From Brentwood to Brentwood

From Brentwood to Brentwood

Brentwood Home

Two years ago in 2011, I relocated with my spouse and our two sons from Los Angeles, California, to Nashville, Tennessee; more specifically, to Brentwood.

For years I had feared leaving the rich diversity of both people and geography that the Golden State has to offer, not to mention the incomparable climate that makes playing outdoor tennis in January a pleasurable possibility.  It was the increasing traffic congestion that drove this native Californian towards wishing harmless earthquakes would “shake” some fear into the newcomers to return to their places of origin…Los Angeles (LA) has simply become too crowded. I knew there was something more suitable for us at this stage of our lives than the environmental stress (pollution, graffiti, traffic, road rage, crime, etc) and the ever-increasing debt of California, which was impacting our schools, hospitals, etc.

EDUCATION.  K-12 education in California is tricky; either you live in a residential pocket that may have a well-ranked public school, or else Brentwood, CA and surrounding residents must pay for private schooling.  In Brentwood, TN, all 12 schools are ranked 10, on a scale of 1 to 10.  In fact, Brentwood High School ranks 76th in the country for public high schools.  It is the equivalent of gaining a private education for free.  Every year there are a handful of students who score 100% on their college admissions test, SAT.  I never heard of that in Brentwood, CA.

ECONOMY.  Los Angeles has a three-tiered economy of entertainment, tourism, and aerospace; plus, one of the world’s busiest ports (i.e. Long Beach).  Nashville, known as Music City for its country, pop, gospel, rock, and roughly 200 recording studios, is also the nation’s health care center, where 21 healthcare companies are based and another 350 healthcare companies have operations here.  The economic impact of the health care industry alone is $30 Billion.  And, the Vanderbilt Medical Center has technology that connects all of its healthcare clinics, so you could walk into any one of them and they would be able to quickly pull all of your information.

HOUSING.  Aside from the temperate climate, steady employment, low crime rate, phenomenal education, and a governmental system that works, there is the housing.  The average house in Brentwood, CA, is $1.7 million; with an average income of $115,000.  In Brentwood, TN, the average house is $426,000 to $800,000; with an average income of $96,000.  Here’s the kicker: there is NO State Income Tax in Tennessee.  This means that the $115,000 in Brentwood, CA, is actually $104,305 after CA State tax is deducted – still roughly $8,300 more than Brentwood, TN average of $96,000.  So, at roughly equivalent income how does the housing compare? The housing is generally 30 years newer in TN than in CA, and the square feet in Brentwood, TN, is roughly 3,200-5,000 (or more); whereas Brentwood, CA, has houses with a median of 2,300 square feet.  It is for these reasons that several Californians have relocated to Nashville, Tennessee.

In Brentwood, TN, the old adage, “Good fences make good neighbors,” simply does not apply, because there are few fences, the space between the homes is ample, and many homes are made of brick and stone.  It is the best combination of neighborliness and privacy.  So what about other, more cultural, values?  How can we differentiate behaviorally between the two Brentwood cultures?  Here are five pairs of contrasting values: Individualism/Collectivism, Competition/Cooperation, Control/Harmony, Direct/Indirect (Communication), Informal/Formal.  (Note: These are broad generalizations that assist in the description of the area, and are not to be considered as applying to every Brentwood resident as stereotypes).

#1. Individualism/Collectivism. In Los Angeles, there is high Individualism where many people are comfortable talking about themselves as a topic of discussion.  In the workplace, teams are viewed as a temporary collection, so co-workers maintain relatively loose relationships in their larger social environments.  In Nashville, there is high Collectivism where people identify strongly with their faith and feel personally offended when their group or organization is criticized.  They view themselves as a permanent extension of a group/organization and expect security from the organization while offering loyalty in return.  Because of the value of Collectivism, there is, for example, a professional women’s group of Civic and Business Leaders (CABLE) which is a supportive, inclusive group of over 600 members.  The strength of this “Athena” community far surpasses any professional women’s group in LA.

#2. Competition/Cooperation. In Los Angeles, there is high Competition where achievement is displayed through material possessions.  It is a car culture, which assists in the “impressions management” — in case you never see their home.  In the workplace, they assert opinions and expect others to speak their minds.  In Nashville, there is high Cooperation where a lot of time is spent building and maintaining relationships.  In the workplace, they avoid openly aggressive situations and generally consider them unnecessary; thus, tact and diplomacy are necessary.  There is less flash and more focus on substance…think Blake Shelton and Cristina Aguilera; while Cristina definitely has substance, she loves flash.  Blake prefers to have less distraction and focus on the quality.

#3. Control/Harmony. In Los Angeles, there is high Control where time is considered a commodity so in order to achieve tasks, LA residents may appear or will be confrontational.  In Nashville, Harmony is valued, so establishing and maintaining positive relationships is key.  This emphasis on Harmony blends into “fluid time” where situations and events determine the course of action.  For example, there are “summer hours” – this means that since the kids are out of school for the summer, employees may opt to leave early on Fridays.

#4. Direct/Indirect (Communication).  In Los Angeles, there is Direct communication where people feel fairly comfortable providing feedback.  Direct conflict management is intricately tied to the notion of honesty and trustworthiness.  In Nashville, Indirect communication helps to maintain Harmony.  Conflict is handled in an implicit way in order to avoid direct confrontation, which is embarrassing and a threat to personal dignity. Many times employees will project an impression of not having an opinion as a way to gauge what is “more appropriate.”

#5. Informal/Formal. In Los Angeles, there is an open and uncensored flow of opinions and thoughts.  People dress and speak casually.  In the workplace, there is an emphasis placed on the appearance of basic equality between the people in a business relationship.  In Nashville, it is rare to have a man not open the door for a lady. Residents are sensitive to proper forms of address, so “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Sir” are used; and, “Miss/Mr. (+ first name).”  In the workplace, there is an expectation of subordinates to be mindful of etiquette.  This may lend itself into hierarchical behaviors, such as telling a superior what s/he wants to hear, not what they really think.

Brentwood, California Brentwood, Tennessee
Population 19,000 (LA 3.8 million;503 square miles) Population 35,000 (Nashville 1.8 million;526 square miles)
0-2 kids 3-4+ kids
Democrat/predominantly blue Republican/predominantly red
Oscars/Golden Globes CMA/Bonaroo
Sunset Strip clubbing Honky Tonkin
Concentration of Music Industry: 3.43 Concentration of Music Industry: 11.20
In-n-Out drive-thru Sonic drive-in
Westwood eateries/Montana Meat & 3’s
PJ Days Camo Days
“F*#@ You!” “Bless Your Heart!”
“What are you doing this weekend?” “Which church do you go to?”
Hiking, surfing, skiing Hiking, canoeing, ziplining
Neighborhood/street Sub-divisions
Earthquakes Tornadoes
Variations of Summer Seasons, plus Summer thunder
Work/Work Imbalance Work/Life Balance
Contract workers, work on vacation Vacations
Hugging at work is sexual harassment Boss, co-workers, peers hug
Traffic Congestion/405 parking lot Country drives, rolling green hills
Driving 1.5 hours just to get 20 miles; 5 hours to Palm Springs or San Jose Driving 1.5-5 hours to visit 9 neighboring states
Drivers prevent you from merging Drivers allow you to merge
Gasoline $4.09 Gasoline $3.69

There you have it…to each his/her own.  There is beauty to be found in every location.  While I love the Pacific Ocean, the lakes are huge bodies of water which have allowed my son to join crew.  I have clicked my heels and I am home.

Corporate Relocations from across America to Nashville, TN
(selected relocations, 2007-2012)

TN Corporate Relocations

*Courtesy of Janet Miller

Sources:,,, Training Management Corporation,,, Martin Prosperity Institute (2009), *Nashville Chamber of Commerce Chief Economic Development Officer Janet Miller.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is an Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. She acknowledges there are other Brentwoods across the USA including Washington, D.C, Alaska, Maryland, New York, and Texas.


Posted on March 26, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good day, Good site, wherever did you come up with the info in this summation? Im glad I observed it though, I’ll be checking back soon to determine what other posts you have.

  2. Thank you! Much of the “hard” data came from the sources I listed at the end of the blog; the empirical data came from me. I am a cultural analyst and have studied/worked with Cultural Values for roughly 15 years. The chart was my own assessment.

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