California


[misc.] [gallery] [home]

$1,000 fine for littering.
Speed enforced by aircraft.

street signs besides highway 1

$1 000 Strafe für Umweltverschmutzung.
Geschwindigkeitskontrolle per Flugzeug.

Straßenschilder entlang highway 1

This page provides information about California, finding a job as a foreigner, and relocating. Basically it is a primer for bootstrapping in the US. Diese Seite bietet Informationen über California, Arbeitssuche als Ausländer und Umsiedlung. Ich würde es als eine Art "Leidfaden für den beruflichen Start in den USA" sehen.

This page still is under construction. -- Seite noch im Aufbau befindlich.

Overview

1 California in General
[1.1 Pictures] [1.2 Dont's] [1.3 Slang]
2 Finding a Job as a Foreigner
[2.1 Who are you?] [2.2 Visa] [2.3 Resume + Documents] [2.4 Contact] [2.5 Job Interviews] [2.6 Closing the Deal]
3 Find Housing
[3.1 Finding a First Place [3.2 Moving]
4 Obtaining a Driver's License, Insurance, etc.
5 Shopping
[5.1 In General] [5.2 Food]
5 Links

1 California in General

1.1 Pictures

Check out my photo gallery.
Besuch' meine Fotogalerie.

1.2 Dont's

In California you might not want to do anything of the following:

<humor_on>

  • smoke in a bar, restaurant, office (few exceptions)
  • drink alcohol in public (or have glas on the beach)
  • drink Budweiser at all (hey, this is pee-water)
  • expect black people in well paid positions
  • violate traffic laws (say, for U-turns in commercial areas)
  • drive under the influcence of Budweiser (hey, this scores –2!)
  • have your hands busily in the glove compartment when an officer approaches you (he will shoot you faster)
  • successfully negotiate a good deal with a Californian prostitute (it might be a police officer + you in very poor condition)
  • try to find free parking in San Francisco (it's $10, dude!)
  • not yield to a cable car while there is no contact to the cable (it will not be able to brake immediately)
  • buy a car without air conditioner (100 F is 37 C otherwise)
  • actually walk to the mailbox or supermarket (people get suspicious)
  • wear black socks with sneakers
  • as a male, wear short shorts (those where you can see part of the leg up to the naked knees)
  • go swimming in European-style bath trunks (those that are not long enough to reach the armpits)
  • as an engineer, wear a tie during an interview
  • as a computer scientist, wear anything besides fucked t-shirts, jeans, + sneakers
  • admit you are really from Germany (unless you can stand those stories you will be about to hear)
  • use toilet paper European style (you will break through — it is designed to be compressed, not to be folded)
<humor_off>
Die folgenden Aktivitäten sollten in Californien am besten vermieden werden:

<Begin_Humor>

  • Rauchen in Kneipen, Restaurants, Büros (nur wenige Ausnahmen)
  • Alkoholgenuß in der Öffentlichkeit (oder Zerbrechliches am Strand)
  • Genuß von Budweiser ("Pissbrühe")
  • die Erwartung, schwarze Leute in gut bezahlten Positionen vorzufinden
  • Verletzung von Verkehrsregeln (z. B. Wenden in Geschäftsgebieten)
  • Fahren unter dem Einfluß von Budweiser (das ergibt –2 Punkte!)
  • Herumkramen im Handschuhfach, während sich ein Polizist nähert (er zieht schneller)
  • erfolgreiches Aushandeln eines guten Preises mit einer californischen Prostituierten (sie könnte eine Polizistin + Du in einer schlechten Lage sein)
  • Versuch, in San Francisco einen kostenlosen Parkplatz zu finden (es kostet immer mindestens $10 für ein paar Stunden)
  • Nichtgewähren der Vorfahrt gegenüber einem cable car, während kein Kontakt zum Kabel besteht (es wird nicht sofort bremsen können)
  • Kauf eines Fahrzeugs ohne Klimaanlage (air conditioner, AC) (100 F sind dann wirklich 37 C)
  • wirkliches Zu-Fuß-Gehen zum Briefkasten oder Supermarkt (Leute werden mißtrauisch)
  • Tragen von schwarzen Socken zusammen mit Turnschuhen
  • als Mann: Tragen von kurzen shorts (die, bei denen man das nackte Bein bis hoch zum Knie sehen kann)
  • Schwimmengehen in europäischen Badehosen (die, die nicht bis unter die Arme reichen)
  • als Ingenieur: Tragen einer Krawatte während eines Vorstellungsgesprächs
  • speziell als Informatiker: Tragen von anderen Dingen als abgetragenen T-shirts, Jeans + Turnschuhen
  • das Eingeständnis, wirklich aus Deutschland zu kommen (es sei denn, Du verkraftest die Geschichten, die Du dann zu hören kriegst)
  • Benutzung von Toilettenpapier auf die europäische Art (Du wirst durchbrechen — es ist zum Knüllen + nicht zum Falten entworfen)
<Ende_Humor>
 
Though the following things are totally tolerated:

<humor_on>

  • fishing for two minutes before being able to open a poor door lock with a poor key
  • having an accent whatsoever
  • speaking Mexican or Chinese and nothing else
  • driving without number plates ...
  • ... while being painted green
  • sleeping on the street
  • wearing skirts with sneakers showing off your diapers without really being female
  • body overweight beyond repair
  • having more than twenty piercings, only five of them being visible
  • facial tatoos, body modifications, extensive surgery, shemales at nude beaches
  • any sexual orientation, including <censored> and <censored>
  • carrying a huge ghetto blaster in the Muni, playing low volume soft music
  • women raiding the men's toilet, tearing open supposedly locked doors
<humor_off>
Die folgenden Dinge werden hingegen vollständig toleriert:

<Begin_Humor>

  • zweiminütiges Herumfischen, bevor ein schlechter Schlüssel ein schlechtes Türschloß öffnet
  • Akzente jeglicher Art
  • Sprechen von Mexikanisch oder Chinesisch und sonst nichts
  • Fahren ohne Nummernschild ...
  • ... und mit grüner Hautfarbe
  • Schlafen auf der Straße
  • Tragen von Röcken mit Turnschuhen bei herauslugenden Windeln — ohne wirklich eine Frau zu sein
  • Übergewicht jenseits jeglicher Hoffnung
  • Besitz von mehr als zwanzig piercings, von denen nur fünf sichtbar sind
  • Tatoos im Gesicht, body modifications, ausgedehnte Chirurgie, shemales an Nacktbadestränden
  • jegliche sexuellen Vorlieben, inklusive <zensiert> und <zensiert>
  • Mitführen eines riesigen ghetto blasters in öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln, der leise Kuschelmusik düdelt
  • in Männertoiletten stürmende Frauen, die vermeintlich geschlossene Türen aufreißen
<Ende_Humor>

1.3 Slang

This compilation could simplify your life. I left out the more basic words which are just mispronounced + garbled, like "water" ("wodrrr"). Diese Zusammenstellung kann Dein Leben leichter machen. Ich habe die einfacheren Wörter ausgelassen, die nur falsch ausgesprochen + verstümmelt werden, wie z. B. "Wasser" ("wodrrr", water).

US slang British English explanation German equivalent
a bucka dollarein Dollar
five grantfive thousand dollarsfünftausend Dollars
dyke, queer, bull-dykelesbian womanLesbe
fag, queer, homo, fairy, pansygay manSchwuler
cell phonemobile (cellular) phoneMobiltelefon ("Händi")
rest room, bathroomtoiletToilette
sureyou are welcomebitteschön
it's bullshitit's bades ist schlecht
it's fuckin' bullshitit's very bades ist sehr schlecht
fuck off, piss offleave me alonelaß' mich allein
fuck youI don't like youich mag Dich nicht
fuck you back (ya mothafucka, ya son of a fuckin' bitch)I don't like you eitherich mag Dich auch nicht
potMarihuanaMarihuana
acidLSDLSD
it's donegive us your money so we hire the people + do itgib' uns Dein Geld, damit wir die Leute heuern können, die die Arbeit erledigen

If you have problems with the pronounciation, try it while chewing a gum or having a big potatoe in your mouth. Wenn Du Probleme mit der Aussprache hast, versuch's mit einem Kaugummi, oder sprich' mit einer großen Kartoffel im Mund.

2 Finding a Job as a Foreigner

Be prepared. Know what you want. Go for it.

California is expensive; the bay area + the Silicon Valley are especially expensive.

Have at least one (golden or platinum) Visa credit card. Expect to pay a lot for a rental car, insurance, housing, + acceptable food. The first two — four weeks will cost you $3,000 — $5,000.

America is not the UK. Give yourself at least two weeks to get used to the accent. At first I did not understand even the easiest words, like "water" ("wodrrr") or "palm (organizer)" ("pommm"), and you have to get used to slang.

Sei vorbereitet. Kenne Deine Ziele. Verfolge sie auf einer Prioritätenliste.

Californien ist sehr teuer; die bay area + das Silicon Valley sind besonders teuer.

Es empfiehlt sich der Besitz mindestens einer (goldenen oder Platin) Visa-Kreditkarte. Du kannst erwarten, sehr viel Geld für einen Mietwagen, Versicherung, Unterkunft + akzeptables Essen auszugeben. Die ersten zwei — vier Wochen werden Dich $3 000 — $5 000 kosten.

Die Vereinigten Staaten sind nicht das Vereinigte Königreich. Du wirst mindestens zwei Wochen benötigen, um Dich an den Akzent zu gewöhnen. Zuerst habe ich die einfachsten Wörter nicht verstanden, wie z. B. "Wasser" ("wodrrr", water) oder "Palm (organizer)" ("pommm"), und Du muß mit dem US slang vertraut werden.

2.1 Who are you?

Who are you? What is your precise job title (on an American job market)? What do you want? What are your interests, both professionally + in personal life? Where do you want to live? How much money do you want to make?

Learn some smalltalk. Request a cup of tea, coffe, or some water. Adjust the pronounciation of your first name. Forget about your last name. Have a nice American job title (something like at least a Senior Software Engineer); it does not necessarily have to be true but otherwise nobody knows who the fuck you are ("well, no, actually I am a scientist"). You are what you want to be. Talk about work experience, problems, solutions, your strong areas. Find a special point why you like it precisely here (it might be the terrific view out of the window, the work environment, the ability to learn, etc.). Tell them California is great (because Germany is too cold during the winter, and they do not really have internet for the masses there — it is true).

Wer bist Du? Wie lautet (in einem amerikanischen Arbeitsmarkt) Deine genaue Berufsbezeichnung? Was willst Du? Was sind Deine Interessen, sowohl beruflich, als auch privat? Wo willst Du wohnen? Wieviel Geld willst Du verdienen?

Lerne smalltalk. Verlange eine Tasse Tee, Kaffee, oder einen Becher Wasser. Passe die Aussprache Deines Vornamens an. Vergiß' Deinen Nachnamen. Erfinde einen hübschen amerikanischen job title (sowas wie Senior Software Engineer); es muß nicht notwendigerweise wahr sein, denn ansonsten weiß niemand, wer Du bist ("nunja, nein, in Wirklichkeit bin ich ein Wissenschaftler"). Du bist, wer Du sein willst. Sprich' über Arbeitserfahrungen, Probleme, Lösungen, Deine Stärken. Wisse, warum Du genau hier sein willst (es könnte der atemberaubende Blick aus dem Fenster sein, die Arbeitsumgebung, die Möglichkeit zu lernen, etc.). Erzähl' ihnen, Californien sei großartig (weil Deutschland im Winter zu kalt ist und es nicht wirklich Internet für alle gibt — es ist wahr).

2.2 Visa

Think about what kind of visa (J1 for student exchange/internship, H1B for high tech, etc.) is appropriate in your personal situation. If you enter the country with a tourist's I-94, you should tell the immigration you are here as a tourist, shooting photographs of beautiful California. You are not allowed to work on an I-94. If you go for a J1 in the first place and later for an H1B, make sure it is not sponsored by a governmental institution, otherwise you might be blocked for reentering the country for a couple of years. Be prepared to leave the country anyway for obtaining a visa.

For a J1 visa, you should currently be a student, or you should have finished your studies within the last year.

For an H1B visa, making contact in September is best, as the visa are issued every year. It can help to have an own lawyer who is familiar with immigration law, and even an own translation agency.

There are other visa types that might be applicable to you, e. g. a foreign investor, or you could have a "stage visa" for table dancing + work in the red light district. Contact an immigration lawyer. They are not that expensive for a consultation on the phone, and it is great fun talking to them.

2.3 Resume + Documents

You must have a resume in *.pdf and ASCII format. Electronic form sufficed for me all the times, but maybe you also print one.

Check out the web what a resume looks like. Think about a job title. I am a "Diplom-Informatiker" but for the US this might cause misunderstandings — a "diploma" has a much lower value in the US, the German diploma is considered to be equivalent to a US Master's degree (in this case in computer science), and in the US you can have nearly any job title anyway. I tried to be a "Software Engineer" or "Computer Scientist". Use prefixes like "Junior", "Senior", "Principal" (e. g. Senior Software Engineer") to rank your experience. Check monster.com for the type of qualifications associated with that position, and include it in your resume if you match it.

To avoid discrimination the following items are not supposed to be part of a resume:

  • photograph or any type of image or logo
  • specification of: gender (male/female), sexual orientation (straight, bi, gay/lesbian), nationality, date or location of birth
  • membership in political parties
Though: The situation is totally different if you look for housing + place an ad on the web.

Have all necessary documents ready, preferredly on a password-enabled web server.

Those include:

  • up-to date resume
  • university diplomas + certificates, preferredly translated + grades transformed
  • list of courses taken (translated/transformed)
  • recent pay slips (if you want to make more)
Have a nice URL, have an email address.

2.4 Contact

You need a cell phone. Get one on location, or bring a 1,900 MHz GSM from Europe. The triple-band Motorola Timeport worked excellent for me.

Have your contacts sorted and easily accessible. Have a Palm or a Handspring, or at least a Filofax. Meet more people: worldinternetcenter.com (contact Lucien Dixon; their pubs are nice + very effective)

Initial contact should be made via job search engines (monster.com). For San Francisco + the Silicon Valley I especially recommend posting to craigslist.org. Specify your visa status. If it is good, your phone rings immediately.

You might also want to have contact to commercial recruiters (head hunters) who somehow scan the offers for you and get more interviews. As recruiters usually get one third of the initial salary for successful reference (this is more than $20,000) this might decrease your salary expectation.

2.5 Job Interviews

Be prepared to go through job interviews. It is one to four hours of getting into detail of your education and your experience. If you are successful somehow, there will be a second round which e. g. concretizes your salary expectations + benefits. California is expensive. In computer science, an anual salary for a newbie currently is $60,000, and after a couple of years of work experience it reaches the $100,000 border.

2.6 Closing the Deal

One thing you should have thought about in the first place is the company you will start with:
  • Will it survive long enough? — most startups crash very fast
  • Is it properly funded?
  • Is the business idea good?
  • Are there two or more possibilities for the business idea to bring in revenue? Placing ads on a web site does not count.
  • How is the climate between employees?
  • Do you want to work with this or that kind of foreign colleagues? (culture)
  • Do you like the office environment?
salary: will it suffice? — California is expensive; high tech jobs start at $60,000 anually

Besides the salary, there are some benefits which one might or might not get:

  • stock options with startups: request at least 2 000 shares/stock options (I think usually at ten cents per option — $2,000 that could be $2,000,000 afterwards)
  • medical insurance
  • dental stuff
  • vision (eyes)
  • life
  • long- and short-time disability
  • accidential death
  • dismemberment insurance
  • 401K plan ("four-o-one-k", old-age-pension) — you might want to save 20 – 30 per cent of your salary on your own
Du solltest Dir schon zu Beginn klargemacht haben, mit welcher Firma Du starten willst:
  • Wird sie lange genug überleben? — Die meisten startups gehen schnell unter.
  • Ist sie finanziell ordentlich abgesichert?
  • Ist die Geschäftsidee gut?
  • Gibt es zwei oder mehr Möglichkeiten für die Firma, Einnahmen zu machen? Platzieren von Werbe-bannern auf einer web site zählt nicht.
  • Wie ist das Klima unter den Angestellten?
  • Willst Du mit diesem oder jenem ausländischen Kollegen arbeiten? (Kultur)
  • Magst Du die Büroumgebung?
Gehalt: Wird die Höhe des Gehalts ausreichen? — Californien ist teuer; high tech jobs beginnen bei $60 000 jährlich

Neben dem Gehalt gibt es benefits (Vergünstigungen), die man erhält oder auch nicht:

  • stock options (Aktienoptionen) bei startups: verlange mindestens 2 000 Anteile/stock options (ich glaube, es sind üblicherweise zehn cents pro option — $2 000, die später $2 000 000 sein könnten)
  • Krankenversicherung
  • Krankenversicherung speziell für Zahnbehandlungen
  • Krankenversicherung speziell für Sehhilfen
  • Lebensversicherung
  • Kurz- und Langzeit-Arbeitsunfähigkeit
  • plötzlicher Tod
  • dismemberment insurance (?)
  • Altersversicherung/Rente — am besten selber 20 –30 Prozent des Gehalts sparen

3 Find Housing

online (craigslist), free newspaper (Michal-reference)

sample ad

3.1 Finding a First Place

friends or relatives -- if you have
hostel (green tortoise), hotel, motel (car!, US distances)
room mates (deposit!)

sample ad:

German engineer, male, 30 years,
seeks roommates in San Francisco or Oakland,
preferredly along a BART station.

I am a clean + calm person, respectful, no smoker,
do not no drugs (besides socially drinking beer).
I clean up after myself + integrate very well.
I am heterosexual though I do not care what you are.

Shared kitchen would be nice.

cell: 415-xxx xxxx (any time)

Want to know more? -- http://www.hildner.de

*peace*

Klaus

3.2 Moving

door-to-door  -- nice + easy
u-haul + storage -- cheap

4 Obtaining a Driver's License, Insurance, etc.

It is no problem to get a rental car or motorcycle with any out-of-state or foreign license. Though things are easier when you have gone into the effort of obtaining an international license in advance.

insurance: If you intend to buy your own vehicle it is difficult to find cheap insurance or insurance at all. The AAA (American Automobile Association, the major American automobile club) for example sells its insurance only to people who hold the CA license for more than a year. They will sell you another insurance, though, but it is more expensive.

If you had any (even minor) accidents back home you might not want to admit that. Rates are cheaper then. It might not be checked back ...

sometimes the correct answer is easy driver's license: So if you are looking for information on obtaining the CA driver's license for cars + motorcycles then click here. I found it much easier to pass the test for cars than that for motorcycles.

automobile club membership: Problems are inevitable. You might lock up your car keys inside, run low on battery on an automatic car, or bury your car in the Nevada desert (I have done all of those). So it is better to have automobile club coverage.

The German ADAC membership is better respected than anywhere else I found out — well, maybe not precisely the ADAC but at least the German nationality + citizenship. Just call 1-800-AAA-HELP and tell them you are a fucking German tourist (e. g. "I am travelling in California and got stuck in this huge sandbox — do you have any heavy machinery to pull me out?") and a member of the major German automobile club (nobody outside Germany knows the ADAC anyway). In Italy I once got into a very loud conversation at a BMW dealer when I pulled out my membership card, in the US you might not even have a valid membership — my ADACPlus membership card card states "valid startig from" ("gültig ab") — no expiry date! Again: It might not be checked back ... and try to look as innocent as a tourist as possible.

5 Shopping

problem is finding, but it's there

5.1 In General

all prices specified without tax

factory outlets (especially Levis, Adidas) -- limited variety -- 501 for $32

http://www.costco.com (membership fee)

San Francisco: Chinatown!

5.2 Food

OK. Get ready for some hard judgements: In my opinion, food is not only a matter of taste, it is also a matter of health — of
  • being able to walk with ease (i. e. not to have overweight — fat),
  • having a normal hip diameter (i. e. to have a healthy bone structure — growth hormones — Erin Brockovich aka Julia Roberts: "to have just one ass"),
  • and of not having to die of heart diseases (cholesterol + co.).
Trash food with fat + hormones is still legal in California — smoking is not. I wonder why there is no scientist who proofs the correlation of food and overweight. It might cause the same avalanche of lawsuits like the asbestos industry, the tobacco industry, and soon the cellular phone industry has to go through.

From a European viewpoint finding real food is difficult in California. I lost weight during my first months. Things like bread, cheese, eggs, milk, muesli/cereals, and beer are a problem. High quality is available but you pay three to five times the price you are used from Europe. You might want to look out for organic food, or if you do not get it, for imported European food (e. g. Italian or Swiss cheese — make sure it really is imported and not only made like Americans think Mozarella would taste).

healthy food *g* The problem with bread is the flour and the addition of sugar. You can find Wasa crispbread from Sweden.
There are hardly any cereals without addition of sugar. Get a large + cheap quantitiy of Old-fashioned Quaker Oats at costco.com (membership required), or get some muesli at Trader Joe's.
In my eyes cheese is not cheese if it comes in a spray bottle. The solid cheese has the consistency of synthesized fat. It is practically tasteless (even if it is supposed to be goat cheese).
High doses of growth hormones might be part of cheese, eggs, milk, and meat; I do not eat meat.
Antibiotics can be part of eggs.
You can find a couple of micro breweries in San Francisco. Supermarkets sell imported Irish + German beer (Guiness, Paulaner, Erdinger, etc.).

A big variety of ethnic restaurants (Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Italian, etc.) can be found in San Francisco. They are rather cheap.

5 Links