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The unwritten rules of San Jose

Tell us you’re from San Jose without telling us you’re from San Jose.

One car travels down four-lane street in San Jose, California that is lined by buildings. A construction crane is in the distance.

While there is no handbook to living in San Jose, these unwritten rules may come in handy.

Photo by @truthbyangel

Whether you’re a 408 native or a relative newcomer, there are just some things every San Josean understands to be true.

We asked our readers to share SJ’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 the great 408, these might be a little difficult to explain.

The unspoken rule everyone knows

  • “If you see Batman of San Jose, you are legally obligated to yell out your car window to remind him that he is, in fact, Batman.” — @thecrimsonfist
  • “You can live here, but don’t ever visit the Winchester Mystery House.” — @v4ce (Learn more about the house’s history + other iconic 408 landmarks.)
  • “San Jose is the Bay.” — @brwnguy408
  • “Don’t lean forward at the Shark Tank when you are sitting in the upper bowl.” — @catjeu
  • “Don’t mess with the Hellyer House.” — @zae_westcoastin
  • “You’ll be living check to check because housing is over $2,000.” — @scared.puppy (We’ve got more details about the cost of living in San Jose here.)

We’re kind to our neighbors

  • “Expect one of your new friends to be vegan.” — @lisapizzabayarea (And join them for dinner at a vegan spot around town.)
  • “If you run into a homie at a restaurant, you take care of their tab.” — @lykewhoa
  • “Be polite if you tryna be funny.” — @kingsukhber
  • “Don’t burn, desecrate, or disrespect any Wienerschnitzel.” — @ohheyharu
  • “Don’t tag on murals.” — @xna5hx

We’ve learned a thing or two from commuting

  • “You must forget everything you know about driving when there is the slightest bit of precipitation on the road” — @peters.bakery (ICYMI, winter 2024 is bringing slightly more than average rainfall.)
  • “Do not drive on the far left lane on 101 by the Old Oakland exit.” — @mellyann12
  • “You have to honk under the 680/King Road underpass.” — @_theagram
  • “If there’s three merges in a row, you know you are in SJ.” — @gabagabflores
  • “It’s actually extremely illegal to use your turn signal. Punishable by death.” — @marcusismael
  • “Signaling when switching lanes is optional.” — @borednstarving

Sometimes you just have to laugh

  • “Don’t tell influencers where your favorite spots are.” — @albertedc
  • “It’s pronounced SanaZay.” — @lalew919
  • “It’s SanaZay, not San Hose.” — @higginsismyboy
  • “Sign off on your packages.” — @_tsar
  • “Don’t trip over an earthquake unless it’s at least a 6.0. Anything less is a gentle massage.” — @peters.bakery

We know a thing or two about food

  • “The hot dog vendors provide the best delicious food ever.” — @calendar.guy
  • “At the end of the night, we get street vendor hot dogs or La Vics.” — @matty_d86
  • “If you want a torta, you either go to Mexico Bakery or you don’t get a torta.” — @polkkaaa
  • “Peter’s Bakery is where you get the best cakes, pies, and donuts.” — @authormdneu (We’ll never tire of the strawberry rings from Peter’s Bakery.)

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

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