Today is exactly 6 months since we left the UK.
In that time, Alex has taken up running, Daisy has tantrummed in some of the biggest public spaces in Northern California, and Ava has turned into a walking, talking all-American kid. Me? The main change I’ve noticed is that I wear white socks more than I used to, without worrying about my street cred.
Here’s the 16 things we’ve learned since we got here… Continue reading 16 things we’ve learned about life in the US.
Well, that went quickly.
Today marks a month since our arrival. And in that time, we’ve been productive. Freakishly productive.
We’ve got social security cards, opened bank accounts, rented cars, found a house, signed up the kids to schools, registered with doctors, overspent in IKEA, started work (me), made friends (Alex), picked up the accent (Ava) and eaten a lot of ketchup (Daisy).
Life here is great. Every day is a learning experience. Take today, for example – I went for my first haircut in the US, and soon learned I need to go somewhere else.
We’ve come a long way in 30 days, and some of what we’ve experienced deserves a post in its own right. When I have the time, I’ll give it the attention it needs. For now, I’ve added some photos to give a flavour of what July looked like.
Tomorrow we move in to our new house. On Tuesday, my Mum’s flying out to
babysit for us spend quality time with us. Hopefully security won’t seize her Marmite stash at the airport.
You have a nice day now…
Well, we’ve done it.
We’ve eaten ice cream, paid too much for groceries, and driven dangerously close to opposing traffic. But now we can finally declare ourselves expats. The adventure starts here.
Before we left we’d read and heard a lot of horror stories about long-haul flying with kids. For a while Alex and I were junkies on the stuff, binging on epic tales of tears and vomit. But we were ready. We packed spare clothes for all of us. We brought enough food to feed the whole plane. Our iPad was bursting at the seams with new apps, games and films. Moments before we boarded, I found Alex in a trance-like state, banging her head repeatedly against the wall. We even created fake birth certificates so we could publicly disown them if all hell broke loose.
But the flight was a doddle. The kids were great, and we didn’t receive a single dirty look from anyone the entire flight. Apart from Ava of course, but she’s been pissed off ever since I revealed that Kinder Eggs aren’t sold in the US.
Little-known fact: Kinder Eggs are illegal in the US. They’ve had a ban on candies with embedded toys since 1938, due to choking/health concerns. Which is an interesting priority, given the number of people in the US accidentally shot by a toddler with a gun. I digress…
To be honest, I am a bit concerned that this move is sending Ava off the rails. Take a look at the displays of rebellion below, first in Heathrow and then on the other side in California. The kid is just a year or two away from a DUI and her own reality show.
We arrived two days ago. On our very first morning, I witnessed a car break-in in broad daylight, right outside the local Starbucks. I thank my company for arranging this on my behalf, which I suspect was part of the planned orientation.
So far we’ve been fairly productive. We picked up the rental cars, set up a bank account, did a food shop, and were given a tour of the surrounding areas. When you throw toddlers and jet lag into the mix, all of the above become extreme sports in their own right. But here’s what we’ve learned:
- Even when people are under pressure, the customer service out here is second to none. At Hertz they were short-staffed and there was a queue outside the door. The guy in charge passed out an enormous box of cookies for waiting customers, to apologise for the wait. In the UK, you’d consider yourself lucky if you got as much as eye contact in that scenario.
- American banks love paperwork. Just to open a single account, I spent an hour solidly signing my name. This explains why woodcutters in California drive Bentleys and not trucks.
- Navigating the supermarket requires a satnav and superhuman will power. The place is enormous, and I reckon 85% of it is bad for you. On the plus side, we can buy one sandwich and it will feed the four of us.
Today is July 4th, which is when Americans celebrate the time Will Smith saved them from aliens. My boss has kindly invited us to a bbq and pool party, ending in a fireworks display. Alex and the girls are all pretty excited about it, mainly because they get to spend the day with people other than me. Based on her performance so far this morning, Daisy is planning to mark the event by crying all day.
Happy Independence Day, people.
In 12 hours we’ll be on a plane, bound for San Francisco.
It’s been over a week since my last update, and in that time, we’ve covered a lot of ground. If I had £1 for every task completed, document signed and goodbye uttered in that period, I’d have enough cash to pay for the professional hair regrowth and colour treatment I so desperately need.
I won’t bore you with all the details. Because unless you’re my mother, you don’t really want them. Instead, I’ll just add a gallery of images and leave you to figure it out.
Tomorrow is exactly 24 weeks – 168 days – since I first discussed the relocation opportunity with my boss. Countless people have played their part in the journey we’ve been on ever since. Tax advisers, immigration attorneys, relocation specialists, shipment packers, recruitment consultants…
But an honourable mention goes to Simon.
I met Simon last month. He was the guy with the words “Love Love” tattooed across his knuckles, and a haircut befitting the wildest of rock stars. Except he wasn’t a rock star. He was a depressive cashier at the US Embassy, who – when I asked him the meaning of his tattoo – told me it reminded him of something, before falling silent and crying. He cried to himself right there in front of me, behind a glass window! Poor bugger. I was only being polite by asking. I actually thought it looked crap.
So now I call time on our pre-move journey. Tomorrow we leave Barnet, and head to the Bay.
See you on the other side.
10 days to go.
Last night I went with some friends to clueQuest, a live escape game in London. We were thrown together in a room, and given 60 minutes to uncover clues, solve puzzles, and generally run around like a bunch of crazies shouting obscenities until we found our way out.
We’re all dads of kids under 5, so we find ourselves shouting an awful lot. The most frequent things I holler at my two are usually “No, your sister’s head is not a tambourine” and “For the love of god, stop licking your shoes”.
With that in mind, it made a refreshing change to instead shout and scream about how little time we had left, and then shove as many four-letter words we could think of, before and after the phrase.
But it didn’t start like that. We entered the room in a relaxed frame of mind, excited about what lay ahead. Then the clock starting ticking and all hell broke loose. We left the room exhausted, clutching clumps of each other’s hair in our hands.
It’s a lot like what we’ve been through in the last 6 months.
The process was gentle enough to begin with; a general chit chat with my boss about opportunity and lifestyle. Then, before we knew it, we were hit with an onslaught of tax, immigration, education, healthcare and household obstacles to overcome. And now, with 10 days to go, we’re staggering to the finish line.
When you land at San Francisco International Airport, you soon find yourself in the immigration hall, usually in an epic queue. Which is always exactly what you want, straight after a 10-hour flight. So by the time we get to the desks at the front, we’ll be on the floor dribbling, dragging our weary bodies towards them. I can just imagine how excited those Immigration Officers will be, when they welcome us to the USA:
“Crap. The embassy in London screwed us over again.”
Yes they did, America. And now here we are – with our sarcasm, posh accents, and a Vitamin D deficiency.
And we pledge our allegiance to changing only one of those traits while we’re here.