California Life Part 1 - Sujatha
I'll be leaving California soon and wanted a way to create and record memories of my friends who have also moved here. I'll be chatting to some in the next few weeks and will share their stories here.
Today I had coffee and a chat with Sujatha Otzen who moved here in October 2013 with her husband Peter. Sujatha and I both work in at Google in Mountain View, and got to know each other while trying to perfect a latte from the coffee machine! Check out her gorgeous blog -www.aplateofgoodfood.com.
On Moving to California
Peter and I were living in Dublin in 2012, he was working at Google. We decided to quit our jobs and go traveling. We travelled around the world for a year and half, and started looking for jobs in mid-2013. We had options to go back to Dublin or Europe but there was opportunities for Peter to take a job at Google's HeadQuarters in Mountain View. A lot of his European colleagues had already moved there so he had connections here and it became an option.
We actually did a Pro vs Cons list to decide between California and Dublin, and Dublin actually came out on top on the Pro list! But our friends had left Dublin so we just thought we'd try California for a change of scenery. So he was offered a job in Google Mountain View and we moved here in October 2013. We're here almost here a year now.
1. Gigantic portions of food and 2. Constantly refilled cups of coffee! And the size of the vegetables in the supermarket - 10 times bigger than anything I've ever seen. It's true that everything's bigger in America!
We were set up in an apartment in downtown Mountain View by Google. We requested that we would be downtown as I don't drive, and you need to drive to get anywhere so we got a place close to the Google campus. When we arrived, it was a beautiful time in autumn (or Fall!). The weather was crisp with leaves everywhere. We had a lot of support from Google when we moved which really helped us to get to know the area and settle in.
Credit history is everything here - without it, it's hard to get a phone, car, apartment. The amount of bureaucracy here is crazy which we didn't expect, there's so much paperwork. To do anything, like buying a car, requires tonnes of paperwork. I had to look up how to write a check! I have to pay for everything with checks there's no automatic debits which seemed backwards compared to other countries!
How long did it feel for you to feel settled in?
We're pretty well settled but I'm not fully there yet. I can't drive which is a big challenge, I rely on Peter to take me everywhere. There's little public transport in the Bay Area which is tough, the suburbs are very spread out and sprawling. That's what I miss about Dublin, that it's small city that you can walk around easily, and get cabs everywhere. A trip to the city for us now is a bigger deal.
What did you miss about travelling?
It was a big relief to have our own apartment and not live out of a suitcase for a while. We had missed our apartment in Dublin when we were travelling. It was nice to furnish our own place and fun to put a house together.
What do you think of the social life here, is it easy to meet new people?
People here are generally friendly, very open. There can be a lot of fakeness though, people are so sweet and can really sugar-coat things, that's just the way they are. It takes a bit of getting used to. The culture is very different compared to Europe, the way people live. By our age some people have 3 or 4 children and own a house. It seems like this is very important here - the things that are supposed to happen in your life at a certain time. But at home in Europe, there isn't so much of a rat-race mindset. Here everyone has to have stuff, there's pressure at an early age. Kids are put into the best schools and summer camps. That lifestyle doesn't appeal to us.
What about quality of life in California?
It's very good - if you have the money. Thankfully we both work, so we have a good quality of life. Not too different to what we had in Dublin, but we spend more just to live here. Rent is really expensive here. The food is amazing - the variety of fresh, local produce is incredible. You can get all types of food here Middle-Eastern..Indian.. there's nothing that I miss from home.
Where are you favourite places to go?
Everything is so spread out you really have to make an effort, whereas in Dublin we had our favourite spots that that were easy to get to. It's very quiet where we live.
One of our favourite places is Lillie-Mae's House of Soul Food in Santa Clara for the ribs. Maduras in Sunnyvale is great for Southern Indian food. Japantown in San Jose has great, simple Japanese food. I love the diversity of food available in this area, that's something I would definitely miss.
Has your blog been influenced by living in California?
Definitely! I'm trying lots of new recipes, I've really been getting into trying lots of Mexican food, Asian food, Middle-Eastern, there's lots of rare ingredients available here that I couldn't get in Dublin.
What do you miss from Dublin?
The Pubs! It was the easiest way to meet people, I miss that a lot. I was in Dublin for 4 years, and Peter, 7, so we got to know the country well, and I really liked the people there.. The Irish are the most courteous, generous people that I've met. I miss the city too, it's beautiful to walk around.
Any advice for anyone thinking of moving to California?
Best advice is what we heard before we moved - an English guy said "you might think that you know everything about the US, if you watch American movies and have American friends, it's the same language. But it's a big misconception, it's very different to what you expect." Even basic services like insurance, education and healthcare are run very differently here. There are no fixed rates for health treatments, it all depends on what they negotiate with the Insurance company. There's very little transparency.
Do you plan to stay for a while?
For a few years at least. You never know, never say never. We don't plan to buy a place here, and if we have kids we don't want to put them through the education system here. For those reasons we will probably be here for a few years only, before we go back to Europe and closer to Peter's family.
Thanks Sujatha for sharing your story!