The OC shock

Real or plastic lips? Hard to tell. Sand in the Benz? Orange skin and fluorescent teeth? Pets in clothes? To junior public relations and advertising major Simone Gabrielli, moving to Orange County for school had burned bright in her imagination as nearly flawless. It wasn’t until her New-York-self came face to face with the OC born-n-raised, that her ideal perceptions turned tainted and uglier than she had dreamt.  


“New York is used to uppers and amphetamines, California wraps up nights with weed and downers. Culture shock was learning that people here didn’t mind blending in.”


If you are OC-born and raised, with coastal climate and a touch of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” touching your resume, take note: Chapman is still a culmination of the thousands of different cities, states and countries, there is still a strong presence of Orange County living that many of those temporary OC residents feel a form of culture shock.


Sometimes immersing oneself into a new environment can be a great, positive change or, in Gabrielli’s case, a clear sign that Orange County is not the place for her.


“I’m a very straight forward kind of person, a hallmark trait of a New Yorker and a lot of people here are quick to label me as aggressive and impatient,” said Gabrielli. “Culture shock was “oh, I’ll get that prop return done in the next few weeks.” But here I was at somebody’s doorsteps with the returns the very next day.”


Along with the pace of her world switching 360 degrees, she noticed how different her OC peers treated her versus those from home. For Gabrielli, she realized quickly that in New York, kids become adults much quicker than those of Orange County.


“The things kids were just now discovering, I’d done by the time I was 14. I’d had a fake ID, started sneaking into clubs, experimenting with drugs, feeling heartbreak and loss and true love all before I was 17.”



How does Urban Dictionary define OC?

  1. A utopian paradise in California where Amusement parks, Asians, Ice cream lovers and Soccer moms coincide and live with each other in peace and harmony.
  2. This is a place full of pretentious ass clowns with to much fucking money. Oh and they all live in lalala land because fucking handbags, and designer sunglasses are all they care about.
  3. It is the suburban sprawl capital of the world, none of the land is left natural, you could sit in traffic for five hours trying to get to big bear
  4. Very possibly the single dullest area on the continent. Not full of rich white people like the stereotypes, but actually populated almost exclusively by complete tools who lack common human decency, courtesy, respect, and any ability to drive.
  5. A mixing bowl for the upper-middle-class to even lower, but majority is rich.



To some there is an obvious difference between east coast pace and west coast pace and how people are brought up. But one element Gabrielli was not expecting was how people would look at her daring, NY wardrobe.


“I was so used to wearing whatever outlandish outfits I wanted because in New York, nobody cares, but here, people urge conformity. ‘Simone, you should learn to run with the pack,’” she said.


Gabrielli is not the only out-of-state Chapman student jarred a bit by the cultural differences. Freshman dance major Mara Hancock said that one of the first things she noticed, especially when dorm living with two other females, was how much attention and effort people put into their bodies here versus home.


“I began seeing my friends becoming dissatisfied with their beautiful bodies and striving to have the small, skinny figure that this society deems most beautiful,” said Hancock.


On the west coast, attention to one’s naked body is much more apparent because of beach culture and the explosion of social media. In general, the majority of people want to feel comfortable when friend groups decide to head to the dorm pool or go down to Newport


“I was shocked at the groups of people who place physical appearance on a higher level than passion for their craft or intelligence,” Hancock said.


But there’s another side. Hancock has also met “so many people who are really interested in their studies People here have large dreams, goals and back-stories which is another thing foreign to me, someone from a small town in Georgia.”


It’s true, Chapman’s student body is filled with many ambitions and family connections stemming from famous rock stars to royalty. While locals find this pretty normal, students like Hancock, coming from her tight-knit community, find Orange County’s people drama to be fascinating and exhilarating.


Like both Gabrielli and Hancock, junior marketing major Michael Carr needed to get over to the west coast scene. With his heart both set on and broken by Los Angeles schools, he chose the next closest school; the one where there are enough fruit trees and car stickers that tells of one’s whereabouts… Orange, CA.


I was just ready to finally be a resident of California. And that first week of school hit me like a rock. No one ever told the black boy from the Detroit area that OC was one of the most conservative, Caucasian, and affluent counties in Southern California,” said Carr.


Some of the words and phrases students use to describe Chapman’s student body is “rich, white kids” largely due to Orange County’s connotation and from the fact that many students grew up just down the street. Carr noticed a problem here… these people at Chapman were not cultured the way he was.


“I don’t think I had my first black friend until the end of the first week of school. The second day I made some connections with some brothas, but it was the ‘nod’ you give another black person when you’ve never met them. It’s a support thing when you’re in the middle of Vanillaville,” said Carr.


While Carr says he’s seen numerous examples of both overt and subtle racism, one thing about OC culture fascinated him.


“I was amazed at what these kids thought they could get away with. Like blowing a grand with daddy’s credit card on coke, alcohol, and clothes,” said Carr. “Like no consequences ever crossed their mind… it was beautiful and tragic at the same time witnessing this form of immortality.”


This is arguably the most common stereotype of both Orange County and Chapman University. Money. With Mercedes and Jaguars speeding in and out of the dorm parking structure, it’s easy to measure people’s wealth by their material things here and place judgment on people.


Some believe OC is the perfect mixture of its two neighboring big cities, Los Angeles and San Diego. It doesn’t know whether to be beachy, laid back or industrial, fast-paced. This is partially why so many students who come to Chapman face some degree of culture shock; they didn’t know what to expect.


That’s why students like Gabrielli have found that the Chapman community and Orange County are two places she could never permanently fit in. While her culture shock may have been more alarming than expected, she now knows that her heart and mind will always be in NY. Said Gabrielli:


“Very few kids here will survive in New York, but I’ll take that over being out of place in Southern California any day.”

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