What They Don’t Tell You Before You Move To Silicon Valley

Wed 27 March 2013

When you move to the Bay Area, people tell you “Rent is high!” and “Public transit exists!” But they don’t think to mention a lot of the day-to-day differences that take newcomers by surprise. I’ve been here a few years now, but some of the more striking ones are still fresh in my mind:

  • You have to shove gasoline nozzles in really hard, or gas won’t dispense. This is important to figure out quickly. I visited about five different stations and nearly emptied my tank before I realized the pumps weren’t broken—merely guarding against escaping vapors.
  • Most local shops welcome dogs. They indicate it by putting a water bowl out front.
  • Surfer speak like “right on” is unsurprising, but there’s also a trademark, rapid-fire “yeahyeah”, used to indicate casual agreement. I like it.
  • Cars don’t require yearly inspection, but you do need a “smog check” every two years. California doesn’t care if your brakes work or your wheels stay on, as long as your emissions are clean.
  • There are Bizarro World versions of various food products. Hellman’s mayonnaise doesn’t exist, but Best Value comes in a cosmetically identical jar. Twizzlers are replaced by Red Vines, a slightly waxier alternative. And when you say “skim milk”, you get quizzical looks. Ask for “fat-free”.
  • Winters are mild—you’ll love it—but many trees still shed their leaves. However, they simply turn brown and fall off; there’s no pyrotechnic detour through reds or yellows for any but a few. However, if you ask your native coworkers, they will wax poetic about the fall colors and tell you the exact coordinates of the one red tree in town.
  • Turn signals don’t work. My theory is that the lingering Reality Distortion Field bleeds the charge right out of the relays.

What about my fellow transplants? Got any more?