S2E19 East vs. West

Today isn't about when East meets West, it's about East versus West! In this episode, Dr. Pete and Dr. Rubin dive into an exploration (and friendly rivalry) of East coast versus West coast cultures. This discussion creates a space to identify rules, attitudes, and judgments that arise amidst their differences, while also serving as an example of how different experiences help us to grow and become more curious, flexible, and open. You might even learn a little bit about some of the docs' favorite East coast and West coast cuisines and music! Tune in to hear more.




Pete: So we're going to dive deep into the title of our podcast When East Meets West, and Nikki, where are you right now?

Nikki: I'm on what we like to refer to is the best coast, also known as the West Coast.

Pete: Well I’m here on the East Coast, also referred to as the East Coast. We don't need a label.

Nikki: Oh, so these are all judgments but then we [inaudible 0:45-0:45] the weast coast.

Pete: Well you’re going to break it down for you the cultural differences between the East and the West Coast. Hey Nikki.

Nikki: Hey, Pete.

Pete: Well, this is going to be fun. I'm going to just start with our quick story of how we met. And I think for any listeners just tuning in for the first time, Nikki and I were in our clinical internship together when Nikki moved from the West coast to the East coast. And one of the first things I said to her is you from here? And you know….

Nikki: From L.A specifically.

Pete: From L.A specifically.

Nikki: Yes, you recoiled.

Pete: I sure did, and at that time I traveled a lot. And actually my best friend was in San Diego, so I used to go all the time, probably two or three times a year.  We’re going talk about the cultural differences. And so Nikki and I, of course, look at us today, we've built, we’ve moved that.

Nikki: We move past it basically, immediately, we should say like…

Pete:  Like instantly.

Nikki: instantly yeah. Pete recoiled …

Pete: It wasn’t an issue.

Nikki:  And then I said I love Los Angeles. And then he went, Okay, and then we, you know.

Pete: There’s great parts about it because [inaudible 1:53]

Nikki: Yeah. Right.

Pete: So where should we start?  We’re going to talk about the cultural differences between the East and the West Coast where do you think we should start?

Nikki: Well, I mean, I don't know.

Pete: Well let me ask you something.

Nikki: Okay go for it.

Pete: What was your time like on the East Coast?

Nikki: Well it was lovely. It was a really an important learning experience for me. And I know we were actually just talking about this in our last episode on curiosity, that it was really important for me to just experience a different way of life. And if folks listening haven't spent any time between the East Coast United States and the West Coast United States, especially if they don't live in the United States at all, you might think, Oh, it's all of the United States, all American culture. It’s like; there are so many different cultures. And for me it was actually really disorienting initially. I kept explaining to people like the first six months I lived there, I kept saying I can't figure out the social rules. And I don't mean that as a judgment, there’s more formality. It's just a little bit different.

Pete: How long did it take you to get adjusted?

Nikki: Totally just probably like a year but it was like a six months where especially in professional settings, I really had a hard time navigating….

Pete: What our professional setting was perfect.

Nikki: So a whole other episode.

Pete: We should so do that one.

Nikki: We should do that one...

Pete: We would be skillful on it….

Nikki: It was more hierarchical. And I don't say that as a judgment. It's just there’s more casualness on the West Coast, it's just a little different.

Pete: And I guess that would be what a non-United States person would probably assume for a movie or something. It's like someone from the West Coast….

Nikki: Yeah that’s probably right.

Pete: long hair blonde with like a surfboard. Whereas New York is probably in a suit and rushing to wherever they're going.

Nikki: Right, totally. Now….

Pete: So there's one big cultural difference.

Nikki: Yeah, there's one big cultural difference. We met in Jersey but would you say that you experienced a difference between us culturally at first or was that something you noticed?

Pete: Wow, that’s a really good question. No, because I think we just connected on other things. And also, you're very adaptable. I think I am too.

Nikki: Yeah, you are.

Pete: I'm super adaptable. And I'm open and I'm curious. I want to learn about people, especially at that moment in time when we met. I had just gotten off 10 years of intense training. I just wanted to go experience other parts of the world, I remember my mom was like, why you got to go somewhere you have to get all these shots for? All these places I had to go. So I wanted to know, but you were super adaptable even though you describe this challenge that you have within the first six to twelve months, it didn't show.

Nikki: Oh, that's nice to hear. That's interesting. Well, it was certainly a learning experience.

Pete: You'd probably ask somebody else the price it showed but I'm going to say that its…

Nikki: I definitely got that feedback from patience a lot of times actually and throughout…

Pete: That you were different.

Nikki: yeah that I was different….

Pete: Well because you were caring.

Nikki: No, the first funny one would be I'd guided meditations and sessions most people like to record it so they'll have it and I wouldn't say I have some extreme California accent but I would get that feedback a lot sometimes like oh, your accent, I was like my accent?

Pete: Wait, There's no West Coast East Coast accent is there?

Nikki: Yeah.

Pete: Hold on, East Coast there is. No, I take that back.

Nikki: I would say that about you, and then we'd mentioned her before anther dear friend and colleague Mia sage, the first time I met Pete and me, I was like, Oh, they have adorable New York sounding accents. But yeah, I would get that feedback and that I also get the feedback of just my vibe or whatever from patients.

Pete: I don’t have a New York, East Coast accent. Everyone always says I don't have one.

Nikki: Oh, you so do.

Pete: Really? Listeners, email us and let us know.

Nikki: Pete says here's the one I always laughed about. It's the difference between the O’s. Say the type of job that we have Pete.

Pete: Psychologist

Nikki: Yeah. Psychologist?

Pete: What do you say?

Nikki: I say Psychologist.

Pete: Oh, Psychologist.

Nikki: Everyone's probably like why are they pulling hairs over this?

Pete: Well, Say Coffee.

Nikki: Coffee. Yeah I know, you say coffee.

Pete: Coffee.

Nikki: Coffee. But I think it's important the reason, obviously, we're ….

Pete: So there are language barriers…

Nikki: There is language but, it's helpful to have an experience and have a friend who has gone through things in a different way. I will say in my sort of not knowing the rules, so to speak, or like understanding, or culturally navigating east coast, Pete was my guide, he was like my first guide and that…

Pete: We did a one New York night. I took Nikki around to all these different bars.

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: That was fun.

Nikki: You did, yes. Or you would call me and tell me not to drive when there was too much snow because I didn't know how to drive in the snow…

Pete: She should not be driving in the snow.

Nikki: Yeah. And he would call and say don't come into work today. It's not safe for you to drive, is very …..

Pete: I felt like her little work dad.

Nikki: Yeah. He was like my work dad. Yeah, but I think that's, and again, obviously, Pete and I are both, we're both Americans. But I think it's a nice example of just having somebody that's had a different experience than you. You could just learn, I don't know, I feel like I toughened up being on the East Coast. That's something I like about…

Pete: Well, that would be a stereotype too, I think, right?

Nikki: Well, yeah. But, one thing I like about, I mean, obviously, I'm speaking out New York specifically, because that's where I lived. But I really like that there's sort of like this, it's just very direct, it's very direct. It's very, like you get where you're going, you got it, you just do what you got to do. But there's also kindness behind that. And I always really admired that. And too admire that about New Yorkers, it's like they're going to stand up for people and say in California, we can be a little like, nice.

Pete: Yeah, a little too nice.

Nikki: A little too nice sometimes.

Pete: Like, if you go down south, the light changes, they’re like, “No, you go”, “No, you go”, “No, you go”

Nikki: Right.

Pete: Here in New York, no. The light goes green….

Nikki: Right, yeah.

Pete: So, Alright, we talked about rules and attitudes.

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: We talked a little bit about language, but we won't go too far into it. Let's go to food. So some food differences, because what I'm going to say is pizza and bagels, hands down. And I know that there's some new stuff happening over there.

Nikki: That’s true, but no, you're right. I don't fight that.

Pete: So what was it like when you had your first pizza, or bagel, in New York?

Nikki: Well, I mean, I've been to New York before I lived there. But yeah, no, I'm like, “this is amazing. Yeah, this is great. This is amazing”.

Pete: And full, about the second one but I’m already nauseous.

Nikki: I mean bacon, egg and cheese. I mean, you can't just get that in a random store in California, that's not going to happen.

Pete: Still in this moment?

Nikki: Yeah, still in this moment. I mean, there's not like a large, as much of a bodega culture. We say that in L.A., [inaudible 9:09] maybe it's a little bit more.

Pete: What would you say, like what are the typical foods that West Coast is known for?

Nikki: Well, do you know it? You can guess. Can you guess Oh, you don’t.

Pete: I have a guess. But I'm not going to guess, because I don’t want to sound too stupid.

Nikki: Well, the two types of food that, well this is California specific, not West Coast so much, but it's Mexican food and Japanese food.

Pete: I wouldn’t say Japanese, but I was going to say Mexican.

Nikki: Yeah, Japanese. So like sushi. So that's the thing all my California friends in New York, that's what we've complained about. We'd be like, “Oh, I mean, this is fine. There's this Mexican place. Fine, but it's not like home.

Pete: It’s not the same.

Nikki: It's not the same.

Pete: It's not California.

Nikki: No, it’s not California.

Pete: Big differences, though.

Nikki: Yeah, I mean, isn't that like kind of, I don't know. It's fun. I know I keep coming back to that. I like that experience of just being different. And also like back to the like, there's no one right way to be a person or live right. So I think everybody can kind of get sometimes over attached to like, this is the best place to be or whatever. But it's like, No, it's just different.

Pete: Yeah, well, and it's just like, we like certain things on the buffet line. I mean, people have their interests like, I think just because you're comfortable in LA doesn't make it better or worse. It just makes it, what aligns with who you are, because one of the things I'm thinking about is a big cultural difference. I don't know. You tell me though. I feel like people are more active on the West Coast. Even though New York, we're active, but we're active in like the boxes of like gyms, which has obviously been significantly affected, during given points of time. But like on the West Coast with the weather, especially where you are, you can be outdoors 12 months out of the year. We can't do that.

Nikki: Yeah, no, I think that's right. And I mean, again, you're reading my mind, it's like, I think a big piece of that is environment. That informs the activities that people are doing. Where obviously in New York, for example, such a restaurant culture amounts to like a main activity to do. Here people go into restaurants, but it's not to that level because there are all these different activities that can be done. Pete, I'm wondering in your time, what was it like for you, when you spent time on the West Coast? Did you have that sense of being like, “this is different”. For me I’d be like, “this is different”. I was like, “I am in a, this is a very different place”.

Pete: Totally. Yeah, totally. Again, I spent more time in San Diego, to more Southern California…

Nikki: That's why I joked. When I lived in New York, I was like, it's kind of shocking that I lived here because I thought I grew up in LA, went to college in San Diego, back to L.A. for grad school. I'm pretty so-cal.

Pete: That's why you followed your values and just went to New York for a little change.

Nikki: A little change, yeah.

Pete: Go you.

Nikki: Yeah, thank you.

Pete: Yeah, I was different. And I think I again, embrace the difference, because I was always looking for that. But that's why I like rolled my eyes when I learned that you were from LA, because my la experiences were always very surface. And I shared that with you. Which you of course, defended, and rightfully so. Because you're like, well, when you come as a tourist and you do those tourist L.A. things, that's what you get, but when you grow up here, you know where to go, who to talk to and what, right?

Nikki: Yeah, no, absolutely. Well, I appreciate you sharing that, because I think, and obviously, I of course would have had my own stereotypes about the East Coast or New York. It's like, when we all have ideas about what something is like, what people are like, or what places like, and it's just, this is where we can actually weave in some of our mindful practices. When you practice curiosity, and you practice just going and being in a place and experiencing, you get to learn the actual data of what that culture is like, or what that experience is like. And it's unlikely to match the story in your mind.

Pete: Well, whether in the movie or like,

Nikki: Oh, yeah.

Pete: Or where you’ve gotten the data from. I mean, I think people think of like, home alone when they think of New York.

Nikki: Yeah, like The Plaza Hotel.

Pete: Plaza Hotel.

Nikki: Yeah The Plaza Hotel. Yeah, totally. Well, I mean, there's always going to be, assumptions about what a place is like, I mean, I don't know.

Pete: Well, I will say, I think one of my rolling eyes are like when people talk about the arts, because I do, and again, speaking to the things that we have in New York, Broadway and the Archer, like a big piece of the restaurants. And so, when that's not available, what's the point of being in New York?

Nikki: Well, do you have an answer for that? Or you think there isn't a point or?

Pete: I think there's no point.

Nikki: Oh, my gosh, we're going to get so many angry emails from New Yorkers.

Pete: It’s okay, I’m okay with that.

Nikki: I know.

Pete: I am one.

Nikki: I know.

Pete: I mean the difference about me is that I was raised there, I was born and raised. And I love it. And so actually, what I'll say is, for me, one of my biggest things, I guess… yeah, we should probably weave in some mindfulness, some behaviorism. When I was traveling, like I said, leading up to you and I meeting, I realized quick that the first thing I had to do is not compare anything to New York, because the first couple of trips I took, I would come back and be like, “well, New York has this and New York has that and like New York is so much better”. Whether it was theater or some touristy type things or clubs, of course, doing different activities. But that was like a beginner's mind, slash non-judgment.

Nikki: Yeah, what you're saying, it sounds like you're saying you realize you need to come back to practicing beginner's mind and non-judgment, right?

Pete: I wish I knew it, I had no idea what that was then.

Nikki: Well, I mean, same. I mean, it wasn't that, I mean, I've certainly been about that about L.A. too. I mean, it’s like, I think…

Pete: What you did do that? Because you also traveled

Nikki: When I was young. Oh, yeah. And I lived in Spain in college. And so I've traveled quite a bit. And yeah, but when I was much younger, and I was much more black and white about things, I was like; ‘this is the best way’. And it's got to be, ‘I've got to live in this neighborhood, and this is the way to do things’. And you just start to learn, like you get to choose for yourself what was most workable for you, but it doesn't make it the best. I would never say Los Angeles is the best place to live. I would say for me it is, like for me, it's the most workable place, I love it. And it's not for everybody.

Pete: No. And I think taking that even one step further with mindfulness, in this moment, because that’s the thing, I always think of that's why like, vows, were like this thing of like your forever home and like, I don't know, it's my forever home in this moment.

Nikki: Well, you can say that you're making a commitment and then dialectically acknowledge, and we don't know what's to come. So it's like, those things are antithetical to one another, because I think somebody else could say, I can imagine someone challenging you and going like, “Well then, why make a commitment to something at all?” It's like no, no, no

Pete: Yeah, because I can.

Nikki: You can, and you don't know what's going to happen.

Pete: Don’t know what's going to happen, and that's okay.

Nikki: Yeah, no, that's, that's exactly right. So look, Pete and I like to state, we still like to joke about like the differences between us. And sometimes Pete and I have a joke, like, ‘we're the same person’. Even though, I think we've made that joke on here before, but in lots of ways, we're very different. And I do think that our East Coast, and West Coast differences, obviously, is part of the reason why we do this podcast that we, hopefully you guys get the joke that he's on the East Coast, I'm on the West Coast. And we are weaving Eastern spiritual traditions with Western behavioral science. We’re very pleased with ourselves, can we just say.

Pete: We are so proud.

Nikki: Yes. When, actually Pete came up with that name. And I was like, “well,”

Pete: We did it together.

Nikki: Yeah.

Pete: What about, so music is a big difference, too. I know you wanted to give a shout out...

Nikki: Well, I would say, I think it comes to early 90s hip hop, which we've mentioned before is…

Pete: I think it wasn't Biggie Smalls known to have said to say, “if I got to choose a coast, I got to choose the east”.

Nikki: Yeah. But I believe that's from the song ‘Going Back To Cali’, so I think… Which I will throw something out there. This is for our listeners to know on the East Coast, just for you to know, or anywhere in the country. People from California never ever call it Cali. Did you know that?

Pete: I did not know that.

Nikki: Oh, yeah, we don't say that. That's a real tell that you're not from here.

Pete: Well, and also you say like, “standing on line” or “in line”, I forgot.

Nikki: We say, but this is only in New York specifically, I think most people in the US say standing in line, but in New York, you guys say stand online. I was very confused about that. I was like, “What are you talking... What line? We’re not standing on a line; we're in a line of people”.

Pete: Well, on the highways and freeways.

Nikki: Oh, yes, we say that. Yeah, we have freeways, which I think there's a reason for that. My dad told me that.

Pete: Oh, what is it?

Nikki: Oh, because it was the first time they were free. Literally because you guys pay the tolls...

Pete: Oh I didn’t know that. We do still pay a lot of tolls. You have no tools in the West Coast?

Nikki: There are some toll roads and more up in the Bay Area. And I don't know about Oregon and Washington. But yeah, there are almost no toll roads.

Pete: Oh, wow.

Nikki: They’re free; they're literally free, yeah.

Pete: You better bring your wallet when you drive on the East Coast, because I mean, just getting to an office I could, I mean, two or three tolls.

Nikki: Yes. I do want to mention, because I know we're coming up on time here. But probably the last important distinction to make between East Coast and West Coast comes from psychology.

Pete: It does?

Nikki: Well, [inaudible 18:42] episode too, is that in New York, specifically, New York is very different in psychotherapy than on the West Coast.

Pete: Oh yes.

Nikki: Yes. So, on the West Coast, the type of therapy that Pete and I practice third wave CBT is the dominant voice. And by the way, it is on the East Coast to like Philadelphia, Boston, these are big hubs of CBT as well, but not in New York. New York holds tight to the old practice of psychoanalysis, very different.

Pete: It's so different. And we do need to do an episode on that. We've been saying that forever. But yeah, I mean, I never realized it until you brought it to me because I, although my criticisms a lot in my training was that I was too CBT. So a lot of my faculty wanted me to push beyond to get more psychoanalytic training, which is so good that did me. But it didn't hurt me, I'm not mad at that by any means. But you're right; it was just a very big difference. And I think also, there's a lot of different… So the bottom line is lots of cultural differences. I think religion also, all these different things play into how people present themselves, but I'm going to end with this one quote from Viktor Frankl as we stick with some of this, which I didn't know he even said this, but he says, “I recommend that the Statue of Liberty be supplemented by the statue of responsibility on the West Coast”. This has been When East Meets West. I'm Dr. Pete Economou.

Nikki: And I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin. Be present, be brave.

Pete: This has been When East Meets West. All material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors, Pete Economou, and Nikki Rubin.

Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.