How to Sound Like a Local When You Move to San Jose

For a while, San Jose played second and third fiddle to its sisters San Francisco and Oakland. Then came the tech boom, and then Silicon Valley and then every social network you’ve ever heard of. But even then, SJ was still just … there.

But in recent years, San Jose has gone from “that city that BART never goes to (we’re working on it),” and “Google is there, isn’t it?,” to a city with our own bustling culture.

If you want to sound homegrown, here are the essential things you need to know to sound like a local in San Jose — yadadamean?

This is Sharks territory.

Burnzie, The Big Pavelski, Jumbo Joe, Cooter. These might sound like potential hipster baby names, but they’re a bit more mainstream than that: they’re local legends. Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are just some of the players from our San Jose Sharks you’ll hear on the street. Maybe one day Lord Stanley will be one of them. A fan can dream…

MBs, GBs and TBs .. OMG

We run on tech, and we love our tech. Chances are, the computer you’re viewing this on had its roots somewhere in Silicon Valley. So if some of our convos come in a secret code, then you might have to program yourself to learn it (sorry, coding humor).


Sure, San Jose State is mostly a commuter school, but that doesn’t mean our SJSU Spartans don’t get any love. Walk around any corner downtown and you’ll see Spartan blue and gold plastered on everything from business signs to light poles. Don’t believe me? Get a haircut at Spartan Barbershop, then grab some grub at Spartan Taco. Don’t forget to fill up on gas at Spartan Station before you leave. We love our blue and gold. #SpartanUp.

Learn the language.

We have a certain way of speaking here, yadadamean? (That and and the variation yaddamean translate to “you know what I mean?” in case you still don’t get it.)

Is something really good? Then it’s hella good. Did something go awry? Then it might have been hella bad. See a pair of shoes you like? You might say they’re hella tight. Get hella used to hella. You’ll hear it a lot — I mean hella.

Walk around our SoFA.

San Jose has its own SoFA, and it’s huge. You’re obviously smart enough to know we’re not talking about furniture, but rather South of First Area, our own bustling entertainment district. SoFA is full of art galleries, theater companies and cafes. If Silicon Valley’s tech companies give the city a left-brained feel, then SoFA is its right-brained sibling.

“What kind of meat?”

We love our taquerias. So much so, you won’t go a couple blocks without smelling some hella good carne asada. Once you’ve walked enough times into one of our many Mexican food establishments, be it La Victoria, La Costa or (my personal favorite) Jalisco, the answer to “What kind of meat,” won’t be as hard to pronounce. Carnitas? Pollo? Lengua? Todos, por favor!

…And Animal style, too

Speaking of food, there’s a certain code you need to know before you step into our holy grail of burger places, In-N-Out. This heavenly burger place has a not-so-secret menu (aka not found on the actual menu) which includes terms like “animal style” (extra spread, a mustard-grilled patty and extra pickles), “animal style fries” (french fries topped with In-N-Out’s special spread, cheese and grilled unions) and a 4×4 (four burger patties and four slices of cheese). My personal favorite? A cheeseburger with whole-grilled onions. I’ll leave that to you to figure out. Hint: It tastes hella good.

“Take a left on Capitol … Expressway?”

Like many big cities, several roads share the same name. No biggie. So does San Jose. We have Capitol Expressway and Capitol Avenue. Now those two names wouldn’t be a problem either were it not for the fact that some of our many go-to places lie on either Capitol Expressway or Capitol Avenue. Plus, they’re both pretty sizable thoroughfares. So if someone tells you your destination is on Capitol, don’t worry: we locals probably don’t know where it is either.

Lloyd Alaban