Advice to Californians moving to Texas

Being from southern California myself, I wrote these little tidbits of advice a little while ago for those who plan to move to Texas, more specific Central Texas. This is all tongue in cheek and not meant to be serious or insulting.

Texans – The best part of this state are the people. Texans are a proud people and are the epitome of Southern Hospitality, very welcoming and inclusive. They wave at you when you drive by and are friendly as can be. This can be a little off putting if you are from Los Angeles where people driving by does not solicit the same response. Like me, you will get used to it quickly and hopefully start to emulate this behavior in your normal routine.

One observation, they are not really that  impressed you are from California as much as you are. In fact, they seem to have disdain for pretty much any state that is not Texas.

Your kids will say two pledges of allegiance in school, one for the US and one for Texas. If they are like my sons, they will eventually have a “Come and take It” flag hanging in their room or flying from their truck. They will learn more about the history of this state than the history of this country, or their own history for that matter. They will also think that historic places, like the Alamo, are a pretty big deal and in turn so will you.


Frontage Roads – Learn how to use them or you will drive miles out of the way, making multiple u-turns, using multiple four letter words..

“The” Freeways or Highways – I still don’t know what they call them here, freeways or highways, but one way to quickly identify a Californian is the use of “The” preceding a freeway number. “The 183” or “The 35” will quickly get you a smirk from a Texan. However, I refuse to change my behavior on this topic.

Road Names – Yeah I don’t get how they pronounce some of them but when in Rome. For example, Manchaca and Guadalupe, I will never reconcile this and will continue to scrutinize it. Also FM means Farm to Market and RM means Ranch to Market which has no bearing on anything you do but an interesting fact nonetheless.

Blue Laws – Coming from the “Godless” west coast, I never heard of a Blue Law before but apparently they exist here in Texas.

You will not find vodka, rum or any other liquor in a grocery store or Walgreens. You will also not find milk and bread in a liquor store. You cannot buy liquor on Sundays or beer and wine prior to noon on Sundays. I tried to do all the above with futility. On Sunday you better have stocked up the Saturday before or you will be calling your friends to bring their own liquor for your special Superbowl trash can punch.

Also, the car dealerships are closed on Sundays. Actually, they get to choose the day of the weekend to be closed. I remember going Cal Worthington’s to test drive a car at 9:30 PM on a Sunday.  You will not get to do that here.

Guns and Hunting – Where I grew up guns were meant to shoot people not animals but here they are used for hunting and people actually eat what they kill.  There is nothing like a good deer sausage so do not turn up your nose when offered. Know what a “Deer Lease” is because the circles you will associate with will, most likely, be made up of hunters. You will hear countless references to “The Lease” so know what that is. Ok I will tell you, its a large swath of land people pay a monthly lease to hunt deer. There is always a dwelling of some sort and a feeder of some sort on said “Lease”.  Texans spend a lot of time on the lease and, from the stories I hear, they seem do more beer drinking there than actual hunting.

Also, here it’s easier to get a CHL than a DL and that is no lie, so keep your road rage in check.

Fire Ants – These are evil, mean, little spawns from hell and you WILL get stung, it is inevitable. Yes, I said stung not bitten and that is why they are called Fire Ants, because their sting burns like a hot poker. Know what their mounds look like and where these little bastards prefer to set up shop. The good thing is, they are not hard to spot, especially after a good rain. They are not the only ants that bite/sting in Texas just the ones with the worst attitude.

Property Taxes – I would rather be covered in fire ants.

Mexican Food – There is no getting around it, the Mexican food is not the same here and at first you will be disappointed. With that said, once you accept the differences, you will start to enjoy the food here and ridicule California for not having migas or breakfast tacos, when you visit there. Here are some points for you:

 Dona or “Crack Sauce”. This green concoction is better than anything made, ever! It looks like creamy guacamole but in no way is it even related. It’s tasty, spicy and most places will have it, albeit by different names. Just ask for the green sauce. HEB tries to sell a variation of it but TacoDeli is the Mecca for this, although Pollo Rico is on par too.

Queso – In California this is just shredded cheese but here in Texas it is a conglomeration of melted Velveeta, jalapenos, pico de gallo, chili and just about anything else they desire to put in it. It is used as a dip, a sauce and an ingredient, a rub, a cure for psoriasis and can be found in just about everything. Texans are connoisseurs of good queso and many restaurants are judged by the quality of this dip. Actually Velveeta is only used at the cheap places and the worst places use canned nacho cheese. Avoid them like the plague.

Breakfast Tacos – This is a simple concept, not much different than a breakfast burrito except its a taco. Breakfast burritos are not in abundance here and do not attempt to convince a restaurant to make you one thinking they are not a far stretch from breakfast tacos. You will be met with annoyance and maybe more than you bargained for in your food, believe me I tried. Learn to love the breakfast taco because it is fantastic!

Migas – This is a scrambled egg and tortilla chip dish I like better than machaca but my dream would be a fusion of both.

Fish Tacos – They are typically grilled using Tilapia but you can find some fried catfish tacos too. It’s hit or miss to find a good, fried fish taco if you are used to getting them in SD or Baja.

Attention San Diegans – There are no Robertos, Albertos or any other “ertos” here to get carne asada burritos or rolled tacos (Taquitos) at 2:00 AM. Good luck finding one rolled taco within a 100 miles from here. Their idea of carne asada is fajitas .It’s not the same but not bad either. Don’t fret, go to Michoacan Market and get their fajita meat for the grill, put it in a taco or burrito and you will quickly be converted.

Attention Angelinos – No Super Burrito Deluxes from El Tarasco or El Gringos will ever be found here or even a variation of it. Just let that one go. <sigh>

Attention NoCals – Do you even have Mexican food north of Point Conception? There are Taco Bells here so you should be fine. 🙂 I jest.

Whataburger – This place is a state icon and the Texans seem to embrace it almost as much as the Alamo. A quick way to get into a heated debate with the the locals, is to state that In-N-Out is better than Whataburger. That never seems to end well either, so try to avoid making such declarations in public. We do have an In-N-Out here in Cedar Park and it tastes the same as California. I myself have converted to the Double Whataburger with jalapenos. Try Mighty Fine too, if you want a good burger.

HEB – Probably the best supermarket I have ever been to and another Texas business icon. Don’t call it “heb”.

High School Football – All the hype is true, it is like a religion here. I have attended more high school football games in my 13 years in Texas than my 37 years in California and I was on my high school football team. I have two boys and our lives revolve around their school and this game. I co founded the local youth football and cheer organization and I have now spent 7 years on the high school football booster club; this is the norm concerning involvement in this sport. It is a community thing and pretty cool.

Know the difference between 4a, 5a, and 6a schools and the name of the head coach of your kid’s high school so at tailgate parties you can sound informed. Yes, they tailgate at highschool games here, in the stadium parking lots. Make it out to a game on Friday night, preferably a CPHS Timberwolf game, and enjoy the splendor for all it is. (Actually you can replace football with band, cheer or any other endeavor and Texans will make it big and tailgate for it). You will become hooked.

Yes Ma’am and Yes Sir – I will get mixed responses on this. We are in the South (Yes Texans, if you participated in the Civil War and wore grey, you are the South. Deal with it.) and, in general, it is a reflection of your parenting if your children do or do not answer adults with a ”Yes/No Ma’am” or a “Yes/No Sir”. Even though it is an expectation here, people will still compliment you on your children’s good manners although they may act like crazed animals when alone with you.

Cedar Fever – This essence of evil takes flight to afflict the innocent, around mid January through February. If you are one of those who states,  ‘I don’t get allergies and never will”, the cedar trees will respond with, “Hold my beer”. Yeah, allergies in the middle of winter is a strange and horrible occurrence and there is no avoiding it, so make sure you ask Santa for plenty of Claritin and Benadryl for Christmas. You’ll need it.

The Weather –  It’s hot and in the winter, its not as hot. Actually, the weather here is very complex.

Winter– Temperatures in the 40s are the norm with some occasional dips into the 30s and 20s. On occasion, we will experience a hard freeze, maybe, one day out of the year. Every once in a while, we will get a snowflake or two. No, do not run out to Academy and start stocking up on snow gear unless you plan on driving someplace where there is snow, like New Mexico. The last time the snow actually stuck was a quite a few years ago.  Know this, however, we have no clue on how to traverse the streets during freezing or snowy weather so expect schools to close and the city to stop at the first sign of an icicle.

Spring – Spring brings California like temperatures to Central Texas and the bloom of the Bluebonnets. The landscape explodes in azure and every highway will be lined with them as well as with the bodies of those who think it is safe to take pictures on the side of a major thruway.  I am kidding, no one dies but you will see many out there risking their lives, and their family’s lives, just to take a picture with a flower.

Also, at this time, we will get hit with the strongest of weather. Unlike California where rain comes in off the Pacific and gets people wet, the storms here barrel through like a stampede of longhorns, to send all the non-Texans into a panic. The first time I heard the term “Tornado” on the news station, I threw my kids into a bathtub with football helmets, surrounded by pillows, all the while the Texans sat outside BBQing and drinking beer. As a Californian, it will unnerve you when you first hear the phrase, “Tornado Warning in your area”.  I suspect the Texans would feel the same way  if a 4.2, centered in Joshua Tree, were to shake them out of their sleep at five in the morning.

Summer – From May to Late October do not expect it to get below 95 with humidity making it feel like 150. You will know you’re A/C guy very well.

Fall – This is my favorite day of the year.

BBQ – People take great pride in their BBQ here and will wake up in the early mornings to spend hours cooking it to perfection. Know the difference between grilling and BBQ and what a pit is. Don’t ever handle another man’s pit without asking. Smoked brisket is the measuring stick by all things BBQ here. Learn what a smoke ring should look like and act impressed when someone shows you theirs, even if you are clueless. Don’t attempt to bring up Tri-Tip comparisons because you will get feigned interest from someone who is trying to be nice but really does not know what the hell a Tri-Tip is, nor cares. By the way, I heard you can pick up a Tri-Tip at Costco but that was from a friend of a friend. Also know that BBQ sauce here is considered a  condiment for the table, not a glaze or rub for cooking.

“Y’all” – Don’t fight it, you will succumb to it eventually. I will quote a friend of mine who transplanted here from New Jersey, “It rolls off the tongue like butter”. Drop the “You guys” and embrace the “Y’all”. You don’t have to be “Fixin” or “Hollerin” but definitely indulge in the decadence of this word dessert.

In conclusion, the most important advice I can give you is to become a Texan and don’t stay a Californian. Some of the most die hard Texans weren’t born here. Be proud of your roots but also be proud you are now part of the LoneStar State and that is pretty cool. Do this and you will enjoy all this state and the people have to offer. Welcome to Texas, Y’all!

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  1. I became an ex-Cal before it was cool. When I arrived here in 1984 Austin was much like where I grew up in Ventura County. I had already been introduced to the blue laws when I lived in Missouri so that was an easy transition. I miss Bergstrom AFB. I miss Aqua Fest. I miss going to Zilker Park and finding parking that I don’t have to pay for. And how many buildings in California are lit up at night and look like an owl?

    The thing that got me here was coke (yep no capitalization). I would be asked by coworkers if I wanted a coke. I do not like coke and always said no. Then I started noticing that the coke they got was Sprite, Dads Root Beer, Pepsi, etc. Huh, coke is soda. The big difference in Mexican food for me was the concept of fajitas. I left California when I was 20 so much of what you talk about did not exist. BTW much to my die hard Whataburger only in Texas step-daughter and husband, Oxnard had a Whataburger. They were appalled. I am not impressed with the influx of the new California cuisine: In-N-Out, Del Taco, and Carl’s Jr (they ruined the fries).

    Don’t be fooled, most old Austinites are still wishing they had not made that guest room so comfy.

  2. Best summary I’ve read to date. May I offer a few additions? 1. Frontage roads are usually, but not always, one-way, in the same direction as the lanes they adjoin. 2. Most folks agree that while Whataburger (with it’s gazillion of options on burgers & shakes) is the best burger restaurant, Mighty Fine makes the best actual burger. 3. “Yes, ma’am and yes, sir are not used solely by children. They are used consistently adult-to-adult, and frequently BY adults TO kids. That’s because it’s a phrase of general respect, and or a confirmation that the person addressed is perceived as being, doing, or saying something the speaker accepts as correct and good. In Texas, it’s not, and never has been, a phrase of submission or feeling less than another person. 4. Y’all is singular or at most applied to a couple. “All y’all” is plural. If we’re having dinner at your house and I invite y’all to dinner, it will be assumed I’m inviting the adult couple. All y’all invites the family, including the kids’ friend who dropped in from next door. 5. At least in Austin, the California flood has taken its toll. Gone is wonderful, quirky Austin with all its family businesses and independent ways. It’s official motto (Keep Austin Weird”) is a testament to what was before Californians demanded the exact same business chains, gigantic condo high rises, and culture they just left behind. Yes, many businesses stay open late when things used to close at 6 and stay closed on Sundays. But the cost was huge. I miss the genuine happiness and friendliness of service workers, replaced now by the corporate trained smiles & responses, which don’t match the exhaustion and chronic worry in the eyes. I hope Texans realize that being friendly does NOT mean accepting & implementing everything people moving here demand. Texas, and Texans, are very special. As the popular T-shirt said, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could.”

    1. Hi Susan and thanks for reading my blog and replying. Thank you for your points as well. I do have to point out, however, that Californians are not the number one influx of people in Austin. In fact Californians are not even in the top five. They are Texans from other cities such as Dallas and Houston. Can you believe it? I did not know either.

      Here is a website illustrating this.

      Thanks for replying and reading the blog!

  3. I moved to Odessa from Iowa in 1980 with my husband and 4 children. I was amazed that there was no river in Odessa (Ha). The Mesquite trees went on and on and on. I quickly passed the civil service exam and became a social worker for the State. My clients would call me “Miss Maureen” almost 100% of the time. Unsettling at first but I bowed to their tradition. I made home visits to rural homes in 17 counties. (a huge area) from Pecos to Monahans to Balmorhea. The pool in Balmorhea and the Davis Mts are worth the trip. My sons had trouble with the yes sir no sir bit but got along ok. My daughters who were younger loved Texas as I did eventually. I love the fierce grasp of individualism and self determination. Plus there are some rivers. I live in DFW now. Odessa was a 5 year sentence that I learned to enjoy. The people, the Mimosa trees, the ground owls that my dogs chased, the hearty people who are genuine and kind. Bloom where you are planted.

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