I am sitting at home remembering the days when we had to decide where to live for the next 2 years. Was it the US or Germany or South Africa? We eventually decided to move to California. As mentioned in several places in the blog, I wasn’t too well prepared before leaving. Partly because relevant information was scarce and secondly I was too busy packing up my ‘old’ life in South Africa. But in hindsight I should have read 3 books I came across over the years. Every book shows different aspects of life in California or the US and all of them I found very interesting, useful and full of humour.
1. Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson
This is a fantastic read about all the little aspects of life in the States. Bill Bryson is an American author who lived for a long time in Britain, but is now living back in the States. He knows how to write about the little, seemingly random differences in culture, between Brits and Americans. Every column is a great story in itself.
The book is an accumulation of a weekly column which was published in the Mail on Sunday’s Night & Day magazine. Hence, it is a fast read and you can easily pick up the book after a while and just continue your read. This book is so much fun for people who have lived in the States and have moved on and for people who are about to move there. It is informative and very amusing.
I loved a couple of chapters the most: Rule Number 1: Follow the rules. It speaks about all the rules, signage and terms of conditions in the States. This issue was certainly a topic which was lively discussed amongst spouses. Equally entertaining are the chapters on: Why no one walks, shopping madness and why everyone is worried and many many more.
2. History of California by Kevin Starr
The history of California is a much slower read compared to Bill Bryson’s book, but highly informative in my opinion. Knowing the history of a place always makes it easier to understand and relate to people around you today. I think history, especially the collective memory plays a big role in who people are today. I loved the chapters on the early settlers and how California was discovered. The book is well written with great images. Check the blog post which I wrote about it in the early days of this blog: History of California
This book: Culture Shock, USA: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Esther Wanning I found in the CDC the Career Development Center on Stanford Campus. By the way, this center has a great library on career development. You should check it out. I often went to the CDC to read up on customs and etiquette especially while looking for a job. I found the book bizarre at first, wondering about how people are categorized. It is not a “lying-on-the-sofa-fun read”, but it gives you a good idea on stereotypes. Bearing this in mind, you should get good value from this read.
With having read a humorous and fun loaded column collection, combined with serious but easy to read history, topped with some guidance on customs and etiquette and garnished with the very informative Life in the Bay blog posts, your life in California should be very rich, interesting, enlightening and successful.
Please let us know about any other books or blogs you would like to share with other spouses. You can do this on our Facebook Page or leave a comment in this post.
Good luck from Maricki ; )