10 Thoughts about Living in Silicon Valley

By | August 18, 2007

As a Singaporean whom just moved here 3 weeks ago, I came some cultural adjustments to make. Coming into a different culture really allowed me to see the differences in how envirnment can shapre people’s behaviour and actions. Here are just 10 thoughts that I just came up with.

1. The weather

No wonder this is just about the only place in the world where people can use the weather as a conversational topic. It is really cool and dry here. Even in the afternoons, the temperature is cooling provided you are not under direct sunlight. I finally understand how movie characters can wear suits without breaking a sweat here while chasing the world villain on a busy city street. On a more negative note, my lips cracked a lot for the first two weeks. Basically almost all the skin died and peeled off leading to a definetly unkissable and horrdenous looking pair of lips At least now after all my old skin has shed, I can say that I have normal looking lips for now.

2. Cars

One thing I dun get is the size of the cars here. Why don’t everyone just drive a coupe. Why SUVs, monster trucks and MPVs? A 4 door will suffice for a family car right? No wonder oil is a big issue in the states. Also I pretty much detest what I called the driver’s handicap syndrome here. Everyone drives. Every building is spread out so far, walking becomes unviable and driving is the thing to do. It contributes to the bulk of Americans and also to the carbon emissions problem that our earth has. However I would like to say that in mountain view, I see a lot more bikers cycling to and fro work. I am still looking for a bike that I can use though.

3. Toilets

My first day here and I was urgently in need of a restroom. Yes toilets are called restrooms here. Why? Because you can really take a rest on a comfortable plush chair in the restroom. Why anyone would actually want to do that confounds me. Anyway I was at a bank and I needed a toilet. To my dismay, the toilets are employees only. So I walked out of the bank thinking that the next building has a toilet…hmm….round this corner….into another mutual bank…..asked a security guard…he said 4 blocks down…what!!! Ya…then it hit me that if you are at an unfamiliar place, getting to a toilet is pretty hard as shopping centers are pretty rare here and you have to drive to them.

4. Food Size

Ha, I was surprised that fast food here is actually normal sized. What isn’t normal sized is the Chinese/viet/western food stores. It’s a bit daunting to see like lunch and dinner on the same plate. But I have gotten used to taking half home for dinner or breakfast anyway. I guess this is probably why the “you can have anything you want, but only half of it” diet can only work in the US.


Hmm…Sunnyvale is pretty much like Singapore in this aspect. You see the occasional Caucasian. But mostly it is Mexican and Asian dominated area. (Side joke: UCLA=University of California (Los Angeles) or = University of Caucasian Lost in Asian)

6. Houses

Right so everyone has a big house. Although being the suburban area, real estate prices here are still almost the highest in the United States. House hunting was quite an experience. Looking at houses and thinking if it could fit 8 people was our primary consideration. Then after that came the neighborhood itself. Some places were obvious that it was a bad place to live in. if you see fenced gardens with dead grass and old rusty cars parked by the roadsides, you know it is time to turn around and get out of the neighbourhood.

7. Gardens

Speaking of gardens, did I mention that the gardens here can rival Singapore’s garden city label? The gardens here are really really pretty..Even the average garden has blooming flowers, squirreling squirrels, well kept patios and tall trees. It is a pretty sight when you drive down the neighborhood. However all this comes at a cost. Sprinklers are automated and critical for the survival of the garden. Given that it doesn’t rain much here and people are too busy to water their gardens, everyone has a sprinkler system that turns on near sunset. A lot of water is being used just to keep all the plants alive.

8. Running

I love running in this weather. There is no way I could break into sweat because the weather is too cooling and dry to sweat. But the throat gets quite dry when you run past a certain point. The moisture in your throat starts to wear off and you get a striking pain in your vocal cords. Sort of like a sore throat. I guess it is alright as long as I drink more water before I run.

9. Work

Work here is pretty good. I have got a pretty good boss. There are also multiple events that allow you to network and meet new people. Here it seems that everyone does attend a few events and everyone has some sort of networking experience. This is unlike Singapore where only a small segment of the population does networking. I guess the academic and high tech nature of Silicon Valley does affect how people treat networking as part of working and extending your social life.

10. Living in a shared household.

Living together with housemates is a pretty interesting experience. Most interesting is probably how billmonk has become part of our vocabulary. Billmonk is a expense record keeping website (www.billmonk.com) that allows you to bill your friends. It is an interesting concept that is probably only workable in the States and Europe. In Asian countries where living with parents is so much more common than sharing accommodation with friends, you don’t really need to split your expense with your mom and pop.

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