California is not a cheap place for the traveler or backpacker to hang out and take in the sights. With the exception of the Bay Area, public transportation is lousy and so to really get around the state you’re better off doing so by car. This is America, after all and burning up natural resources is all part of the American Way. So if you want to bond with the culture and get on wheels, you can always buy an old beat up VW van and sell it again when you leave.
Have a look on craigslist.org for bargains. Hitchhiking is better here than in much of the US as it’s still seen as quite a cool thing to do. On the other hand California is one of the wealthiest states and, despite their existential approval for your right to hitchhike, not everyone will want to have their brand new Hummer dirtied by some unkept vagabond.
Given the high cost of accomodation it’s good to have friends out here. Join one of the hospitality clubs (http://www.hospitalityclub.org) and see if you get a few invites here and there. There are hostels in San Francisco and Venice Beach and these can be a good source also of finding cash in hand work.
It’s said an English accent helps a good deal out here, particularly when it comes to getting work or getting laid. This is true to an extent but generally only with the kind of Americans who think France is somewhere near Australia.
Sometimes when you speak to people here it feels like you’re doing so behind a glass window. People are friendly but often in quite a driven way, as though they want to be cool and outgoing but they don’t quite know how. It’s better not to speak too fast or introduce complicated ideas too fast as people here aren’t renowned for being too intellectual.. Throw in a cliche every few sentences and they’ll have something to latch onto.
California is one of the few parts of the US where your average traveler can fit in. There’s enough culture here to engage you, there’s work and the weather isn’t bad. If you’re allergic to all things American then you’re best off making the most of the awesome nature to be found here. Hike up into the redwoods and blow your mind. Or camp out at Big Sur and lose it like Jack Kerouac.
The best way to get connected in California is to join up with tribe.net and build a social network from there. Each time someone accepts you into their network you’re one step closer to everyone that they know. It’s kind of a personalised craigslist.org and is the domain of the cool Californians.