Aussies Of The Bay – Anthony May

Name, job, part of the San Francisco Bay Area you live in

Anthony May, Electronics Engineer, Alloy Product Development, SoMa (previously Tendernob, which wore thin after a couple of years.)

When did you first come to the Bay and what’s the backstory there?

October 2015, back when the notion of DJT becoming President was laughable. My husband worked for Atlassian in Sydney and he wanted to do the go-live-n-work-overseas thing. So that was our ticket over here on the L1/L2 visas.

Hardest thing about moving here?

The cost! Our two cats’ relocation cost more than our air tickets, but half a 20′ shipping container makes that look like pocket money. Then 1+1 month rent & 1 month bond at SF rental rates was brutal.

Favorite Bay Area memory to date?

There’s been many, but one of them was a day 1 year ago while I was job-hunting, which I chronicled in one of my most up-voted Quora answers to a similar question, so here’s an except and the link to the full Answer:

Meet the CEO of another tech start-up who was developing an Augment Reality head-set with ambitious specs. She’s a 5′ 0″ young Asian woman who was extremely difficult to understand due to a thick Chinese accent and a tendency to speak way too fast, had difficulty maintaining eye contact, but she was clearly very very smart, technically fearless, & busy iterating their design. She and her co-founder work from a home in the hills south of Twin Peaks that’s been converted to a hard-core tech-den.

When she opened the front door and invited me in, I was confronted by a set of carpeted stairs that obviously hadn’t been vacuumed in 15 months. Getting around inside was a constant exercise in not tripping over stuff that covered the floors: piles of boxes, ‘shelved’ experiments, lab equipment everywhere, a pile of unopened Amazon deliveries. If I were to start work there it would be impossible for me to not become Den Mother and try to clean the place before starting actual work – every day. ”

What impact has being Australian had on your life here? In dating? In work?

Hard to say, but I suspect not much! These days Australians are everywhere in the Bay Area, so there’s not much surprise/shock-factor, also because it’s an incredible something-something-melting-pot. My husband worked in the Atlassian SF office until recently, where there’s a revolving door of staff moving between SF & Sydney, so the Americans there seem to happily soak up the Aussie culture.

Most American thing you’ve experienced in your time here?

Oh geez, so many. Um, 6 months here and we’re driving back from a weekend in Yosemite (awesome!), through Oakville in the Central Valley, a tiny town that bills itself as “The World’s Cowboy Capital,” where a car sped past us with a bumper-sticker “Liberalism is a mental illness”? I probably wouldn’t blink at that now, but back then while still in the ‘liberal bubble of California’, it was a bit of a shock that we didn’t have to drive too far out of the inner liberal bubble of SF Bay Area to be reminded how politically polarised this country is. I didn’t know until a year later that Bakersfield, a little to the south, is California’s ‘Trump Central’. Yup.

Best advice for anyone who is thinking of coming over?

Do your research! The Australians In SF (& CA) Facebook groups were pretty useful for us before and after the move, so I try to give back there when I can. Knowing the sequence of things you need to do from day-1 can be pretty important to minimise the time without an SSN and bank account so that you can actually be paid ASAP, which is important when you’ve just dropped $10-15k to get the keys to a rental apartment! lol

Feel free to add your own thoughts and notes here.

When Bluestone Lane opened here in SF, the young Aussie girl who was over here from Aus temporarily setting up the shop asked me “So, what’s it like living over here?” I replied, “*sigh* It’s a complicated place…”, and immediately she said “EVERYONE SAYS THAT! What do you MEAN?!?!” I chuckled. I could’ve just rattled off the usual platitudes and head-scratchings, which are all mostly true, but that doesn’t inform much because just about everyone’s heard them anyway.

I think us Aussies over here start out looking at the USA and its crazy s**t – politics, health insurance, gun violence, etc – and dismiss it with a pretty black-n-white ‘Oh why don’t you just…?’ or ‘Hey, most of the developed world’s sorted that s**t out – maybe you should take your heads out of your arses for a minute and have a look?’ attitude.

If only it were that simple. Even if you account for American Exceptionalism and the ambivalence most Americans have about life outside the US, their history is pretty frakkin complicated – and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – and it’s all lead up to where they are now. We can no more snap our fingers and change any of that, any more than a Silicon Valley Libertarian could snap their fingers and convince Australians there’s more to wealth creation than amassing multiple negatively geared investment properties and screwing the next generation.

It’s best just to let Americans be Americans, and Australians be Australians, and clink beers together. Some of them even like Vegemite, so there’s hope.

[suggested question: How long do you think you’ll stay here? ]
We’ve already been here longer than we first thought we would. We’re thinking about where next, perhaps somewhere in Europe, probably move next year. Not quite ready to settle back in Australia just yet… :-)”


Christian Thurston


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