Hi everyone! It’s been almost a week since we left the comfort of our home in the Netherlands to embark on our Californian adventure, and I wanted to share a few of our first impressions. I have to warn you that most of the pictures were taken with my smartphone.
We left Amsterdam on November 1st as the morning sun was rising, after a week of goodbyes, all the packing and the repacking, the nerves and the stress. Our flight was long but bearable. We flew through Iceland and Greenland, where everything looked white but dark, and arrived to San Francisco around 13h, where it was warm and sunny! That day we had to fight our jetlag quite hard, and we walked around trying to make sense of our new neighborhood, all the houses still dressed for Halloween.
I must confess that the more time I spend here, the more I start to like it. The first night when we arrived we were quite overwhelmed and, not sad, but confused. These feelings have now faded, giving way to curiosity, new routines, and the excitement of all the professional opportunities that are coming our way. Did you know that on my fifth day here I already got a job offer? You’ll have to scroll down to read the story! 😀
Welcome to our new home
For the first 4 months, we are renting a studio in South Palo Alto. I would say it is probably about half the size of our former living room, but we are managing. The owners are lovely people and they have equipped the studio with all you need. At first I was anguished about the seeming lack of space, but the next morning I discovered that there were storage options everywhere–e.g., a secret cupboard in the bathroom, drawers under the bed, and the bed’s headboard consisting of a shelf where I have neatly organized all my books!
That said, in such a small space the TUP RULE is essential. What is TUP, you may wonder? It’s a rule that I created for Flo and myself a couple of months ago (mostly for Flo). TUP stands for “Take it, Use it, Put it back”, and I created a series of rhymes and even a song suspiciously similar to the Pokemon theme, so that the TUP idea would really fly.
To be as efficient as possible, we took a trip to Walmart and bought closet organizers. As you can see, all of our belongings are crumpled there, but organized! We are still missing a box from home with cardigans, extra pjs and shoes. Blow in the air, so that it reaches us faster!
The house also has a very nice garden that we can use. Yesterday, I sat there for about an hour to soak in the sun and read a book. Although the main road is less than a block away, it is really silent and peaceful. Below you can see Flo entering our mini home, and me chilling in the garden!
Our neighborhood is perfect. It takes us 15 minutes to bike to the core of Stanford and to Downtown Palo Alto, 5 minutes to California Ave, which has cafés and supermarkets and restaurants, and in the other direction 15-20 minutes to the big stores (Walmart, Target, etc.). It is clear that we will need a car to move outside of our perimeter and visit places on the weekends, but this is fine for the beginning,
Here are a few impressions of the neighborhood:
Getting things done
The first day we walked to Stanford, and got a TON of things done! Most importantly, we got our Stanford IDs (yes, I also got one!) and bought bikes at a price I would rather not mention. Biking in this city is a joy: the streets are wide and rather empty, the weather is good and all the cars wait for you. The only downside is that you have to wait quite a bit at the main junctions where the big roads converge, and at first crossing through multiple lanes may seem intimidating.
I have also gotten myself a subscription at the local Yoga studio, and will start exercising next week!
Everything is expensive
Everything is massively expensive here. Like, 8 dollars for a 1L pot of greek yogurt and things of the like. I am slowly discovering where the cheap goodies are, and soon I will get membership cards at all the supermarkets so that I can benefit from their coupons. The first good discovery has been the organic Grocery Outlet. The way it looks like, I will have to bike to different stores to get each of the products in our shopping list at the best fares. I am biking more than the kids of Stranger Things.
Everything is so expensive that it is not uncommon to live in camping cars parked along the main roads. They are everywhere!
America: back to the future
There is a certain retro-futuristic taint to America. It is funny that we traveled to Silicon Valley, the core of technology, and yet we find ourselves filling lots of physical paperwork, writing checks (really??), and doing other things I believed were buried in the 90s. For a country that advanced, daily process are far from automatized. My first impression is that the US is much more people-oriented than Nothern Europe, and not very efficient. Everywhere you are assisted by people. I mean, it is nice but at the same time it feels like a waste of human potential.
Some of the people we have met so far claim that 40 hours a week is ridiculously little in comparison with the amount of hours they work, that the competition here is fierce and everything is really fast-paced, but then half their day seems to be spent on face-to-face meetings, coffee times, etc. I am conflicted because, on the one hand, I am all-in for slow living, mindfulness and all that; on the other hand, I like to be efficient at work, to get off early and have time for my hobbies. I cannot wait to start working here, to see how I adapt to the new ecosystem.
Another thing you will notice early on is that Americans are intense. It’s gonna take a while to get used to that. So far, I feel that we reek of foreigner. There are all these invisible rules we aren’t quite grasping yet
I feel this deserves to be mentioned: we found the German corner in Palo Alto, the highlight of which is Dittmer’s Wursthaus, and Ester’s german bakery –selling all 50 shades of dunklebrot! We found some very German products, like Katjes (produced in Flo’s hometown) and my very beloved Erdnuss Flippies! I am just crazy about that shit. They call them “curly” here.
(not so) Deadly bike trip to Mountain View
We live in South Palo Alto, which basically merges into Mountain View. Does the name ring a bell? It probably does, because that’s where the Google campus (aka, Googleplex) is located! We biked through the shoreland until Googleplex, and until the Century 16 cinemas, where we saw Thor. At the cinema, we were shocked by these amazing reclinable leather seats. It has spoiled my cinema experiences forever!
The way back home by bike I would not necessarily recommend, it was far away and cold and we had to cross a number of massive roads. Until we have a car, we will go to the cinema in the afternoon like kids do, or we will try to figure out how this Uber sorcery works!
California’s products are heavenly
On Sunday, we visited the local farmers market and it was heavenly. Fresh products are amazing in California. I have seldom seen such variety of fruits and vegetables. This is something you just don’t have in the Netherlands –and note that I had always been happy to shop there! Next week we are going to do all of our fresh shopping at the farmers market. They also have foodtrucks with mouthwatering takeaway, and specialized stands such as the French booth (saucisson, merguez, all sorts of pâté) and the olive products booth. There, actually, is where I got offered a job!! 😀 Selling olives does not seem like what my next career move should be, but it made my day to be asked!
Alright, I think this was WAAAY too much information for a single blogpost. But I thought “now or never”.
See you next week!
♥ Ingrid ♥