How I survived my first six months in Silicon Valley
It’s been six months since I’ve relocated from the 27-story HQ of My.com in Moscow, to the tiny office space we have in Silicon Valley. In many ways I am settled: I’ve rented a new home (mission completed!), I’ve leased a new car (even without a credit score!), I’ve discovered local grocers, and explored a new town enough to no longer need Google Maps to get to work. But these scratch the surface of being truly settled, and are a far cry from putting down roots.
My friend who’s been working with Microsoft as a Trainer To Trainers told me that most employees who leave their native countries feel some form of depression after about six month of living in a new place. They call it separation anxiety or relocation depression. And one of the crucial reasons for it is the loss of identity that almost everyone deals with in leaving their home.
But this modern global life most of us live is all about moving, isn’t it?
My first impression of Silicon Valley was that I found myself in Babylon — I met so many diverse people. And that impression has been proven by statistics:
- Every 30 minutes, someone moves to Silicon Valley from another country
- About 37% of Silicon Valley’s population is foreign born, which is almost 3 times as much as all over the US (13.1%)
I’ll bet that most of these people are struggling with an identity issue, bringing who they are to a new place with new rules and culture.
So far I’ve experienced Silicon Valley to be very friendly and open-minded, though it can also be highly competitive. I’m expecting it to take a while to overcome the challenge of the first year in the foreign country and to call this new place home.
Have a look at my short list of the most important things I’ve come to rely on in my day-to-day routine, and what I recommend looking for when you are somewhere in between.
Family and Friends
I can’t stress enough how helpful a supportive family atmosphere is in any new situation, in particular our beloved partners and true friends can make any place on the planet much better.
I’m quite lucky. Having many friends and acquaintances in the startup world, I almost didn’t feel a lack of socializing after I moved. On the contrary, I spent time with some friends I already had: Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian guys, who I knew before and who moved some time ago; as well as met new friends in person with whom I communicated only on social media prior to my relocation.
The latter group was very important and interesting to hang out with. If you are active on social media, be sure to inform your friends and followers about your move! There are a lot of generous and kind people who will be very helpful in a new place.
I’m so grateful for my online Russian communities, who have the same cultural code as I do, yet are more familiar and at ease with the new-to-me Silicon Valley culture. The name of my favorite Russian Facebook group can be translated to “Bay Area girls” — and has been an impressive extensive bank of knowledge for me, as someone new to the area. There are plenty of ethnic meetups, events, and holiday celebrations (check meetup.com and eventbrite.com), as well as powerful ethnic groups, where you can get an answer to any question you come up with, just because your peers have already dealt with it. I recommend using Facebook search to find relevant groups to join.
Familiar food is such an important aspect of feeling at home. Fortunately, the Bay Area provides us with a diversified experience of ethnic foods, which is so helpful when you’re homesick. It just makes you feel more homey. During my first months I missed my favorite hot beverage I used to drink in Russia, Chinese milk oolong tea, which is popular and really easy to find in Russia. For some reason, I couldn’t find it here, even in Chinatown, so I ordered it on Amazon and later found some local stores to restock.
I try to keep an adventurous spirit not only on a Saturday hike, but also in a challenging Monday morning commute, stuck somewhere around Google’s office in a traffic jam. I’d recommend having some funny tips to cheer yourself in embarrassing situations, which is a frequent occurrence when you are a new transplant. Let’s say, you can proudly call yourself Indiana Jones, exploring a new land to discover unknown wonders and treasures.
Have I missed anything that you’ve found to be helpful in your move? I welcome your thoughts and comments!
In the meantime, I wish you all a tailwind and safe journey.
All the data about Silicon Valley is taken from http://siliconvalleyindicators.org