San Diegans: Why so rude and cold?

I've lived in quite a few places around the U.S. and Europe and have managed to make friends very or fairly easily just fine any place I've lived--even a couple of them in San Diego. However, I'm absolutely bewildered by a generality I've experienced since moving to San Diego: its surprisingly rude, cold, aloof, and unfriendly population.

I mean, there are things I like about SD, sure. It has a great climate, much like the rest of coastal SoCal, of course. It has easy proximity to L.A. and Tijuana.

However, in only five months in SD (I live in North County and work in the city), I've experienced:
- Indifference in customer service
- Coldness and unhelpful attitudes from all levels of management in the company I've worked for--I've never walked out of a job so quickly in my life, and I've had some nasty bosses previously (as well as many great ones)!
- The nastiest attitudes from job interviewers and recruiters--as in, I've called two companies' HR departments and complained about the interviewers, something I've never even felt the compulsion to do previously
- Road rage directed at me numerous times, which I have not instigated, engaged and fueled (I honestly didn't experience this in L.A. or the Bay Area!)
- Going out in PB, OB, and La Jolla, which has introduced me to the wide range of douchebags that San Diegans seem to love to rag on L.A. for supposedly having
- A landlord who, after putting her "nice face" on through the moving-in process, has turned out to be nuts and the only bad landlord I've ever had

Now, I'd like to think that much of these attitudes can be somehow attributed to SD's super extremely transient (more so than even L.A. and the Bay) population, but I've had bad experiences with the natives, too. So much for "Happiness is Calling," as SD's tourism board likes to tout.

I'm incredibly disappointed and I feel soured as I already plan my exit strategy. Both L.A. and the Bay blow this place out of the water--additionally, the food, arts and culture are significantly better up there, and I did enjoy living in those places. What gives, SD?!?!
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8 Answers

jasona12 Dec 21, 2017
Avoid SD at all (thru the roof) costs! I've been living here since 1978 and it's gotten WAY worse on so many levels (I should write a book but it wouldn't sell because nobody cares). The main issue is the transient population. Namely those that come from other places to work here. It's a Navy town. It's a bio-engineering town. It's a polished shantytown. It's a town that doesn't breed locals. It breeds a false-privileged class that couldn't get away with a fraction of their rudeness anywhere else. Blame the big employers! The Qualcomms, the Illumina, and all those medical businesses that keep feeding the pockets of those who want, not those who need.
3 votes
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lalacs 2yrs+
I have been trying and trying to make meaningful friendships here in SD for 6 years. But I feel like it's all a waste of time now because people are either flaky, dramatic, cold, distant, or too high maintenance. I decided to move back to my town, close to Santa Barbara. I have about 23 friends there that I can talk and hang out and four was like my sisters. Mind you, I made that much connection with people within 2-3 years after my divorce and started on my own while in my hometown. In San Diego, I made some connections but it's not the same at all.
3 votes
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brittnayg Its hard to make friends regardless, especially as we get older. People don't take the time to make friends in person when they have their phones. lol
Oct 11, 2017
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rosem6 2yrs+
I grew up in The Polite Belt: Ohio. We lived in Thousand Oaks northwest of LA for years until we moved to San Diego in 1993. We were amazed and delighted at how much nicer San Deigans were compared to the people in TO. And I have to admit, once you've seen something in SD, there's no need to go back, like the LA museums, restaurants, and the Armenian bakeries Glendale. To me, LA is an armpit, and LA traffic sucks. I found the friendliest people in Austin, TX. I didn't like living there, but loved the BBQ and Lamme's Pecan Pralines.
2 votes
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fzb Feb 21, 2019
I'm from NYC and have lived in SD the last 5 years and don't find people cold or rude, sounds like you may have a bad outlook on life if EVERY single thing you did here didn't turn out well... a bit odd to be honest.
1 vote
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johnj25 Feb 09, 2018
Dear MJ1,

Sorry I’m late to the party, but this is a great topic and I’d love to add my perspective.

I moved to SD from Portland, OR in Fall 2016 to get state residency so I can get in-state tuition for college. I had cousins down here so I thought SD wouldn’t be a bad place to hang out and work in for a year or two before going back to school.

Once I got here, I jumped into a place with some guys off craigslist (always a bad idea) in Linda Vista and started working. Within about 3 months I was pretty disillusioned with life down here because I had experienced everything you mentioned above and more. But since I knew I’d be here for at least another year I trudged on, trying to learn from these experiences and here is what I’ve found:

What gives? The native San Diegans had the bad attitudes then let the transients intensify it -
For better or worse, SD and its people like all other cities have a stereotype and identity. In SD the general stereotype is that people are “laid-back.” I’d say there is a grain of truth to that, but I think it’s more like “egotistical and apathetic.” They live in a beach town in SoCal so they just want to relax and go about their life. If you don’t harm others there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But I think that attitude is what has bred the more sinister things that have afflicted you and I. Since the native San Diegans are so self-interested it has bred apathy. That apathy causes them not to care about how they treat other people or how those people treat them. Everyone just goes about their day focused on themselves. As a whole, this allows for the growth of the rudeness, coldness, aloofness, and unfriendliness which you’ve mentioned. From that point of view you begin to understand that: the locals are focused on themselves so they let the transients stomp right in with the "false-privilege” jasona12 mentioned and run amok. Then this cycle keeps revolving and in my opinion growing. It’s almost as if many of the people here never grew out of the toddler’s mentality where “I can do what I want when I want, and you can’t stop me! I can do anything I want to you and your belongings without any guilt, but, if you find a way to interrupt me I’ll start screaming and crying.” And when anyone who has a conscience or basic concept of respect dares speak up, you will get this quintessentially SD and dismissive response, “…it sounds like you have a bad attitude and everyone will be happier if you leave. I mean, honestly.” Thank you lmaD. If you want the perfect example of South California responses to any criticism – legitimate or not – look no further than lmaD.
The shamelessness is what’s been hardest for me to come to terms with. The way I grew up if you make a mistake or wrong someone it’s your responsibility to learn from the experience and try not to repeat it. You’re also taught guilt and shame to deter you from further errors. The rapscallions down here don’t believe in such things. If you make a mistake down here, keep calm and carry on. No need to fret over trivial things like other people.

Here’s why it’s worse than most other places -
Also as lmaD brought up, you can find “…nasty people...” in most major areas and I’d add on that you will find them pretty much anywhere. But what is unique about SD is the prevalence of nasty people. The average person's week will generally involve most time spent at home, work, and going out in their town (for food or fun, etc.) In MJ1s case and mine, at home we’ve had to deal with an awful landlord – also in my case awful roommates. At work; from the interview to coworkers, and finally management we’ve had to deal with genuinely terrible staff. And then, going out you encounter indifferent customer service and insane douchebags out on the town. There's nowhere to hide from them here. In most places, the amount of nasty people you encounter is 1 out of every 10. Here I feel like anywhere you go that number is easily 5 to 9 out of every 10 people. Oddly, with a population of about 1.3 million people, SD feels like a collection of small towns. And with that comes the big-fish-little-pond attitude. Whereas most major cities would stomp that attitude out in a heartbeat or at least push it to the side SD has let those scoundrels flourish. If cities were shrunk into a university, in SD frats take up 50-90% of campus.

So there you go. It’s a terse analysis but no gives transplants the heads up. I have 2 pretty good friends here who are born and bred San Diegans and their input has helped verify many of my opinions here. One good point they bring up is that one reason the good San Diegans (honestly there are quite a few of them) don’t care about these morons is that they’re focused on their day and when you grow up around that attitude you become desensitized to it.

My other thoughts on SD:

Now that I live in OB a block from the beach I decided that given the option to stay - I don’t wanna be around these people anymore. The weather and beaches only go so far. I concede that my opinions can be perceived as oversensitive and hyperbolic but honestly, this sort of widespread mistreatment makes living in such a beautiful place not worth it. It’s pretty disappointing and I agree with MJ1 that I’m also soured as I plan my exit strategy.

A popular theme in a lot of movies is how New York City and Boston toughen people. I’ve got coworkers in SD from both cities who have said that even though both of these places are notoriously rough, once you get through the hard times you become “one of us” and they’ll protect you as their own. After a year here my coworkers and I can tell you that people here will backstab their best friend without hesitation and have no shame or guilt about it. In fact, the next day they'll sincerely smile and chit-chat with their "best friend" because in their mind nothing wrong happened.

If life is really a highway think of these comparisons; if you live in Portland or most places in the US, no matter who you are or what car you drive you’ll get through traffic in a reasonable amount of time, listen to something good, have nice scenery around you, and someone will be polite enough to give you the right of way when you need it. In SD, picture buying a Mercedes convertible (because you like live in SoCal duh!) and being stuck in traffic. Your face is burnt, you’re already stressed from life in general, it’s gonna take at least an hour to go 10 miles, the top won’t come up, and you’ve been cut off by some prick at least every half mile – or nearly hit a lane-splitting motorcycle. You thought life was gonna be awesome down in sunny SD, but it turns out you’re just another burnt pissed off fool in a luxury vehicle sitting in SoCal interstate traffic.

Last but not least - despite all my whining I have to say I have had an alright time here. The women, beaches, and weather are more gorgeous than most people can imagine. Definitely hit Balboa Park, watch a sunset at Sunset Cliffs, go to Comic-Con, and hang out at La Jolla Shores (Dr. Seuss spent his final days there) during your vacation. Although I wouldn’t live here again and don’t recommend anyone reading this too either, do come and visit.
0 votes
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johnm55 2yrs+
You are experiencing the same as i in north county. I'm Asian American and a native San Diegan. It wasn't like this before. Something has changed and I suspect the unfriendliness is likely from people who are not from San Diego they have just brought their city attitudes in. The cold areas mostly observed are in
Carlsbad, Encinitas, Along the 56 freeway but that said the median income is indeed much higher
0 votes
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donnaz1 2yrs+
I have been trying to figure out why San Diego is so cold for 18 years. My guess is that they have so many transients and tourists that their communities get constantly displaced by strangers. It makes them cranky and possessive. Or maybe they are just angry that the locals aren't tourists buying their wares. I have had many, many San Diego residents tell me how cold they find San Diego. A lot of people move away. The flora, fauna, and geology make up for the people.
0 votes
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ImaD 2yrs+
If food, arts and culture are a priority to you, San Diego is probably not for you. While you can find it here, it's harder to find than LA or the Bay. If you're looking for sunshine and lots of activities, then San Diego has that. As for friendly people, every major area has its share of nasty people. It's sounds to me like you ran into most of them. I've certainly met every character you described while I was in Orange County.
I moved here from Orange County in the 80's and have found people much easier to connect with. I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but it sounds like you have a bad attitude and everyone will be happier if you leave. I mean, honestly. What kind of response do you expect from a question like the one you asked?
0 votes
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual and not those of StreetAdvisor.

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