Kathryn’s is the third in a series of four interviews: A Shared American Dream. In each blog, I’ll explore a single, central, cutting question:
Is life in the US all it’s shaped up to be?
We’ll meet four incredible women who’ve helped shape my American Dream.
Have you heard of SoulCycle?
I had. I was a bit scared of it though, to be honest. That was, until I met Kathryn.
It was friendship at first chat for us – that was, back at the drinks I organised during my first little while in Palo Alto. Both keen to sink our teeth into the local scene and really get to know what social and exercise-related opportunities might be at our (brand new) doorstep, it was on this night that we agreed to try one of the USA’s greatest exercise crazes.
Since then? It’s been Barry’s Bootcamp (urm, not as enjoyable, in our opinion) and there’s even an Orangetheory session on the cards! (She’s even convinced me, just this morning, to register for a fun run in Monterey in November, hmmm).
Kathryn is American, originally from the East Coast. She’s the mum of two young boys; one in elementary (primary) school, and one at pre-school with our Coco. And as you’ll see below, she worries sometimes about what her children will encounter once they reach high school.
Judging a book by its cover (we’re all guilty of this at some point, right?), you may not guess that Kathryn is adventurous, up for big challenges, and totally happy to join me as I lament the weirdness and difficulty of everyday life in the US of A.
What did I see at first glance? A friendly, thoughtful, intelligent woman.
Well, she’s all that… and so much more. But what didn’t I see? The irreverence, the fearlessness, the ability to openly laugh about our crazy experiences. I didn’t at all foresee that:
- We’d be holidaying together
- That I’d just met someone who would become one of my closest friends, and
- That I’d encountered a kindred soul who’d give me confidence to try some of these insane exercise classes that I was too nervous to try on my own
A glorious dark horse is our Kathryn, and I’m just so grateful to have her here in Silicon Valley.
This is Kathryn’s story.
Whereabouts are you originally from?
Pennington, New Jersey (near Princeton).
Whereabouts did you move to Silicon Valley from?
New York City – I was living in Manhattan!
How long have you been in Silicon Valley, and what brought you here?
I’ve been here for one-and-a-half years, and it was my husband’s work that prompted the move.
Did you have friends here before you arrived?
In three words, describe how you’d imagined SV life to be before you moved here.
Laid back, sunny, and modern!
In three words, what were your first impressions of Silicon Valley?
Nerdy, sunny, outdated!
In three words, describe what you think of it now.
Easy, sunny, expensive!
Bust a Silicon Valley myth for us.
I thought these big tech companies would have modern glass and steel buildings, but it’s super retro indeed. Most companies are in run-of-the-mill, drab office parks. Sorry to disappoint you!
I also thought people would be more laid back when it comes to child rearing. Once you get to elementary school though, people put their children in a million activities, take extra academic classes after school, and get academic tutors. It’s so involved.
Reinforce some Silicon Valley stereotypes for us: what’s totally true about living here?
Okay. Let’s do it:
- There are a lot of really smart folks living here!
- Everyone drives a Tesla
- There are self driving cars on the roads
- It’s expensive
And for your fix of a Californian stereotype, people do everything slower. Driving is painfully slow, getting your coffee is painfully slow…
Slow. Just so slow.
What do you love most about living in the Bay Area?
The weather, the outdoors, a more laid back lifestyle (compared to NYC, that’s for sure), being close to the beach, mountains and city, and the friends I’ve made here!
What do you loathe about it?
The disparity between the uber wealthy and the poor (we’re talking five million dollar houses next to people living in old RVs), having to drive everywhere, the general slowness (come ooooooon… why does the barista need to chat with every person before making a drink?) but to be honest, I’m actually growing to appreciate all this!
What is the biggest challenge you face in terms of living in Silicon Valley?
The price of housing. Hands down.
What do you miss the most about where you came from?
Walking everywhere, fashion sense (sorry, people of SV!), sophistication, and family.
What does Silicon Valley do better than where you came from?
People are nicer and more open, there is a better work/life balance, it’s easier with kids
How do you feel raising kids differs here than where you’re from?
Raising kids in NYC is challenging, that’s for sure. Pushing a stroller in the freezing cold or rain, trying to hail a taxi, lugging your groceries home… everything’s overcrowded.
To be honest, raising kids in Silicon Valley is simply just a heap easier. Hopping in the car, opening the door, and letting the kids free play outside, having space at home, going to the playground almost everyday of the year… life is a bit more simple.
Do you have any concerns raising kids here?
I do worry about the pressure cooker environment of the middle/high schools.
How long do you think you’ll stick around here?
Not too sure at the moment. Perhaps another three years or so.
What would you move away for?
A new adventure.