Interview: A Newbie in the Bay Area

This interview is with Mandy, a lady who just moved to the Bay Area with her husband. The couple is planning to stay in CA for quite a while and both of them want to work.

1. Can you give an introduction about yourself? 

I moved from Chicago to the Bay Area 6 months ago because my husband got a great job offer at Stanford and my contract in Chicago expired around the same time. We talked about this intensively because we knew this will be for a longer time and if we would like it here as our permanent home. So when we moved here we were looking at everything very critically. Is this a nice neighborhood? Do we want to stay in the city or closer to Stanford? How long is the commute to work? All this needed to be considered and we are still looking into life here in the Bay area and try to figure out all the little details.

2. What are you currently doing?

I work for a start-up company in Sunnyvale which is a lot of fun because you can experience the dynamic atmosphere of a young team and the treats of a start-up. Additionally, I volunteer for the German American Business Association (GABA) to stay connected with the German American business community.

3. When you think back to your decision making and moving, what was the most difficult aspect in deciding to move here?

Honestly, we were very excited when the offer came from Stanford. Until then the other job opportunity would have been in Pittsburgh, PA, so moving to sunny California sounded great to us. We visited the Bay area before and we liked it here. The only difficult thing is the longer distance to Germany. From Chicago it was only a 7 hour difference and it was an eight hour flight to Germany. I also knew that my sister expected a baby and it made me sad knowing that I will meet the baby once a year and the rest per Skype.

4. What did you do to prepare yourself?

We went online and checked for apartments. My husband moved out first and he looked at a lot of apartments. It is very expensive for what you get. So through his office we found a nice apartment close to Stanford. We got lucky and my husband’s new employer paid for the transportation of our furniture and car from the Midwest. So that helped us get settled in without being stressed about where we get a bed and sofa as soon as possible.

5. What was the most useful source of information?

I would say craigslist. And later on we met people in the Bay area through GABA and old friends from Germany that live here now as well and friends from college who moved out here.

6.How did you experience your first couple of days in California?

The first couple of days I was busy unpacking my suitcases and make our apartment my new home. My husband and I went for walks to get to know our new neighborhood and I relaxed because I enjoyed my vacation after finishing my last job.

7. What do you enjoy most about your new life and what do you enjoy least?

I love living in California. There is so much to see and to discover. But the winter was long and wet! For me it was surprising because I didn’t expect the winter to be that cold and wet. But now spring has arrived and we had picnics at the beach and I did some yoga on our balcony. That relaxes me. The downsides of my new environment are the higher prices. Rents are ridiculous and you have to get used to the lifestyle here. But you can still get some good deals, just read the Stanford Wives blog and you get the best tips.

8. What was your biggest challenge to overcome in your new life/place?

The biggest challenge for me was to change my visa and to wait for my work permission. I had to be patient. While I was waiting I volunteered for GABA to get connected and find a job for me which I did through one of their volunteers and she also introduced me to the Stanford wives.

9. Can you tell us your funniest experience you had in the US and if you have, the saddest situation?

There are a lot of funny stories. The one I always tell happened at my first Thanksgiving in the U.S. I was invited to the home of an American family and we went to the grandparents for the dinner. The grandparents are Germans so I spoke German with them and I took a picture of the grandma with the turkey and I posted it on flickr for my friends and family. One year later I get an email from the family that a picture of the grandma appeared in an article in a German local newspaper that talked about Thanksgiving. And the grandma’s sister who lives in Germany saw her sister who lives in the U.S. for more than 40 years in her local newspaper. It took them a while to make the connection that I was the one who took the picture and the newspaper downloaded it from my picture page.

The saddest part of living here is that my sister got pregnant while I moved to the U.S. and now I only see my cute little nephew once a year and on Skype.

10. What would you tell a friend who is about to move to California?

I would tell him/her everything I know. Where to find a nice apartment, where to buy groceries and what to do to get settle in. I am still a newbie here but I would help as much as I can. The internet is an amazing source and you can nearly find everything online and blogs like Stanford wives are so valuable.

11. Did you travel CA? If yes, do you have a secret tip/destination for us?

I did travel a little bit in CA. I love San Diego I think it is worth a trip. Besides that Napa Valley is a great place if you like good wine and food it offers a beautiful landscape and the change of colors in fall is breathtaking. When it is foggy in Santa Cruz travel a little bit further to Carmel at the Sea there is a beautiful beach for having a great picnic. Best breakfast place in San Francisco is Zazie. They have a beautiful garden where you can have a nice Mimosa.

12. What do you miss most from home?

Quark (German dairy product, a mix between yogurt and sour cream)

13. Do you have a special Notes/Quote you would like to share?

Enjoy the time you have here and make the best out of it.

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