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Aussies Of The Bay – Dean Flynn

The accent breaks the ice so that is a good conversation starter. But there is definitely a different business and social etiquette here. Re-learning the unwritten rules takes some adjustment. The entrenched Aussie behavior of putting yourself down has to be flipped to pointing out your highlights.

Otherwise your self put down will be met with looks of confusion, or words of support saying you shouldn’t feel that way about yourself. The accent breaks the ice so that is a good conversation starter. But there is definitely a different business and social etiquette here. Re-learning the unwritten rules takes some adjustment.

 

Aussies Of The Bay – Sandra Witzel

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

Sandra Witzel, Head of Marketing at SkedGo, Castro

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

I moved to SF with my husband in late August 2016. He applied for a job, got it and voila! After getting married in Germany in July, going on honeymoon in Tanzania and Kenya, we had three weeks to pack up our lives in Sydney. It felt like it was a good time for a change. We both love Sydney to bits but were excited about this new adventure.

I’ve also never really travelled in the Americas, so it seemed like a great opportunity to get to know a different part of this planet. So far, I’ve ticked off New York, Arizona, Colorado, Mexico, New Orleans, Detroit and several places in California. So much to see!

I live in the Castro – which is hands down my favourite neighbourhood. Stunning architecture, lots of nice restaurants, THREE good coffee places (!!) and lovely people all around. And dogs. Lots of dogs 🙂

Hardest thing about moving here?

Apart from paying an exorbitant amount of rent in San Francisco? I miss my awesome friends in Sydney and the beaches of course. Those spur of the moment trips to Parsley Beach or Coogee or Balmoral or … sigh.

Also really hard: we moved here two months before the presidential election – obviously totally convinced Trump would never happen. Well…

Favorite Bay Area memory to date?

There are so many. Just walking down Castro Street makes me happy every day, it has such a positive vibe. A helicopter flight across San Francisco (including going over and under the Golden Gate Bridge) was definitely a highlight. Adopting our dog from the SPCA another.

I love exploring San Francisco and learning about its colourful history.

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

Having an Aussie accent is a great conversation starter (especially if I then tell people I am actually German). Makes me feel somewhat exotic 😉

I am still doing my Aussie job remotely. I love the flexibility of working from home or from a co-working space and having awesome colleagues all over the world. SkedGo is a small Australian software development firm, making cool stuff in the mobility as a service space. We don’t do office politics and everyone is super professional and chilled. Hard to beat, so I haven’t been looking for a job here.

On the downside, I don’t have any local work mates to hang out with, which sometimes sucks.

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

The good: large events that combine a very diverse audience, super chilled atmosphere, kids, dogs, alcohol, glass bottles, pot etc without anyone having any issues (looking at you Sydney Lockout Laws).

In the photo you can see me at my first Off The Grid in the Presidio (wearing about ten layers of clothing as it was bloody freezing) – an event where everyone happily co-exists and simply enjoys themselves. Despite the terrible political divide, I find Americans to be super friendly and accommodating everywhere I go.

Baseball game at the AT&T was fun too (for the first two hours…).

The bad: We live about half a kilometer away from beautiful Dolores Park. There was a shooting a while ago, on a Thursday afternoon, in broad daylight. Everyone’s just like ‘oh yeah, stay safe’ etc. and then goes back to business as usual. Gun violence is so normalised here, I still struggle to get my head around that.

Also normal seems to be the number of homeless people. That heralded ‘American Dream’ leaves so many people behind. If you want to help, just buy someone food or a coffee, it’s such a hard life for them here. Our neighbour is a social worker and recently introduced us to a lovely young woman in her early twenties who has been living on the streets since age 12! Every homeless person has a story. You really never know.

Best advice for anyone who is thinking of coming over?

Come prepared! Finding a job here can be hard from what I have heard, it’s super competitive. Since the Bay area is crazy expensive, your savings might not last very long. Explore California. It’s truly a beautiful state. Try to occasionally leave your little tech (or other) bubble.

Get out of your comfort zone, it’s so much more fun. Don’t get too upset about issues like shared coin laundries, ancient banking systems (remember how to write cheques?) and bad coffee. We’ve all been there. Join the Australians in San Francisco Bay Area Facebook group – super helpful.

 

Aussies Of The Bay – Matt Holden

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

Matt Holden, Founder, Black Opal, Sea Cliff

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

We arrived in 2013 when I brought my startup www.MavSocial.com from Australia. MavSocial is a social media marketing platform and we worked with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so San Francisco was the natural choice for us. I sold MavSocial last year and now have a new startup that is focussing on Chatbot Marketing Platform

Hardest thing about moving here?

The most obvious is leaving family and friends behind but having said that there is not a lot of joy that I see in Sydney given the high cost of living there.

Favorite Bay Area memory to date?

I got some great seats to AT&T Park and watched the Giants baseball. First time was great but then you realize baseball needs a ‘Big Bash’ moment to speed it up.

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

My posting before San Francisco was Singapore and you’ll find many Australian expats who are always well regarded. Australians are always well regarded in the United States and Americans still love our Aussie accent!

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

I was at a Social Media conference in San Diego and Candace Payne was interviewed. She is the Texan who became ‘Chewbacca Mom’ and racked up 170 million Facebook views with her viral video and since then has built a multimillion-dollar business – as they say “only in America”

Best advice for anyone who is thinking of coming over?

Given the strong economy, I urge others to come to America now. The time is right and opportunity abounds. I do caution that if you have school-age kids life is tricky and expensive given schooling and housing.

Anything else?

I’m now advising lots of startups as a mentor. For technology companies getting that investment is critical and there are many Australian founders moving here so I really enjoy hearing pitches from them and how I can help.

 

Aussies of The Bay – Gareth Pan

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

Gareth Pan, living in San Francisco, Sales Operations/Strategy at LinkedIn,

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

I first landed in Feb 24, 2016 after doing a table-flip of sorts, where I severed my lease, quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to SF. After realising that I actually needed a return ticket to enter the country (thanks US Customs!), I spent the next 11 weeks looking for work. I stayed on a mate’s couch for a while before moving to the cheapest single-room Airbnb I could find – it was about 9′ x 9′ and in the middle of Chinatown, but hey rent was expensive and the US dollar was sky-high, so it worked for me!

After getting an offer at LinkedIn in May, I went back to Sydney to sort out visas, say goodbye to friends & family and returned to SF in June 2016, where I have been since.

Hardest thing about moving here?

I have a 16 yo cat (his name is Theodore, but we call him Teddy!) that I had to leave behind with my mother. Was devastating for me but the bastard is probably ecstatic – after 16 years, I’m still not convinced he actually liked me. Aside from that, the usual conversion difficulties – celsius to fahrenheit, km’s to miles, kg’s to pounds etc.

Favorite Bay Area memory to date?

I remember about 2 hours after I landed in SF, I needed to buy a towel and some bed sheets. I was stressing about how and where I’d get all that stuff from until my friend pulled out his phone and was like “watch this!” and tapped a few buttons. 2 hours later everything arrived at our door. I’d later learn that it was Amazon Prime Now and it was ridiculous and embodied everything that makes the Bay Area what it is.

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

Being Australian here is great and I completely agree with everyone else’s comments – it’s so much easier to start a conversation with anyone by virtue of the accent alone! At work, even 2 years on I still get the joke “I wonder if you’d still have a job if you didn’t sound like that”.

Dating here has been… interesting. I definitely think all’s well that ends well though as I’ve since found an amazing local girl (shout out to Linda!). Looking back, I feel the interesting dating dynamic here goes back to the fact that a lot of Bay Area residents are transplants from all across the world and thus dating seems a little more transient.

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

Fantasy Football. I’d describe it like an office Melbourne Cup sweepstakes, but every week for 16 weeks. The amount of office banter that goes on during football season is out of control – the winner gets some money and a year’s worth of boasting + the loser has to carry a wooden spoon around the office for a month, which is priceless.

Best advice for anyone who is thinking of coming over?

Absolutely do it, I promise you will not regret it. If you’re gonna look for work whilst you’re here (i.e. not coming over with an employer), make sure you have your story buttoned up. Most employers here don’t know anything about your uni, your background, any Australian companies or the E3 Visa. Think introspectively and craft a coherent story on exactly why you came here with 2 suitcases and a dream. 🙂

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m actually going full ‘Murican and going to NYC to do an MBA this fall, so @Christian if you know a G’Day NY equivalent newsletter – hook me up because G’Day SF is an amazing resource!

[Editor note: http://americajosh.com/ does a good newsletter out of NYC]