Another big change I underwent in 2013 as a result of changing jobs was a move from Canada to the United States.
The actual process of getting TN status to legally live/work in the United States was pretty painless. My new employer had a lawyer write up the necessary documentation for me and armed with that and some other supporting documentation (degree, transcripts, etc.) I went through customs and said “let me in please”.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration but in all seriousness once I got to the airport in Edmonton, I made it through US customs and had my TN status in ~20 minutes. So much for showing up 3 hours early for my flight! I spent a lot of time sitting in the airport just waiting to fly down to SFO with my being unnecessarily early and the fact that my flight was delayed 2 hours.
Fast forward 7 months and I am sitting here writing this at a brewery in San Francisco. It’s 21C outside and sunny and it’s only the beginning of March. It’s still hard to fathom how different my life was less than a year ago. The whirlwind of hoops that I had to jump through on arrival to the United States seems like a distant memory (despite not actually being that long ago).
Searching for housing here sure was an ordeal. Even if you were from California, housing on the peninsula is ridiculously expensive and in high demand. I’m still surprised I was able to snag the great place that I have in Redwood City. I mean, Redwood City itself is very much suburbia, however, being a 10-15 minute walk from the grocery store as well as the train from San Francisco to San Jose works out very well for me (especially given that I don’t own a car).
I had more than a few problems when beginning my housing search: no american bank account, no american credit history, no social security number, and no pay stub yet. I had to compensate by being over-prepared when visiting potential apartments. “Here’s a letter from my employer, here’s a Canadian credit report, here’s my immigration information, and, I can pay the first month via Cashier’s cheque.” Appears to have worked, since I got the place. Somehow these things seem to work themselves out.
In general, the differences between where I live in California (Redwood City) and where I used to live in Canada (Edmonton) are rather minor/subtle. The one thing I have noticed is how much better the customer service is in California over back home. Whether it be at a restaurant or a furniture store, the employees are all much more helpful. I’m not sure what it is, but those individuals in the service industry here do actually go out of their way to provide exceptional service, and consequently, earn their tips/commissions. It may have something to do with the larger population/increased competition that they are more motivated to differentiate themselves. Back home, I have found people to be much less helpful yet seem more entitled to their tips.
Another surprising revelation was the fact that the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) is exactly if not more depressing/frustrating than is depicted in American television shows. I always thought it was some kind of common joke, “haha the DMV is terrible”. No. It really is a depressing place. Everyone gets dumped in this one giant room, waiting longer than they should, for things that should be simple, and, they are probably taking time off work to do it. You can feel the vortex of unhappiness as soon as you enter the doors. You can make an “appointment” which just means you stand in a slightly shorter line to start with. I spent over two hours at the DMV to write my 10 minute driver’s license test. I was especially surprised, (given the fact this is California and there is the whole Silicon Valley thing) that the process wasn’t more automated. I actually wrote my test on a piece of paper and had it marked with an answer key from a giant binder that reminded me of elementary school.
By far the strangest thing has been the transition from the Canadian single-payer healthcare system to the American private-insurance based system. I actually had to choose between different possible healthcare plans (which is something I’ve never even thought of before). I’m lucky in that my employer pays for anything, so I shouldn’t have any problems, however, the entire process was very alien.
Everything up until this point was written 5 months ago in March. Fast forward again from March to August (yes I have not followed through on my resolution to blog more frequently) and I am moving again! My lease is up and our offices will be moving to a larger location in South San Francisco in a couple months. As a result, Redwood City has become a lot less enticing. Instead, I have decided to take the plunge and give living in San Francisco a try.
Given how expensive it is San Francisco, I will once again be living with roommates. I believe this shall be an interesting transition for me as I have been living on me own for the past year. Despite the reduction in privacy, I am a little excited at the prospect of once again having roommates. I do miss having the more frequent social interactions with individuals outside work that comes with living with other people. I think it will be a good thing to potentially have some people to go explore the city with and make some new friends!
All in all the process of moving from Canada to the USA has been rather painless in the grand scheme of things. I often forget I am in the US except for the odd occasion when something strictly American/Canadian comes up and the disconnect is evident. I think I am most reminded when friends back home talk about holidays or long weekends that we don’t get down here (Canadian thanksgiving for example).
I recently went back to Canada a few weeks ago to visit some family out east (Toronto area) and was once again reminded how much I still love Canada. I feel like living in/around Toronto is something I might want to try one day. It is unclear to me how long I want to stay in the USA. I am incredibly content to continue enjoying California and explore the bay area for the immediate future, however, I feel that sooner or later I will be drawn back to the “true north, strong and free.”