This article is an honest and personal reflection of my journey of moving to California whilst 6 months pregnant with my second baby: The funny, fascinating and cultural differences that both surprised, sometimes annoyed and also delighted me.
Moving to the USA has been a massive culture shock, I was dumbfounded by how different things are here, compared to Muswell Hill! It has defiantly taken me the past 6 months to find my feet but now I have I love it here. You would think being an 'English' speaking country people would have understood me here, but actually there are so many variations in the language, sometimes it felt like I was speaking Russian! To ease your reading, I have used both English and USA in this article, no Russian required... ;)
Firstly, everything here is SO BIG!!! When we got here, it was super overwhelming, especially being pregnant, there was no Tesco Express or Local Waitrose. There was no Boots The Chemist that I could pop to as a 5 minute walk from my house to get nappies / diapers. No, everything was a mammoth task and a giant store with 10,000 varieties of everything you want. It literally took me 3 hours to do a supermarket shop as I was so bolted over by the amount of products there are here. American's LOVE to shop and Heaven to them is a place called Target. I found myself walking around most days initially,
I didn't seem to be the only one, it felt like a 'Bored Housewives Members Club' on occasions.
I won't sugar coat it, there is a real lack of local coffee shops (although a Starbucks literally on every corner) and trendy hang outs once you get outside San Fran and being in Silicon Valley, I just could not understand how things worked, everything looks like offices and yet they are shops... I began to notice that everything is pretty dead except for lunch time rush traffic and then dinner time. Most places are sleepy during the day time, with mothers and buggys'/ strollers wondering around passing time, unless the Superbowl is on or It's Mother's day, then it's Armageddon! Downtowns / Highstreets are all boutique parades where people go on the week ends to look at aspirational consumer items and sit in over priced restaurants. There was no real useful stores located in downtown / high street areas. The areas are beautifully kept with a high value placed on local municipality, when I first got here I felt like I was living on a movie set! However, I was rather disappointed as it felt like everything was lacking style, rather boring and too spread out to feel part of any sort of community. It was really hard to find things, everyone told me to YELP stuff which I thought was a bit 90's but people are really big on their YELP profiles and reviews.
Not being able to walk anywhere and having to drive to go to even the local shops meant that I really have to plan my days more, it's such a different culture. The comforts are I literally have enough stuff to survive a nuclear holocaust in the boot / trunk of my car and I drive a truck which is badass and VERY comfortable. There is ALWAYS a parking space wherever I wish to go to and lovely air con for those extra hot days.
The downsides are - I feel like my car drinks petrol / gas which makes me feel terrible as I wish there were other ways to get around California that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly (there is VERY LITTLE good public transport here) but I just can't do them with 2 kids and alone. Walking around NYC the other week really made me see how comfortable the California lifestyle is as I was clambering around Manhattan with my buggy, no one got out of our way or helped and on a summers day you know you would just be a sweaty mess!
I have to check the time for everything as it takes a minimum of 30 mins to get anywhere and it usually takes freeway/ motorway driving as well which was very daunting when I first got here. Now it feels perfectly normal to jump on a 6 lane road to go to Wholefoods!?... I have to take note of rush hours, it's a nightmare to get stuck in rush hour traffic even if you do get the perks of using car pool with kids in the back...
So, this all sounds pretty rubbish doesn't it. Well I thought it wasn't my dream place when I first got here and I really could not understand why everyone raved about it so much...
THEN... I GOT IT...
I got used to it. I got used to being able to park up right outside a store 24 hours a day to get whatever I need. I got used to everyone being SUPER friendly in all stores, including Target, making wondering around shops a really pleasant experience. I got used to the amazing customer service here that means you could literally come to a shop with your dirty old socks and they would return them and give you a voucher for your next visit to their venue. I got used to the sunshine being a daily occurrence not a once a year 'kick-bollock-scramble to find a left over patch of grass in the local park'. I got used to everything no longer looking like a a film set from Pleasantville and begun to think this is what municipality should be like. I got used to the no trash / litter on the ground and recycle bins everywhere you go. I got used to meandering around pointless hops in the downtown areas on a week end then moseying down to the beautifully kept playground with my kids. I got used to being able to go for a swim EVERY DAY if I wanted to (not that I have the time!). I got used to everyone going Skiing for a week end or Surfing or camping, it all began to feel really normal and amazing. I got used to seeing Green Mountains wherever I drove feeling free and oh so 'Californian'.
I just got used to it. Here, you see, everyone lives referrals. So as soon as you meet people you talk and refer places. You get given suggestions of places to visit and go to and suddenly a secret world opens up to you down here of alternative living, hippies brimming on every street and just wonderfully spirited people... You suddenly find these amazing nature trails and beaches and wonderful little farms where you can buy your produce straight from the growers. You suddenly see that you have some of the most amazing products you could wish for right on your doorstep (all be it a bit of a drive away) But you just don't know they are here when you first arrive as everything is so spread out and there are no hubs and definitive communities.
Suddenly life got easy and comfortable.
I am not preaching here, there are many things I miss about living in a place like London, the Culture, Art, Food to name a few, the healthcare system's equality and the support for people without are also more pivotable issues I struggle with living here, not to mention Trump...
However, in my small nuclear universe of having a peaceful and easy life, I realise now how wonderful this place is to raise a family and how blessed I am to have been given this opportunity to explore it.
Our Back yard. Sunset. No Filter.