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Very low - what should we do ?

Very low - what should we do ?

Old May 10th 2011, 7:10 pm
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Default Very low - what should we do ?

Hello all

Well, I've been here nearly 5 months now and have 9 more until the minimum term on the house lease is up (both here and in the UK).

I'm not home-sick for the UK, but underwhelmed by the US and feeling pretty low.

Wife and kids are OK - they are settling in although making friends here seems to be very, very difficult. Compared to the UK, the provision of things to do that aren't educational but are fun seems very poor - we've joined the local YMCA, but there are very few kids of our son's age (9 1/2) that seem to do anything and so little is laid on for them. Cub Scouts is OK, but pretty lame, rather babyish and dis-organised.

The weather is nice, the food is OK, the TV and radio dire (so we listen to Radio 4 and watch BBC iPlayer !) but we really are not in a "normal" life at all.

Work is horrible - it's been like going back 25+ years to the way we used to work in the UK before we discovered nice buildings and telecommuting.

What to do ? Are we being unlucky, do we need to try harder, or should we just give up and go back to Europe ?

The biggest issues for us right now are:

- School - so much homework. Obsessed with qualifications. Poor sod hardly gets any time to do anything as a "normal" child.

- After school - related to above, no-one appears to get off their backsides and DO anything.

- Dis-organisation - no-one plans ahead for ANYTHING ! Getting responses from people even to meet for a coffee is all so last-minute.

- Don't care attitude. Americans seem very good at marketing their "Great Country" where underneath they know it's a pretty awful and broken place. But they don't try and do anything about it.

- Things to do - other than eat, go to cinema or rammed-down-your-throat educational or cheesily commercial....

Right now it feels like we've moved to a country with a substantially worse standard of living than we left....
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Old May 10th 2011, 7:15 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

The conscious incompetence stage is always difficult. Feel free to have a rant.
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Old May 10th 2011, 7:21 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

If you don't know what Fatbrit is talking about try here:

http://www.businessballs.com/conscio...rningmodel.htm

Anyway, the "land of the free" have great self-promotion, after a little while of living here you can judge for yourself how much is marketing hype.

I do find that life is what YOU make it. Stay, leave, it actually makes no difference. By returning to the UK you've got a whole heap of stuff to do, stay, and you have a whole heap of stuff to do to bring your life up to your expectations.

Regardless, it's your choice on how that goes.

Good luck, I will say Vive la differance..... (sp?)
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Old May 10th 2011, 7:38 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Some options might depend on how you got here, visa wise or whatever...if you're here on L1 visa then the options are pretty limited.

If not, perhaps look at moving around the country with a new job?

Not much help with the rental lease, but there's always ways around that I suppose.
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Old May 10th 2011, 7:48 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Sorry to hear that you've having a hard time settling in.

Your work situation doesn't sound ideal. My experience in working over here is that my employer didn't want to hear about a problem unless it came with a suggested solution(s). Can you think about how to make your work life more suited to what you want - and then suggest how that would benefit the company/your manager/your clients etc?

I can't help with school stuff since my kid is too young for homework and public school. If you find that the scouts stuff is lame, can you help them and volunteer some ideas of things which your son did in the Uk which might not be so lame and then help the scouts do them? Don't just rely on other people to organize it for you.

But I see that you are based in Santa Clara and one of the things you say is not enough "things to do"; I feel like there are SO many things to do here that we barely have a weekend when we're not out and about. I do know that most of these things cost $, so if you're on a tight budget you have to look harder for things which are free. But what about things like:
* going kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough near Monterey
* hike in Yosemite
* camping in the multitude of campsites all over California
* check out the sights in San Francisco. What about Alcatraz?
* take surfing lessons in Santa Cruz
* ride the steam train at Roaring Camp (your son may be too old to think that is still cool)
* go see the elephant seals in Ano Nuevo. I heard that they're having babies right now.
* take mountain bikes into the foothills near Saratoga or Los Gatos - there are some great trails over there
* become fans of the Sharks and go watch hockey
* Go to Great America or Raging Waters theme park if that's your thing
Tahoe, Big Sur, Carmel, Napa, Santa Barbara and this list is just what I could think of in 2 minutes. What about inviting one of your son's friends out on a trip with you and hopefully the invite would be reciprocated.

I've often found that people here assume that everyone else is busy doing stuff particularly on the weekends, but if you venture an invite or trip, they might be up for it. It certainly doesn't hurt to ask. And school will soon be out for the summer when making new friends might be harder.

Good luck

Last edited by jackattack; May 10th 2011 at 8:17 pm.
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Old May 10th 2011, 7:50 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Originally Posted by fatbrit View Post
The conscious incompetence stage is always difficult. Feel free to have a rant.
You took all the wind out of my reply.
Great post, fb, sincerely. I'd not thought about exactly like that.
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Old May 10th 2011, 7:53 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Previous poster is right.... I'm sorry about my earlier post reading as a bit grumpy, but really life is what you make it.

I've found making friends hard in California, just becasue they're different kinds of friends than the UK.... once i realized it was ME that was the the problem, it turned round for me...

I volunteer as a CASA, and the parties are always at my house, because if they're not, then they dont' happen.....

California is wonderful but you have to get stuck in to really enjoy it!
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Old May 10th 2011, 8:01 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

As Bob says, do you have the option to move with in the country or easily return to the UK? The feeling of being trapped can make you feel panicky and wondering, "Why did I do this?" all the time.

If you have the option to move, 9 months seems like a convenient period of time to continue giving it a go and then reviewing the decision.
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Old May 10th 2011, 8:01 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

It does take a hell of a lot of effort here, more than I had to exert in the UK to make friends find things to do etc.
But yes It is all hype, it's a very plastic way of life. It all looks good from the outside looking in. Dh says it's all made of stucco not a real rock or cement wall to be found if you dig about.
We've been here forever. (well it feels that way) I used to do all the coffee day meetings for my friends at my house, or like another poster says, it doesn't happen. If you are religious at all, Church and church families and friends are very big so are all the activities they have there.
After 25 years I have two really good friends I could call in an emergency and a handful of more superficial friends I see sometimes.
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Old May 10th 2011, 8:02 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Originally Posted by Trixie_b View Post
Previous poster is right.... I'm sorry about my earlier post reading as a bit grumpy, but really life is what you make it.

I've found making friends hard in California, just becasue they're different kinds of friends than the UK.... once i realized it was ME that was the the problem, it turned round for me...

I volunteer as a CASA, and the parties are always at my house, because if they're not, then they dont' happen.....

California is wonderful but you have to get stuck in to really enjoy it!
What's that? I've never heard of it and would like to look into some volunteer work ... I'm in OC!
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Old May 10th 2011, 8:05 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Originally Posted by limeynus View Post
What's that? I've never heard of it and would like to look into some volunteer work ... I'm in OC!
Court Appointed Special Advocate. A voice for children in the foster care system you get to be a part of their case in the court system. It's a wonderful thing.
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Old May 10th 2011, 8:13 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

What sort of things did your son enjoying after school in the UK? If he was into football, are there no football clubs he could join. We have ones round here that are fun ones rather than school ones. The local sports shops have teams too. Some of my friends kids go to clubs on a night for dance/drama/art/cookery. They found them through recommendations from parents at the school and online. One friend was talking about a school spirit night (out of my field of knowledge now as mine is only 2) where the teachers served food at a local chickfila and loads of parents went and had a chat.

Have you had a look on meetup.com to see if there are any groups in your area you fancy? If you can find an expat on they may be able to hook you up with local fun things to do.

I hope things improve for you and whatever you decide to do, that everything works out.
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Old May 10th 2011, 8:17 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

No kill shelters always need help and (at least the ones here) encourage kids to volunteer. Might introduce you to some people with a different mindset than what you've been experiencing.
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Old May 10th 2011, 9:35 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Thank you for the replies - they are all VERY helpful, because you've all been through it.

Some specifics....

1) Not really the "out-doors" type, but we do enjoy a day at the coast. Now that IS hard to beat here, but it has the constant feeling of being "on the outside, looking in" rather than actually living in the place. Maybe that does just take time ?

The same is true in SF - yes, it's a nice place to visit, but it's no different from living in the UK and going to London for a day, or Brighton. It's more about the day-to-day rather than the extra-ordinary that is eluding us at the moment.

2) I'm a rather left-wing atheist. I thought I would fit-in well with the SF type, but I can see I was living in a bygone 1960s era ! Joining a church of any religion is probably out (not that I will stop anyone else from their particular beliefs). I just feel out-of-place in my views, opinions, etc, etc. I never answer back (that would be rude and disrespectful), but coming here makes you realise how much Europe has become secular over the last few years compared to the US. Or maybe the US has lurched to the right and religion ? It all feels a bit odd !

3) Cub Scouts is just plain dis-organised. In the UK, most groups have their own hall/meeting place, their own equipment, a fully planned set of activities, and treat it more as fun than here. The times we've sat down after Cubs and said "For f***'s sake why don't they get organised !!!!" We've seen emails coming out the day before an event ! Yes - it may yet come to jumping in and taking over, but it appears to be us that are out of step, so keen not to hop in with my size 9s.

4) Weeze mentioned about after school clubs - round here, probably due to the pushy tech-company types, they are all related to furthering education. Having said that, we are looking into football (soccer) clubs - possibly in the Autumn. I will check out meetup.com - new one on me. Thanks.

5) Jackattack - you make some interesting comments. I think your kids are much younger than ours, and to some extent, when you have young kids they "tag along" with you. Yes, we've done the Roaring Camp (it's far too lame for a nearly 10 year old now); even the seaside gets a bit passe for your average street-wise 10 year old nowadays. We're not into theme parks but would go to Raging Waters as a special treat. Not saying that having Preschoolers is easy (I KNOW it's not !) but there does seem to be a lack of things that are FUN (i.e. not soccer/baseball/basketball leagues or education improvement) to do at this age. Or maybe it's my age..... My son is spending over an hour a day doing homework - he had 40 minutes a week in the UK. He is a very bright kid and gets good results, so he is not struggling, but it is stopping him from being a boy. And his classmates are all locked in every day doing the same !

But you say
but if you venture an invite or trip, they might be up for it
Yes - but we like to plan ahead. In fact, we have to to budget ! People here seem to do things very much at the last minute, and it's just not in our mindset - maybe time to re-think our previously fast-paced SE England lifestyle ?


I really do appreciate the answers - we're determined to make a go of this for however long we're going to be here. I would not put anyone off moving to a foreign land - having visited a lot of Europe over the last 20+ years for work/leisure, it is just rather unnerving as to how a country that on the outside looks more like the UK than other parts of Europe feel so very alien when you are living there....


Keep those ideas coming in - I'm feeling better already. Thanks

David
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Old May 10th 2011, 10:24 pm
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Default Re: Very low - what should we do ?

Meeting up with some Brits might help. There are ex-pat groups in the Bay Area (I have no personal experience of them but they seem active). This one might interest you:

http://www.meetup.com/brit-286/

Obviously the Britannia Arms is a way to find some Brits or Brit friendly people too, there's one in downtown San Jose and one in Almaden:

http://www.britanniaarmsdowntown.com/
http://www.britanniaarms.com/

The only "real" friendships I've made in the US are with fellow Brits or Europeans. It is hard to make a good bond with someone when they have such completely different life experiences, and people can say you just have to adjust, but that doesn't mean it's easy, particularly as not all of us are especially social creatures. I'd say make the most of the area now Spring is finally here, make sure you see some of the beautiful greenery, try to go a little out of your comfort zone to meet people, and reevaluate in six months, when you're more able to make a decision and do something about it if you decide to leave. In the end you have to weigh up what's right for you.

eta: I see someone else has already mentioned meetup.com!
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