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What you need to be ready for when moving to California

Ukrainian blog for Medium wrote about her impressions of California and Silicon Valley, where she lives - what she likes, what she dislikes and what surprises in American reality. ForumDaily reprints material with the permission of the author.

Photo: Lola Duniushkina, 2018

I divided our impressions into three lists: what I like, what I don't like, what surprises. I could not attribute some positions to either the first or the second category, because (in my opinion) they are either one or the other, or both, they all fall into the third category.

So ...


The local climate. The climate in general was among the important arguments when choosing a relocation site. There is no snow and frost, cloudy days occur, but do not go a long hopeless succession, more like twilight - with a gray sky without a single glimpse of the sun, and this is a very good effect on mood. More precisely, the plus is that here the weather has almost no effect on the mood, because even despite the frequent cold wind and the variability of the weather, almost every day it is sunny.

Smiling and friendly people around. Still, our facial expressions are able to create mood, not only for us, but also for those around us. I know, in response to this, many would say that all these smiles are insincere, fake, and stuff like that. I am sure that here it is rather a tribute to politeness, which makes a considerable contribution to the creation of an overall friendly atmosphere. In this regard, I often recall the phrase of my teacher of classical dance Valery Gennadyevich Dyakov:

"That's all they say that the American smile is artificial. But I'd rather look at an artificial American smile than our natural, sincere rudeness ”. Agree with every word.

Relaxation. Another feature of local people of any age, especially mature and elderly. Local women have no desire to look by all means emasculated, flawless, there is no “out-of-age” concept. It is easy to meet women of 60 + age in mini or with bright hair (pink, green or all colors of the rainbow at once!), With tattoos and piercings, like adult men with long hair, in t-shirts with ironic prints, or to see a man in perfect a tailored business suit with a tie and women's stiletto heels. And no one will stare, point fingers or say something like “crazy in old age”. No one condemns local women who do not paint over gray hair or wear open outfits simply because they are so comfortable and they feel beautiful in such clothes. All this is the principle “my body is my business”, which works in practice, and I like it very much.

Tolerance. This item is somewhat related to the previous one. I'm not saying that there is no racism or any such things here, but to imagine here, in Silicon Valley, a situation in which you would be pointed out to your origin in a negative way is rather difficult. Perhaps because America is, after all, a country of immigrants, and if it were not for them, it would not be what it is.

Multiculturalism. Another point following from the previous one. We really like this feature of the local community. I’m not sure that in other states the situation is the same, but here the cultural and national diversity just rolls over, and besides the notorious immigrants from Mexico and South America, there are quite a few Asians from China, Japan and Vietnam, Hindus, and of course visitors from Western and Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet countries. All this led to the fact that even in small towns one can find places of almost all cuisines of the world (Indian, Vietnamese, Afghan, Ethiopian, Armenian and Georgian, and almost anything), and many different languages ​​can be heard on the market at the weekend and meet all kinds of people.

Photo: Lola Duniushkina, 2018

Infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. This is something I can't get enough of! America is a country of motorists, but there are an incredible amount of walking and cycling paths here, and getting from point A to point B on foot or by bicycle is not a problem, as is parking a bicycle. There are also electric bike rental services, safe ground crosswalks and convenient slopes instead of curbs for people in wheelchairs, with walkers or a cane. And I am also incredibly pleased with the absence of underpasses here: if people go down into the ground, it is only to park the car or go to the subway trains.

Restriction of smoking areas. Smoking here is not allowed everywhere, especially in residential areas. No smoking area here means that it is impossible to smoke not only on the balcony of your own apartment, but also on the territory of a residential complex. In our complex, smokers come to the garbage tanks, but not the fact that this does not contradict the rules of our community. The result of this ban is clean air with smells of local flowers, trees and herbs, and not tobacco smoke.

Water and access to toilets. Of course, there is a very different bottled water on sale here, but just the same there is in drinking fountains, of which there are quite a lot in parks, pedestrian areas and other public spaces. Because clean water here is the right of any person. As well as free access to the toilet. Seriously, here it would not occur to anyone to charge for visiting the restroom, and you can find a bio-toilet with paper and a liquid sanitizer for hands anywhere. I do not exaggerate: we met such people in the forest, on the ocean coast, and even in the abandoned parking there was not only a booth with a huge supply of paper, but also a washstand with a foot pump for supplying water to the faucet, a dispenser with liquid soap and paper towels. All this stood almost in the middle of the site, clean and working. And no one is trying to steal or spoil it.

Large portions. Whatever you ordered, ice cream, soup, salad or pasta, you will receive an order in an amount that is really enough for two adult men or for three women. This allows you to save great, very often the remnants of portions ordered for two, we took home. Even more often, one manages to eat half a serving of lettuce, because, for example, Caesar with grilled salmon in these places means literally a bowl of leaves and vegetables with an 200-gramme piece of fish.

A variety of wholesome food. One more thing that is incredibly good. Here is a paradise for vegans, fans of healthy lifestyles and clean eating. From vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat products to snacks, convenience foods and ready meals, everything you can imagine can be found in local supermarkets marked “organic”, and in addition to good composition, this food will have excellent taste, excellent freshness and quality. Personally, I enjoy the diversity of greenery, vegetables, fruits and berries. And, importantly, all this at normal prices. Anyone can afford to be vegan or just eat right here, you do not need to look for high-quality healthy food, and you don’t have to pay half a salary for it every month.

Photo: Lola Duniushkina, 2018

Dogs. Probably everyone who knows me knows about my love for dogs. I have never had my own (I hope to fix it at the right time), but I am very interested to learn something new about these creatures, and I don’t seem to ever get tired of watching them. Here they are also loved, and have created for them a no less comfortable infrastructure than for people. In addition to hotels for dogs, there is something like a dog nursery, in many offices and campuses with dogs you can come to work (about once a week, somewhere, at least every day), you can even come to an institution with a dog, and she will be offered a bowl of water, and the owner will be given a separate dog menu. On the territory of our residential complex there are special metering boxes with cleaning bags for their pets, but I saw similar ones outside our community.

Greenery. This is what I really missed in Kiev and the reason why I like the San Francisco Bay Area more than the SF itself. There are a lot of trees, shrubs, lawns, huge cacti and succulents, hedges, and all this does not shed foliage and does not fade to winter.

Grooming I don’t know how the local services succeed in this; most likely, it’s not just them, but also the people who live here and enjoy it all with respect to the work of others. There are very well maintained and beautiful parks and squares, beaches and pedestrian areas. Even if something is not updated and not brought to perfection with the latest design, it is at least neat and clean. Therefore, here I especially want to walk on foot, inspect everything and take pictures, and, perhaps, this is why I fell in love with outdoor running a second time here, and I am happy to run every day.

Photo: Lola Duniushkina, 2018

Purity. It looks as if I am repeating myself, but I wanted to single out a separate item. Truly clean beaches, without beer jams, broken glass and cigarette butts in the sand, clean parks, clean quarters in residential areas, clean parking, clean squares and squares. And bins for separate collection of garbage even in the forests and on the beaches.

Prices for clothes. Of course, designer clothes, as elsewhere, cost a lot. But regular branded clothing of good quality (GAP, Navy Blue, Levi's, Abercrombie & Fitch, Zara, Mango, H&M, Superdry, etc.) is as affordable as possible, and updating your wardrobe for the season to look stylish and fresh will not cost half of the salary. Yes, maybe for Ukraine a T-shirt for $ 20–25 in hryvnia will turn out to be quite expensive, but imagine, for example, that with a salary of 6–10 thousand hryvnias you pay only 20–30 hryvnia for a GAP T-shirt. Here is the same thing turns out in dollars. For comparison, in Ukrainian clothing stores, T-shirts for adults do not cost 20-30 hryvnia, rather 200+ hryvnia, and salaries of only 6-10 thousand hryvnia are also available, as are shoes for a couple of thousand hryvnias per pair. Here, the average price of a brand pair of genuine leather shoes is $ 200.

Clear standards. This is my personal perfectionist paradise, and strict adherence to standards can be traced even in such household trifles as bedding or multipliers for sockets. For example, if I liked a bed in one store, a mattress in another, and bedding in a third one, it’s enough just to choose one of the standard sizes everywhere - Twin, Queen, King, etc., and everything will definitely fit together: the mattress will fit perfectly in bed, and the sheet with elastic will sit on the mattress perfectly, it will not fall down and will not gather into something crumpled while you sleep. In the same way, the multiplier for a double American socket will definitely fit, and instead of two sockets you will have, for example, four or six. Little things, of course, but how well thought out and how convenient!

Simplicity of traffic rules, theoretical test in DMV, road signs and marking. With driving a car here, everything is thought out so competently that, starting to understand the rules, signs and preparation for the theoretical DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) exam, I believed that the notorious “Safety - first” here is not a beautiful slogan, but real work principle. Road marking warning of traffic lights, signs “STOP” and “Leave the road” in front, electronic signs on highways, to which the current situation on the road is displayed (traffic jams, road works and accidents), intersections with traffic lights for protected turns, signs “Give way” and “STOP”, signs for signs with literal signatures, the meanings of these signs, and the number of signs is several times less than ours. In short, all to avoid ambiguities and the resulting dangerous mistakes and wrong decisions on the road. The theoretical test is also quite simple: total 36 questions and the minimum threshold for passing only 80%. According to my observations, having spent just a day or two on preparation, it is simply impossible not to type these 80%, the questions are written in such a human language that it is difficult not to type 92 – 93%, or even all 100% as in my case.

I do not like

Sugar. I know that sugar is not only a natural preservative, but also a universal flavor improver of everything in the world, but it is just everywhere: from sauces and dressings to salads to bacon, ham and ready-made food, not related to desserts. And there are so many kinds of bread in it that all is not limited to one simple sugar: there is fructose syrup, corn syrup, and molasses. So the search for products without sugar and its “clones” is my personal and constant challenge.

Work DMV and turn on the practical test. Despite the simplicity of the rules, the work of the DMV itself leaves much to be desired. I can only understand the huge queues for the practical test: California is a fairly densely populated state, and every year a lot of new people come here, and all sooner or later need to change their rights to local Californian, and all in one turn - to newcomers and those who restore rights after violations, and those who prolong them according to plan, and those who change their type, and teenage students who get driving licenses for the first time. Everything else just does not fit in my head: I have never met such wild unprofessionalism even in the Ukrainian state services.

Photo: Lola Duniushkina, 2018

Lack of round-the-clock service. There are almost no convenience stores and restaurants, and local shopping centers are open to a maximum of eight in the evening, so if you want to have a bite to eat somewhere in the midst of a lot of fun, you will have to be content with the diner, and most likely have to go for a ride.

The work of hotlines and call centers customer support. Call at half past four in the service center and stumble upon the record that they have business hours until four o'clock is common here, but if you call at the very beginning of the working day, you should prepare for waiting on the line from 20 minutes, my personal record - 48 minutes of waiting.

Driving style. This is something that may have already added gray hair to my husband. Rebuilding in a different row without turning on turn signals and checking blind spots, rebuilding a series in one step through 2 – 3, absolutely unpredictable behavior on high-speed tracks - one has to get used to all this.

Is surprising

The number of vagabonds and urban madmen. There are not so many of them here, but not a few. They behave innocently, do not touch anyone, they often talk only to themselves. Often carry carts from supermarkets with their simple property, some are accompanied by dogs. Sometimes they are very nice and give birth to small talk with passersby. One such very young-looking (no more than 30 – 33 years) rested with his dog in the shadow of the Starbucks coffee shop and, seeing my husband, decided to play “guess where”, calling different countries. I did not guess, I had to say. Another one, also near the Starbucks coffee shop, looked me straight in the eye and shouted “I don't love you! That's for sure! ”, To which I replied with a short“ Ok ”and went further to the coffee shop.

A variety of junk food. What is surprising is not the presence of such food, but its incredible variety. It seems that everything that once could have thought up and imagined my sweet brain for children, was thought up here long ago and successfully sold at great prices in huge packages. All sorts of incredible and completely unthinkable formats of cookies, cakes, some chips, bytes and crackers, donuts and puddings. In a word, it’s a great luck that I don’t want to try all this.

Photo: Lola Duniushkina, 2018

Work bars. Here it will not be possible to have a spree with a visit to all the bars in the area that you liked and to revel until dawn. Even the most cereal places close at two in the morning, and from half past one they stop selling alcohol. Yes, that's so boring.

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