It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's So Your Character is from the United Arab Emirates ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!
I've only been to the west coast during a layover in San Francisco, so I'm so happy to here what Tatiana has to say about this part of the country!
Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.
(None of the Images are Mine)
Francisco Bay Area in Northern California. I love to read, write, listen to music, play volleyball, and daydream my life away, mainly using my fandoms as an escape. Every once in awhile, my family helps bring me back to earth before I am lost to it completely. I also enjoy playing keyboard for the high school ministry at my church. Being able to use my talents for the Lord is very satisfying and brings me great joy. Getting to play music alongside my brothers is pretty wonderful, too!
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
The weather that we enjoy in all three states in the West is great for visiting our myriad of parks, lakes, and beaches. Yosemite National Park, Muir Woods, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, and Mammoth Lakes are just a few of the amazing places to see the incredible beauty that makes up the Western states.
If you want to see a sample of California coastline, Highway 1 is the best way to go. It has many twists and turns, but the views of the Pacific Ocean make the drive worth it.
Also, California is the third largest state in the US and the most populated, boasting 38 million inhabitants from all over the world.
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
California has a varied climate, depending on where in the state one is. Southern and Central California are very warm in the summer, sometimes over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and dry in the winter. It snows sometimes in the hills. The San Francisco Bay Area is temperate, hardly ever over 90 degrees in the summer and rarely under 50 degrees in the winter. It doesn't snow in the Bay Area, to my everlasting disappointment.
Oregon and Washington have extremely similar climates. The western sides of the two states are wetter and have more moderate temperatures, while the eastern parts are drier and display more extreme weather patterns.
I personally love anywhere along the coast, whether it’s Santa Barbara, San Diego, or a beautiful beach in Oregon that I went to once. I also love Seattle, Washington, and Lake Tahoe, which is on the border between California and Nevada (it snows there!).
Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
The West is very much influenced by other cultures, especially when it comes to our food. Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Korean, and Italian cuisine have each heavily influenced the Pacific states. Fish tacos are popular in San Diego; cioppino, an Italian-American fish stew, originated in San Francisco; and of course, the first Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971.
California is also obsessed with In-N-Out Burger. To say that we love it would be a horrible understatement. It’s a sacred place for most of us--well, as sacred as a fast-food place can be, I guess. Everyone that I talk to loves it. My cousins that live in Chicago look forward to having it when they visit. If you ever get a chance to try it, ask for something off of their secret menu, like an ‘animal-style’ burger, or fries that are ‘well-done’. And they have Bible verses on the bottom of their cups and the containers that hold the fries, which I think is very inspiring! I typically order a double-double cheeseburger with fries, but when I feel like splurging, I get my fries ‘animal-style’, with a special sauce and sauteed onions on top.
Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
California is heavily influenced by the surfer culture, so our speech is peppered with words like ‘dude’ and ‘sweet’, but not typically with the surfer/hippie drawl that others like to stereotype us with. We who live up north call San Francisco ‘SF’ or ‘The City’, we say ‘like’ a lot, and in SoCal when they refer to their freeways - yes, freeways, not highways - they put the word ‘the’ before, as in ‘the 405’.
People from Northern California call Southern California ‘SoCal’ and those from Southern California call Northern California ‘NoCal’. Yes, the omission of the ‘r’ is purposeful. There is one more thing that we say here in ‘NoCal’, but it’s not very appropriate. I use the word ‘hecka’, it’s little brother, instead, as in ‘that movie was hecka awesome’ or ‘that In’n’Out burger was hecka good’. Honestly, I could probably write a whole book about California’s slang. Hmm, maybe I should...
I don’t really know slang from the other states, unless ‘12th Man’ counts. ‘12th Man’ is what fans of Washington’s football team, the Seattle Seahawks, call themselves, and the only reason I know that is because I am a fan myself!
Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
The high school scene is the same as most around the United States. Most high school students wake up between 6:30 and 7 o’clock, have breakfast (or don’t - some of my friends have commented multiple times on the fact that they don’t have breakfast in the morning) and then go to school until 3 or so in the afternoon. Then they go home and do homework, hang out with their friends, or stay at the school to participate in sports or after-school activities. I have been homeschooled my whole life, so in addition to not knowing what ‘real’ high school is like, my schedule is a bit different.
For adults who are working, the routine is the same as everywhere else. Have breakfast (or don’t), drive to work - the typical 9 to 5 - then come home, have dinner, do more work or just hang out, go to bed. In addition, traffic is a huge part of people’s lives in the SF Bay Area and down in SoCal - and probably in the bigger cities in Oregon and Washington, too. It can get really crazy - a normal day includes a lot of traffic and accidents and bad drivers to deal with. Most commute times are doubled or even tripled during rush hour.
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
The Western states, particularly California, are notorious for their democratic/liberal leanings when it comes to politics. They have been consistent ‘blue states’ in the last few decades of presidential elections.
The quality and cost of living is also really high in the Pacific states - the San Francisco Bay Area being one of the most expensive places to live and work in the United States - and people are willing to drive forty-five minutes to an hour - not including traffic time - to work at an important, high-paying job, even though it is so far from their home.
Culturally, we have been very influenced by the Spanish, especially in California, as can be seen by the names of the majority of our cities. Asian influences have also had an important impact on us, as can be seen by the large China-, Japan-, and Koreatowns in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego, and Seattle.
In addition, I have heard that Californians are superficially friendly. We act friendly to new people but don’t really keep up appearances and become more standoff-ish, as opposed to New Yorkers, who are hard to get to know but end up being really friendly.
Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
The establishment of the missions occurred from 1768 to 1853 and resulted in the founding of twenty-one Spanish missions that stretched along California from San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north. The missions were established to teach Catholicism to the Indians and colonize California with Spaniards and Indians, the two races being encouraged to intermarry. The missions are still intact and most are open to the public for tours.
Possibly the most famous historical event in this region was the Gold Rush, which began in 1848 and lasted until 1855, bringing many people to California and Oregon who were hoping to ‘strike it rich’. Not many people did find large amounts of gold, but the Gold Rush served to introduce many different races of people to the Western states. Washington also had a Gold Rush, which lasted from 1897-99.
A more recent event that shaped the West was the founding of many technological companies. Silicon Valley, an area just north of San Jose and south of San Francisco, is home to companies that are known worldwide, such as Apple and Google, and smaller, start-up companies. The establishment of Apple and Google brought millions of people to the San Francisco area, trying to get a job with a major corporation. The same is the case in Washington, where Microsoft’s headquarters are located. The tech boom transformed the West into a top-tier player in the world of technology and science.
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
A lot of people think Westerners are either liberal hippies (which are in abundance, especially where I live), surfers (which we do have a lot of in the southern part of the state), or really rich Google or Apple executives. Not everyone drives a sports car or Prius, but it seems like there is always one in front of you on the freeway!
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many movies or TV shows where the Pacific states were well represented. There is a comedy TV show called Portlandia which I think revolves around different people living in Portland, Oregon, and a movie called San Andreas, which dramatizes a major earthquake happening in Northern California, but I haven’t seen either of them.
What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
One of my personal favorites is the animated superhero movie Big Hero 6. The main character lives in a city called San Fransokyo, which is a cross between San Francisco and Tokyo. The movie portrayed the techy and geeky side of the San Francisco Bay Area very well, as well as the famous and dramatic hills that San Francisco boasts. And then of course, there’s the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out, where the main character moves to San Francisco with her parents, but the City doesn’t play a huge part in the movie, as most of it goes on inside the main character’s head.
I haven’t seen many other movies or TV shows or read many books that portray California or any other Western states.
Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
The only ones I can think of right now aside from the characters from Big Hero 6 are Tony Stark aka. Iron Man and Scott Lang aka. Ant-Man, from the Marvel Universe. Tony fits the ‘billionaire Malibu’ stereotype, which I don’t like, but I am a fan of how they portrayed his struggle with depression. I enjoyed seeing San Francisco and the areas surrounding it when I watched Ant-Man, but I almost wish that the City had played a bigger part in the movie.
Oh, and then there’s Cassidy Sloane from the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. I’ve only read two of the books, but Cassidy was one of my favorite characters. She was originally from Laguna Beach, California, and I found a lot in common with her, seeing as we both love sports and competition.
Thank you, Tatiana, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post about Alaska!
Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Kenya, Iraq, and Egypt.
Do you have any characters from the West Coast United States? Did this inspire you to write West Coast character or set a book in the West Coast United States? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Tatiana? Be sure to thank her!
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