and what doesn’t.

Dodger Stadium


6. Food and Fun

A trip to Vegas is the LA equivalent of a trip to Galway. (Vegas = RAG week, every week) We took several trips and managed to come back with both our wallets and our sanity intact. Keeping with the theme of ‘vices’, a strong junk food culture exists alongside the ‘detox and no food’ culture prevalent in media depictions. (In fact the California exclusive In-N-Out Burger with its secret menu is a rite of passage for any visitor to LA)

The World Famous Farmer's Market at the Grove


The Greater Los Angeles Area

West Hollywood

Beverly Hills

Santa Monica


Los Angeles vs. Melbourne

Would the prospect of a minimal Irish Community dissuade you from choosing Los Angeles over Australia?

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