United States

Posted on 2022/07/04 — Santee, CA

It's been seven month since I moved to the United States. It's one of the best decision I've ever made.

I grew up in the Philippines and have never been here. I acquired my citizenship through my dad, who was naturalized during his service at the Navy. I was a permanent resident on my home country as we never applied for dual citizenship.

Moving to a different country isn't easy. Thankfully, our cousins were willing to give us a helping hand. They leased us their condo unit in San Diego county for six months and assisted us in many important matters.

Within a week, I found a web developer job that pays well. Since you need a car to move around here, my cousins also taught me how to drive. Eventually, I got my driver's license (on the second try) and bought a used car.

Below is a tale of my experience so far:

Climate

The climate in San Diego is more comfortable than in the Philippines. Most people I talked to find it perfect compared to other states, even Los Angeles and San Francisco.

This wiki page explains climate here in detail.

Expenses

The cost of living in California is high, making life more challenging if you earn only the minimum wage ($15/hr and varies by state).

As an IT professional, I make enough money to afford a comfortable life. 26% of my salary goes to taxes, Medicare, and Social Security; 3% to health insurance; 35% to rent and utilities; 6% to car loan; 3% to car insurance; and the remaining to food, savings, gas, and other personal expenses.

Medical care seems to be crazy expensive. I can't tell, however, as I haven't had the need to use them.

Credit Score

Credit history is an essential part of living here and one of the things we first worked on. Lenders and landlords make use of your credit score to determine your eligibility for a loan or rental.

Having a credit card is the simplest way to get started. You need to have an income and a good credit record to be approved for a regular (unsecured) credit card. Since I didn't qualify, I applied for a secured credit card with a $500 deposit. It can be upgraded to a regular one after 6 months of good credit.

After three months of moving, I was able to get financing for my car. Due to my lack of credit history, most lenders rejected my loan application, and the one that accepted arranged with a relatively high APR.

We tried applying for a mortgage. Although I have a job and enough money for the minimum down payment, we were ultimately rejected. Apparently, at least two years of good credit and rental history are required.

Applying for a loan incurs a hard inquiry on your record. I tried many applications in a short time, so my credit score decreased by quite a significant amount.

Insurances

Insurance companies make a killing in this country. You can't drive without auto and driver insurance. My apartment unit requires renter's insurance. You'll get a tax penalty if you don't have health insurance in California.

Postal Services

I'm amazed how the postal services are very much utilized here. Even in the age of emails and paperless transactions, I still receive plenty of mails and ads weekly.

The government offices use the postal service to send documents. I got my driver's license, vehicle registration papers, state IDs, and USCIS documents by mail, so I didn't need to go to their office unless required.

USPS provides standard mailboxes to residential and commercial buildings, which you can use to send and receive mails.

Unlike in the Philippines, most couriers here would leave packages on your doorstep if a signature isn't required, which is prone to package theft. I haven't lost a delivered package so far.

Technology

You'll need a phone number and a smartphone for many things here. My iPhone 7 battery had gone bad, so I decided to get a new iPhone 13 with an unlimited data and phone line plan. The 5G network coverage in San Diego is good overall.

I use Apple Maps to find my way around. When driving, it shows you the traffic conditions and estimated arrival time to the destination. The geolocation here is accurate and up-to-date.

You can do many transactions electronically. I carry only a little cash as most shops, vending machines, and gas stations accept card and mobile payments. I can do most transactions on my bank's app. I pay my rent and utilities via their official apps and portal. You can also buy stuff or food online and pick them up at the curbside.

People

Americans are generally friendly and cheerful. But like anywhere else, you'll still find rude people. I haven't been discriminated against so far.

Most people here are also active and busy. Teens as young as 16 can work at specific jobs. My sister, who works in a fast-food chain, has plenty of coworkers who are 20 years old or younger. Being independent is central to the American culture, and many people work at a young age to afford their own life. The Filipino culture is the opposite of that.

Asians generally treat customers with esteem. That kind of customer service doesn't exist in the US. However, "the customer is always right" here, so it's easy to demand a return or exchange for things you are dissatisfied with, even if you're being dishonest.

In my workplace, I treat my coworkers equally regardless of their position. Most of them are approachable and outgoing. However, I haven't made friends with any of them yet.

Transportation

You need a car to get around in San Diego, so we prioritized getting one. Due to the way how cities are designed here, public transport is not very effective.

If I commute using public transport, it will take me about two hours (18 miles from Lakeside to Scripps Ranch). I wouldn't want to waste time commuting to work every day.

In my first weeks at work, I used Uber. It cost me around $30 to $40 per ride. After a month, my managers learned what I had to endure, and they were considerate enough to let me work from home until I got my driver's license and car.

I haven't got the time to visit most places in San Diego yet, but I'll write it in a separate post if I do.

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