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.


Christian Thurston


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