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NorCal Vs. SoCal: The Two Sides of California

June 8, 2022

What do you think of when you hear “California”? Probably palm trees, surfers, and movie stars.

But what if I told you there were two different Californias?

It’s true! While Southern California (SoCal) and Northern California (NorCal) might be part of the same state, they have completely different climates, landscapes, and reputations.

Though it’s important not to believe all stereotypes, many Californians still love to debate these differences.

Here are a few of the biggest differences between NorCal and SoCal:

Climate

If your idea of California is all sunshine and T-shirt weather, you must be thinking of SoCal. There, even in December, the average weather ranges from 58 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit or 14 to 26 degrees Celsius.

NorCal is a different story.

Though it can still be warm inland, coastal cities like San Francisco are known for their rainy, foggy weather.

In fact, the fog is so famous in San Francisco that locals have even given it a nickname: Karl the Fog. Karl has his own Twitter account and is even the star of his very own children’s book!

Nature

California is a long state bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean. There are beaches all along the coast, so you can surf pretty much anywhere. But if you’re planning on surfing up north, you better wear a wetsuit because that water is cold!

If you’re looking for palm trees, you’re better off sticking to SoCal where most of the landscape is desert.

Because NorCal gets much more rain, it tends to be greener.

In fact, Northern California is covered in a vast forest, which is home to the world’s tallest trees: redwoods (also known as sequoias). Redwood trees generally grow between 250 and 300 feet tall (72 and 91 meters) and some are wide enough to drive through!

Fun Fact

Some redwoods can live to be 1,500 years old!

Industry

SoCal is the home of Hollywood. People all over the world move to SoCal hoping to become famous and “make it big” in the film industry.

NorCal, on the other hand, is the home of Silicon Valley.

If you’d rather develop the next big app than star in the next big movie, the San Francisco Bay Area is the place for you. This area of NorCal is home to all the big tech giants, from Facebook to Apple to Google.

Attitude

Since California is a diverse place, it’s impossible to generalize everyone. There's a huge Hispanic community in California since it used to be part of Mexico.

The building of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s and the California Gold Rush of 1849 also brought many Asian workers to California.

But despite all this fabulous state-wide diversity, Californians will still try to convince you why their region is the best.

As a whole, California has a reputation for being one of the more politically liberal states in the US, though there are certainly conservative areas. 

People from NorCal will tell you that people from SoCal are superficial, thanks to Hollywood. Meanwhile, people from SoCal will say that people from NorCal are a bunch of liberal hippies.

Are you more NorCal or SoCal?

Now that you’ve heard about some of the big differences between SoCal and NorCal, where would you rather visit? Which part of California seems more like your scene? Tell us in the comments!

Glossary

  • climate: the weather of a specific region averaged over a long period of time
  • landscape: the nature in a specific region
  • inland: the interior of a country normally far away from the coast
  • wetsuit: a tight outfit used to keep people warm in the water
  • diverse: composed of many different types of people
  • liberal: believing more in political progress or change than in tradition
  • conservative: believing more in political tradition than in progress or change
  • superficial: caring too much about appearances
  • hippy: a group of people in the 1960s and 1970s who cared about social and environmental issues and believed in love instead of war
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Comments (3)

Tara Benwell(Author)

This is a great reading to use when practicing comparing and contrasting!

I've only been to NorCal, but I'd love to visit SoCal! Thanks for sharing these differences, Lara!

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Tammy Wik(Ellii Staff)

I'm born and raised in NorCal, so the fog is definitely part of my blood! I do love to travel to SoCal, though -- especially to Los Angeles to eat great food, soak up the sun, and visit Disneyland :)

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    Marian F.(Teacher)

    Disneyland is in Anaheim, which is approximately 35 miles southeast of L.A.

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