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15 Expressions You’ll Only Understand if You’re From California




Welcome to the Golden State, where the surf’s always up and the lingo is as diverse as the landscape! From throwing around “hella” like confetti to debating the merits of NorCal vs. SoCal, Californians have a language all their own that reflects the state’s laid-back vibes and trend-setting culture. So grab your avocado toast, hop on the 405, and get ready to dive into 15 expressions you’ll only hear in California!

“The 405”

Californians refer to Interstate 405, a major highway in Southern California, simply as “the 405.” It’s notorious for its traffic congestion, and locals use the definite article “the” before its number as a shorthand way to denote it in conversation.

“The Bay”

In Northern California, “the Bay” refers to San Francisco Bay, a defining geographic feature of the region. It encompasses the cities and communities surrounding the bay, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

“Surf’s up”

A classic California expression, “surf’s up” is used to indicate that the conditions are ideal for surfing. It’s often heard along the coast, where surfing is a popular recreational activity and lifestyle.


In-N-Out Burger is a beloved fast-food chain with a cult following in California. Locals often refer to it simply as “In-N-Out,” and its menu items, such as “Animal Style” burgers and “Double-Double” cheeseburgers, are iconic staples of Californian cuisine.


While not exclusive to California, “Cali” is a common abbreviation used by locals to refer to their home state. It’s a casual and affectionate term that reflects the laid-back vibe and sunny lifestyle associated with California.


Originating in Northern California, particularly in the Bay Area, “hella” is an intensifier used to emphasize something. For example, “It’s hella crowded here” means it’s very crowded. It’s a distinctively Californian slang term that has gained popularity beyond the state.

“June Gloom”

Along the coast of Southern California, particularly in the month of June, there’s a weather phenomenon known as “June Gloom.” It’s characterized by overcast skies, cool temperatures, and foggy conditions, which can persist for much of the month.

“Valley Girl”

A “Valley Girl” is a stereotype associated with young women from the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. They are often characterized by their distinctive manner of speech, marked by uptalk and the frequent use of “like” and “totally.”


In Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, “techie” is a colloquial term for someone who works in the technology industry. It’s a nod to the region’s status as a global hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“NorCal” and “SoCal”

Californians often refer to Northern California and Southern California as “NorCal” and “SoCal,” respectively. These regional nicknames are used to distinguish between the two distinct halves of the state, each with its own culture and identity.

“California Roll”

A type of sushi roll that typically contains imitation crab, avocado, and cucumber, wrapped in seaweed and rice. The California roll originated in California in the 1960s and has since become popular worldwide, symbolizing the state’s fusion cuisine and culinary innovation.


“Tinseltown” is a nickname for Hollywood, the historic center of the American film industry located in Los Angeles. It’s a nod to the glitz, glamour, and star-studded allure of the entertainment capital of the world.

“Avocado toast”

In California’s health-conscious culture, “avocado toast” has become a popular breakfast or brunch dish. It typically consists of mashed avocado spread on toasted bread and topped with various seasonings or ingredients.

“Golden State”

California is often referred to as the “Golden State,” a nickname inspired by the state’s abundant sunshine, golden poppy flowers, and historic association with the California Gold Rush of the 19th century.

“The OC”

“The OC” is a shorthand way of referring to Orange County, a region in Southern California known for its affluent suburbs, beautiful beaches, and suburban lifestyle. It gained widespread recognition as the setting of the television series “The O.C.” and is sometimes used colloquially to refer to the area.

Currently residing in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and Pomeranian, Mochi. Leo is a lover of all things travel related outside and inside the United States. Leo has been to every continent and continues to push to reach his goals of visiting every country someday. MuckRack Profile

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