Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to the Bay Area

I arrived at SFO at the end of July 2014 on a direct flight from my hometown, Calgary, Canada. I was excited, mostly because I felt like I was going on a hot summer vacation. After a few months, excitement turned to insecurity, confusion, irritation and sadness. Now, almost 12 months later I’m feeling at home. I’d be lying if I said I feel 100% content living in the Bay Area and want to stay here forever, but I am slowly putting down roots again: I’ve made some friends, I’ve found some fulfilling volunteer work, I’ve gotten my driver’s license, I’ve learned to get from my apartment to a few places without a GPS, I’ve figured out where to find bread crumbs at my grocery store – you know, the important things.

I thought as my very first blog post on Globiana, I would share 12 things that I have learned in the 12 months that I’ve been living in the Bay Area.

  1. Always make a DMV appointment whenever possible. You will feel special going to the VIP line and while I can’t promise your DMV experience won’t be frustrating, confusing and fulfilling – at least you didn’t waste five hours.
  2. Search “Caltrain” on Twitter before leaving the house to see if anyone is reporting any delays.
  3. While the red bullet trains on Caltrain may be faster, you are more likely to get a seat on a yellow limited stop train in exchange for 10 minutes of your day.
  4. The Great Mall in Milpitas is a discount shopping mall. I did not know this for months after I arrived. It still bothers me that I paid full price for some new summer clothes when I could have gone to a different mall and received 50% off everything.
  5. You can get anything delivered to your door in the Bay Area. Seriously. There are so many start ups here that cater to your every need. PurpleTie, Munchery, DoorDash, GrubHub, Farm Fresh to You, Instacart, Amazon, Google Shopping Express, Stitchfix, Uber, Lyft are just a few. There are also so many promos out there just to try any of these services – so let a venture capitalist treat you to a free meal.
  6. Even though people pronounce it “Beta Breakers”, this annual event in SF is not, in fact, a big hacker convention. It is actually called “Bay to Breakers” and is a race that winds its way through San Francisco – starting at the Bay and ending where the waves break on Ocean beach. Maybe I’m the only one who made this mistake?
  7. You don’t have to drive to Napa to taste great wines. There are a bunch of wineries in the hills by Cupertino!
  8. I now have an enormous vocabulary pertaining to dietary restrictions. #organic #conventional #GMO #nonGMO #toxins #paleo #local #vegan #raw #glutenfree #dairyfree #soyfree #nutfree #vegetarian #shamanblessed. I may never be able to host a dinner party that pleases everyone.
  9. When scheduling anything, it is critical to take traffic into account. Never schedule anything that you need to drive to on the freeways for 6 pm.
  10. There is no such thing as a cheap apartment.
  11. I can finally wear the “winter wear” as seen in fashion magazines. Scarves! Leather jackets! Heeled boots! (No one has ever survived a Canadian winter wearing heeled boots).
  12. 1/20 people you meet on the street is Canadian. Yup, you read that right. There are over 350,000 of us in the Bay Area. You can’t avoid us. We will find you and be nice to you. There are a lot of expat communities from all over the world based in the Bay Area. Globiana can help you connect with them.

About the author:

Heather Dunphy-Nielsen is a Canadian transplant from Calgary, Alberta. She and her husband live in Mountain View, California. Heather fills her days writing, reading, blogging, learning, volunteering, cooking, cleaning, meeting new friends, and looking at pictures of dogs she wants to adopt. Heather has a Master’s of Arts in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Calgary. Her thesis focused on Harry Potter fans. Since moving to California, she has also completed a Graduate Diploma in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership from Carleton University.

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2 replies
  1. katlowden
    katlowden says:

    Hello fellow Canadian. We moved here in March and I find it hilarious that the DMV was the first point mentioned in your article. I could write a book on our DMV adventures.
    Adopt that dog! I’m sure you’ve noticed that “everyone” in the Bay has a dog. I’m feeling the pressure to adopt one myself. Cheers.

    Reply
    • Elena
      Elena says:

      @katlowden I’d beware of getting pressured into adopting anything 🙂 Give it a month or two, and if the urge persists, then… Come join our jolly (and sometimes very frank) group of expat spouses and partners on Facebook. Just look for Globiana Lounge in groups.

      Reply

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