As an expat, you’ll find yourself in familiar company in Los Angeles. The city’s ethnic and racial diversity has defined its history and culture. Almost 60% of the people living in Los Angeles speak a language other than English at home and there are more than 140 different languages spoken in the city. Of the about 3.9 million people living in L.A., nearly half are of Hispanic or Latino origin, and you’ll meet people from all sorts of racial and ethnic backgrounds. So, if you are of a global mindset and enjoy a heterogeneous environment, life in Los Angeles has a lot to offer.
The reasons why Los Angeles attracts so many people from around the world are manifold: there is, of course, the allure of Hollywood and L.A. as the entertainment capital of the world. But sunny California in general — with its interesting history as a former part of Mexico — also has an obvious appeal to most people. Students living in Los Angeles benefit from the quality and variety of the city’s academic institutions, such as the University of Southern California (USC), the California State University, Los Angeles, the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), and the Colburn School.
The quality of life in Los Angeles is generally high, but so are the costs of living: Forbes estimates that L.A. is 17.9% more expensive than the national average. This is partly due to very high property prices and high rents. You can read more about this in our guide on moving to Los Angeles. In terms of safety, the conditions for living in Los Angeles, once nicknamed the gang capital of America, have greatly improved over the years due to gentrification and decreasing crime rates. Even though the crime rates have recently slightly increased after decreasing for more than a decade, Los Angeles remains safer than at any time since the 1950s.
People in Los Angeles enjoy a subtropical-Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine and hardly any rain. Winter temperatures usually only drop as low as 50°F (10°C), and summer days can be as warm as 90°F (32°C). Upwards of twelve hours of sunshine a day during the summer months and around 75 miles (120 km) of beach ensure that sunbathers and surfers always get their money’s worth.
Unfortunately, summer is also smog season in L.A. The American Lung Association ranked Los Angeles the number one most polluted city in 2015, and it’s all but inevitable that the air pollution can have serious impacts on the quality of life in Los Angeles. By and large, the pollution is caused by the heavy traffic, the L.A./Long Beach Port Complex, and the manufacturing industry. The city’s various geographical features and the lack of rain don’t do it any favors in this regard.
Thus, while the smog season is unlikely to affect those who live in hilly areas or directly on the ocean front, the heavy layers of smog floating over Downtown L.A. and the valleys can cause serious health issues, especially for people with respiratory diseases. The government has taken several measures to tackle this problem, including creating incentives for car owners living in Los Angeles to drive low-emission vehicles, such as rebates on clean vehicles for low-income drivers who scrap their older cars.
People living in Los Angeles also face a significant risk of earthquakes. However, these are usually of low intensity, and most are barely noticeable. If you are unfamiliar with earthquakes, you may find this little Emergency Preparedness Booklet by the L.A. Fire Department helpful. Apart from earthquakes, there are no other common health and safety risks associated with living in Los Angeles.
If you want to find out more about other safety risks in the USA and about how to behave in the case of emergency, take a look at our article on emergency preparedness in the US for more details.
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