Slovenes abroad: Lea, San Leandro (CA, USA)

29-year old Lea has been living in San Leandro (East Bay, CA) since 2013. She loves to travel and explore the world, she likes music and reads a lot of books. She’d like to have at least 2 dogs but currently neither her time nor the house rules allow that. Obviously we have a lot in common and given the fact that I have visited California a couple of years ago, it was easy for me to blend in this conversation.

Why the United States of America?

Because of my husband’s work.

And why San Leandro? Where the hell is that anyway? 🙂

My husband is a software developer and when he was offered a job in San Francisco, we didn’t hesitate long to take the opportunity. We searched for an affordable apartment and due to very high rents in San Francisco, San Leandro was a logical choice since it is only 30 minutes’ drive away.

Was the decision about moving hard to take?

Not really. I have always wanted to experience living abroad. My first choice was New Zealand because it is similar to Slovenia but my husband got the opportunity first, so we followed his career path.

What were the reactions of your close ones?

The reactions were different. While my friends were mostly happy for me, my parents were not that excited. They knew I would end up moving abroad sooner or later but when the time came, they were not prepared. Like parents are ever prepared for anything, right? 😉

What was the most positive surprise for you after moving to San Leandro?

I have to admit, I took me a while to answer this one 🙂 Actually it is fascinating how easy it is to open your own company – with very little paperwork and minimum costs.

Have you ever encountered any negative experience, being a foreigner in the USA?

Well, for one thing, you are always a stranger. Despite being very open, at least Californians, and making you feel welcome, you don’t actually get a lot of true friends. It rarely happens that they really “accept” you as of their own.

Searching for job isn’t easy and it depends on the type of visa you have. I was lucky to get a working visa on behalf of my husband’s contract. If you are willing to work for a minimum wage, you can get a job very fast in coffee shops or restaurants, they are always looking for staff. But if you want to earn the big bucks, it is much harder. I have to admit that being a white female I didn’t have any trouble finding a job in a rather sexist country like the USA.

What do you do in your free time?

Free time, what is that? Working culture in the States promotes spending as much time at work as possible. So during the week I spend most of my “free time” at work – luckily my work (CrossFit) is also my hobby. Weekends we spend mostly outside in local parks, or we go to the movies, visit a concert… you know, the usual stuff 🙂Big Sur

What about the quality of life in general – health, social environment, economy?

Living in America often means 2 extremes: either you are doing great with a well-paid job, nice house, excellent health insurance and high standard of living, or it can be totally the opposite. If you end up in the street, it is very hard to get back on your feet. The streets of San Francisco, where you can meet a lot of homeless people every day, keep reminding us of that. Unfortunately there is no social security here.

Is it easy to get a job?

It depends on your degree and the type of work. If you are an informatics scientist or engineer you can get a job in Frisco very fast. But if you don’t want to work over 10 hours behind a computer, the story is of course completely different.

Can you have a good life with an average American salary?

Definitely not in the center of San Francisco. Actually you can’t even survive there with an average salary due to very high costs of living. The situation becomes quite different 30 minutes’ drive away. Not only the rents get lower – everything else gets cheaper, like everyday grocery shopping. You can always find cheaper and more suburban locations to live in but on the other hand you also get lower paid jobs there, unless you are willing to commute.

What about compared to Slovenia?

Everything in the USA is more expensive. You spend almost twice as much for food, which is usually of poorer quality, if I compare for example Trader Joe’s with Slovene Mercator. Not to mention the prices in Whole Foods, which is worlds apart. Rents are higher but on the other hand the apartments are bigger (but again poorer quality of construction). Slovenia has free basic health insurance and some kind of social security for all citizens, while in the USA the story is totally different. Here you have to pay for everything.

The States are huge but still, can you name 5 places any tourist should visit?

I didn’t have much opportunity to travel around the States in the last 3 years. Since we are living in the West, I will focus on the main national parks here: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Hawaii, and if I had to pick one city, it would be Seattle.Twin Peaks

What about in San Francisco?

Golden Gate, Golden Gate Park, Pier 39, Cable car museum, the view from Twin Peaks.

As far as I know, healthy food is very expensive in the USA. What do you usually eat?

Typical Californian food is mostly Mexican – burritos, tacos, churros,…  Californians also love to eat waffles, bacon, eggs and French toast for breakfast. I try to live and eat healthy so I buy similar products as in Slovenia (mostly fresh, raw, not ready-made food), but like you said, those are much more expensive than back home.

Do you follow the news about Slovenia?

I am mostly updated about the important events by my friends and family. Of course I also follow social media for more “independent” views 🙂

How often do you go home?

Only once in the last 3 years. The flight tickets are not cheap and the journey takes over 20 hours. Last time I was in Slovenia in 2014.

What do you miss the most, besides your family and friends?

Healthier food. Green environment. Rain. Less fake and more honest relationships.

Are there any other Slovenes living near you? Do you socialize?

My husband has a few colleagues at work but we rarely hang out with each other.

Do you get a lot of visits from Slovenia?

No. Unfortunately the flight tickets are too expensive for most of my friends.

What do friends usually ask you about the States?

If the gas is really that cheap. If everything is really like in the movies. Yep, it’s all true 🙂

Do you plan to come back to Slovenia?

Actually we are just moving to the UK because of my husband’s work. Returning to Slovenia is not something we are considering right now.

Lea Profile


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