Looking back at my first 18 months in Silicon Valley, here are a few things which had an incredible impact on our life-style. It actually took a while to figure out what they were, but I can now make an (almost) complete list of life-changing details.
- California way of life: there a few common idioms which, in my opinion, very well exemplify the philosophy of life in California. They are:
- Better safe than sorry: precautions are never enough, in California! Whether are we talking of riding a bicycle, preventing an epidemic or simply taking children to a playground, there is no limit to alertness and prevention! Everything may potentially be dangerous and Californians will be happy to let you know about it!
- Pledge of allegiance: all kids, teachers and citizens in the USA, from kindergarten to 8th grade, are expected to pledge their allegiance to the American Flag, every morning before school! As far as I know, there is no other western democratic government which requires this (but I may be wrong!) There are many interpretations for this behavior, some of them positive, some others not so positive. But I think that all of them confirm the basic purpose to create a common land where hundreds of different cultures coexist.
- Ask what you can do for America, not what America can do for you: this concept matches with the previous one. The American citizens are deeply committed to their social duties: they understand the importance of being a good citizen and the great impact our own behavior can have on the whole society.
- Daily schedule: In Silicon Valley everything starts (and ends) approximately 2-hour earlier than in my Italy: rush hour is from 5 am (???) till 9 am; lunch time is from 11:30 am (we haven’t even finished breakfast by that time! 😀 ): some restaurants close at 1:30; dinner time is from 5:30 (snack time – merenda, in Italy): some restaurants close at 9 pm, exactly when most of us Europeans start eating! The result was that, during the first months in California, I ate twice: at the American time and at the Italian time!!! And yes, I did put on a lot of weight!!
- Summer: There is nothing like a southern-European summer in Silicon Valley: no still time, no hot lazy days, no sunbathing and swimming at the beach, no warm nights strolling and dancing! Nothing like this is possible in Silicon Valley. California’s perennial spring keeps people active: Summer in Silicon Valley is as busy a season as any other: lots of activities and events to attend; lots of work to do; even elementary schools offer year-round programs!
- Festivities: American national holidays are cultural holidays, dedicated to men (and women?) who helped creating the American dream. For an Italian and other European citizens, celebrating President’s Day or Veteran’s Day, or even MLK Day is something pretty unusual, as we are used to theoretically dedicating the Holy Day to a holy something.
- Driving: Well, yes, that’s an issue!! In my country, red lights (and road rules in general) are almost a simple suggestion, sort of ‘you’d better stop now!’And so are pedestrian crossings: you must be very smart to cross the road without losing your life!! All this keeps our senses extremely active!! Ok, I’m kidding, but reality is that driving in Silicon Valley is a very different thing. Everything is very strictly regulated, and tickets are amazingly high! California drivers are very respectful, and not prepared for unexpected actions. The consequence is that they get easily scared, or simply disappointed, and honk for apparently no reason!
- Emailing: American emails always start with a thank-you-for-something sentence. No matter what, there is always a thank-you-for-something incipient! I’m not used to it and, must admit, sometimes I have a serious problem in making up something!! But I’m learning! Also, Americans are very busy and practical people. If they have nothing important to say, they just do not respond to your email. Not immediately, at least. This is an easy way to tell you that they are not interested, or simply that there is nothing important to say about it. The result is less time spent in writing nonsense and less time spent in reading nonsense! Great! But I’m still waiting for some responses…!
What challenges have you faced? What strange adjustments to your daily life have you made, so fit into California life?