A second week of living in the United States. Two weeks already, time flies when you're having fun.
I've been working pretty hard during the week, even though it's a relatively quiet period. But there's so much to learn and I want to make the most out of the precious time I can spend here with the team, so I don't mind. And there's literally nobody to come home to, so it really doesn't matter if I come in early and leave late. On the contrary: at work I get to interact with people, when being alone in my apartment I felt kinda lonely this week. Even though I'm Facetiming with my family almost every day, I do have to admit I miss them. This is not so much a problem during the week but it hits home (hah!) harder during the weekends.
I'm slowly getting used to the US. Things feel less strange than 2 weeks ago, for sure. Additionally: I'm no longer sure that Americans are disciplined drivers: it feels more like they don't know how to drive and make up for it by doing everything slower, or at least appearing to be more calculated in traffic. I've had 2 near accidents because of idiots doing crazy maneuvers without any signal at all.
The thing that gets me the most at the moment is that you almost have no other choice (here in the suburbs at least) but to do everything by car. I surely miss my daily bike rides, to be honest. I tried walking to grab some food yesterday: there's a lot of places nearby, but it still was a 15 to 20 minute walk there (and then back again). And you don't see a lot of pedestrians anyway. Like I said, I'm pretty close to the commercial zone around El Camino Real, so I can imagine living deeper in the suburbs, there's really no other option but to take the car. On the flip side: gas prices are a lot cheaper here than in Europe, obviously. I paid less than half the price for gas as I would have paid for in Belgium. Crazy.
Driving around the Bay Area, it feels like a strange place though: knowing the state of housing in the area, it's so weird to see all those one story houses block after block. You can see alternative housing types popping up, more creative housing types to be sure, so I guess it is slowly changing. Going for something less suburban (for example, terraced housing) seems like a good way out of the high prices (I for one would prefer a small terraced house over an apartment, for example). All the "bungalow" style houses here really feel like a waste of space.
👜, 💵 & 💳
One of the things I love here is that stores are open at the craziest hours, compared to Belgium. You can go shopping until late in the evening. The nearby Safeway on El Camino Real is open 24/24: this is something unseen where I live. Additionally, weekends are just barely different from weekdays regarding stores and services. I had to call support for my bank to get Apple Pay verified on my Watch last Sunday, and that was no problem at all. On the contrary: I got helped faster than a few days before when verifying Apple Pay on my iPhone. Again: this is something impossible in Belgium. Banks are open from 9am to about 4pm usually, sometimes later. Weekends? Forget it.
Speaking about money: it is fascinating how -- how should I put it -- old fashioned the payment system here in the US is. And by that I mean that most transactions work by swiping your credit card. Sometimes that's just all you need, sometimes you need and extra signature. Convenient, but it feels so unsecure. When paying in a restaurant, you just give your card along with the waiter, and sign the receipt afterwards. The strange thing is that you can/have to add tip, but that happens after the swipe, so basically the restaurant can charge whatever they want. Now, I haven't had any problems with this, and I figured it's probably a good idea to keep receipts here just in case something goes awruy, but it feels backward. In Belgium, they bring the credit card terminal to your table, where you can pin locally and be done with it. On the other hand, you can do a split bill very easily here: just hand x credit cards to the waiter and they'll charge each card proportionally. Good luck trying that in Belgium. 😉
I tried to go shopping today. Wanted to get some presents for the kids, so I drove to Westfield Valley Fair which seemed like a fairly decent mall not too far away. While the mall was everything I expected from it, I only bought 2 pants for myself (and only because of a lovely 40% discount on both). This is of course entirely my own fault: I should have known this would be a dead end: I do not like shopping at all. While I was walking around in the mall, I though: dammit, I should just do this online: it's less stressful and everything is delivered to my doorstep. When I got back to the apartment, I opened amazon.com and surely all the things I had considered were also available online. I haven't ordered yet, but I will do this week. Lesson learned.
And oh: Apple Pay is so, so glorious. I'm so going to miss that when I get back home.
The weather's been really great so far: blue skies and fairly warm temperatures: most days it's been hotter than 28°C. This weekend was more overcast and a bit cooler, but still a fairly awesome 24°C overall. The problem is that almost everywhere you will find airco on inside. And mostly, it is setup just a bit too cold for my taste. I've reverted to carrying a sweater to work because I sometimes feel too cold while working. And the temperature changes are taking their toll: I think I'm coming up with a mild cold (might also be some fallout from the UIKit flu that's going around, not sure).
Jetlag is completely gone, although it sometimes feels that my body still thinks it is in CET. I can feel very tired on unexpected times during the day and not be able to sleep at night. This doesn't happen all the time, just occasionally. I've been coming home tired enough from work the whole week to usually pass out around 10pm most of the days, to be honest.
So yeah, halfway through my monthlong stint in Silicon Valley so far. Took a while, but I feel I got to cruising speed this week. There's more where that came from, but it feels pretty good so far. Two more weeks and then the cold reality of being back in Belgium will hit hard, I feel (but I'll be so happy to be reunited with my family).