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Unwritten rules for living in San Diego

These unofficial San Diego rules tell every local how to live, drink, and dress.

A woman sitting on a bench looking at a beach in La Jolla, CA

These beautiful views should be treated with love.

Photo via @frogg136

Table of Contents

Whether you’re a native San Diegan or a relative newcomer, there are just some things every local understands to be true.

We asked our readers to share San Diego’s unwritten rules, from common city knowledge to relatable trends and local lingo. You won’t find these rules in a handbook, but they are undoubtedly absorbed by the community — and if you’re not from San Diego, these might be a little difficult to explain.

The unspoken rules everyone knows

  • “We LOVE diversity! Whether it’s in our people, our geography, our international border, or our distinct neighborhoods.” — James R.
  • Leave the beach cleaner than you found it. We never litter on the beach (that’s a real rule), and we take pride in maintaining our pristine coastline, so we pick up trash that’s been left behind.

Speak the language

  • Interstate 5? We don’t know her. It’s “the 5" to locals. In San Diego, we shorten freeway names, which has roots in California history. Now, it’s just slang, but it helps us identify people who aren’t originally from here.
  • “Don’t pronounce your Ts. ‘Sanna’ is ‘Santa’ or ‘Monterey’ is ‘Monnerey.’” — Jessica G.
  • “Tell people where you live by naming the closest surf break.” — Sami R.

Sometimes you just have to laugh

  • “Clean up after your furry baby, especially when he does #2 on someone’s property.” — Stan D.
  • “If you hear a loud noise on a summer night, check the sky. It might just be fireworks from SeaWorld.” — Ryan M.
Cans of AleSmith Brewing Company's San Diego State Ale

We like our beers to scream San Diego.

Photo via Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

The San Diego diet

  • “Guacamole is a major food group.” — Melissa T.
  • Everyone has their own favorite beer, and there is no wrong answer — as long as its local. San Diego is the “Capital of Craft” for a reason, and residents love supporting their favorite breweries.

Look the part

  • Flip-flops are acceptable for sand and land. While some advice columns will urge you to stay away from these sandals, our culture and climate are perfect for them. So, it makes sense brands like Reef and Rainbow Sandals have local roots.
  • “Shorts and UGG boots are acceptable winter attire.” — Heather K.
  • “If you drive a convertible, you must have the top down in all weather except rain. If it’s cold out, turn on the heater.” — Steph T.
Sunset cliffs

These brown cliffs are beautiful.

Photo via @pacbeach66

“Sunny” San Diego?

  • “‘Brown is beautiful!’ From our light brown, sandy beaches to our pristine deserts, and all the rocky foothills in between.” — Carlos M.
  • Occasionally, it’s OK to complain about the weather. Outsiders may view San Diego through rose colored sunglasses, and we know our weather is great. But locals know it’s not all sunshine — and this winter has been proof. We have rainy periods, May Gray and June Gloom, and we have to watch for droughts during warm, dry months.
  • “Be grateful for rain.” — Marceline C.

What did we miss? If you know an unofficial rule that’s not on the list, let us know using this survey.

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