Monday, November 9, 2009

Here I come... San Francisco, California

It looks like a painted picture :)

I had not updated my blog for a month as I was extremely busy packing and clearing our stuff before moving out from the rented apartment in Singapore. Yes, I was trying my best to keep packing and removing the unnecessary stuff as we had to leave to San Francisco, California on 6 November 2009. It is a difficult task to pack clothing, toiletories etc. in a big luggage bag. Believe me, it was not easy as I thought as I was trying my best to keep the weight of the luggage bag to the minimal as I could.

This is my first time to the States. I knew nothing except I had the perception that Americans are rich as they could afford to stay in big houses and drive brand new cars, be fashionable, etc. that's the perception we had from the American t.v. series ;) Unfortunately, everything was different when I arrived at San Francisco. My first experience was dramatic as I bumped into a homeless man at the airport. Can you believe it? You don't normally meet the homeless people at airport because this will tarnish the country's image. I was waiting for William to pick up the car rental while the homeless guy was being friendly and came to me to ask about my dogs. After we had exchanged some conversation, he told me he hadn't eaten for days. He asked me if I could give him some $$$. I gave him $1 and he walked away.

After my 13 days spent in California, I began to see the true perspective. Majority of the residents are not as rich as what we had seen on the TV. Neither I see beautiful houses nor expensive cars. Most of vehicles are either compact cars or MPVs which are at least 5-10 years old on the road. So far, I haven't seen sports cars and new models of BMW or Mercedes at all. So sad :( Most of the houses are old and worn-off. The property is very expensive here. A rented small apartment with one bedroom at the size of 600sq ft. cost about $1,500 per month without even being fully furnished at all. Most of Americans do not have much savings as their take home pay (after average 38% Tax deduction) might be sufficient to pay their rent/home loan, installment plans and food expenses for the families. They do not have extra $$$ to travel to other states. Most of the home furniture are paid by installments. To my surprise, a queen sized mattress at the promotional cost of $300 can be settled by installment too. That's why many of them are unable to pay debts/installments once they lose their jobs.

Social Security and a Credit Score are the common terms that you would hear when you apply for loans, rent a property or open bank account. Being the new foreign residents, we do not have the history of a Credit Score thus, we need to pay higher deposit for home rental and utility account. In order to maintain a good Credit Score, the Americans have to pay their loans, credit cards (with minimum/full payment) and any kinds of installment on time each month. If they miss it once, their credit score would reflect as bad payment hence this would affect on loan applications in the future by incurring higher interest rates.

Tipping is a custom in the States. When you dine at a restaurant, you need to pay 15% tips. Besides that, you also need to pay tips to the bellboy, parking attendant, taxi driver, barber, hairstylist etc. except at the fast food chains.

GST Tax is also high if you reside in California. You have to pay 9.25% GST Tax for everything EXCEPT raw food from supermarkets. This is higher than what we paid for 7% GST in Singapore.


On my second day of my arrival, we went to San Francisco downtown which was about 1 hour drive on highway (without traffic jam) from Sunnyvale. It was a long journey but to the locals, it was considered "VERY NEAR."

I saw many homeless people on the street at San Francisco downtown. They begged for money and food. Some even with the placard around their necks stating they were jobless without food and money. They begged for help who accompanied by families and dogs.

We saw many cops on the streets at San Francisco downtown but we hardly see cops at Sunnyvale. It gave me the impression that the city was not safe at all. We could see some rows of shops at selected streets were installed with grills to prevent from high crime activities.

The Dragon Gate of Chinatown

Busy shopping for grocerries on Sunday

Union Square -leading brands such as LV, Coach, Burberry are situated

The famous Cheesecake Factory. You must try it!

Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake

Hibachi Steak

Herb Crusted Salmon and Shrimp Scambi

p/s: I passed my DMV written test today after reading 80 pages driving guide book and trying some sample questions. Now, I am holding a temporary driving license here. Next stage is driving test. Believe me, it is not easy getting a driving license compared to Malaysia's driving license.

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