Strange and foreign places

Yay! I got a question in my comments section that I now have to answer in a post. Gosh, I feel just like a real blogger now.
Anon said... I noticed that you moved to L.A. from Canada and I was wondering if you wouldn't mind giving me some info on how that went for you? What steps you took, where problems arose, etc.

I bounce back and forth on wanting to move to L.A. and I'm just... curious.
It just so happens that I have moved to a few strange and foreign places in my time. So far I’ve lived in Grande Prairie (ahh, Northern Canada), Vancouver, Victoria, Geneva, Oslo, London, and Los Angeles. LA is not as strange as London, or as foreign as Oslo, but it’s still pretty far out there.

As a Canadian moving here, your big advantage is that you already speak the language, even if you can't quite spell "colour" the right way or say "about" without causing people to crack up. You'll also find yourself wishing you spoke Spanish as a second language instead of French, but mostly you can get along in your Canado-English.

In terms of adjusting to the city, you shouldn't have any more trouble than your average American who comes from Minnesota or Schenectady or wherever. You have to find a house, a job, a car (I know three people here that don't have cars – they are crazy), a boyfriend / girlfriend, and a favorite coffee shop, just like anyone else would.

If you're coming from a relatively small town – relative to LA even Toronto is pretty small – be prepared for the culture shock of living in a huuuge city. I still get goosebumps when I'm at the top of Mullholland Drive looking down over the city at night. It's not crowded like New York or London, but it just goes on and on and on... Also, in LA it's trendy not to put a sign up outside your bar or restaurant, so unless you know already know where the hip places are, you can't find them. Just one of the ways LA rewards people who are in and punishes newbies. Just like any new town, LA can seem pretty unfriendly and scary at times. Unless you know people here already, expect to have an adjustment period when you're mostly miserable. While you're still adjusting, take the time and opportunity to laugh at how crazy Americans go on holidays, like the 4th of July and Thanksgiving.

Loneliness and misery shouldn't last too long because most people in LA want to meet as many people as they can for networking purposes. It's much easier to meet people here than in Northern Europe, where no one will talk to you unless you're, like, standing on their foot or something. In LA, strangers talk to you wherever you go. Especially if you're female and they're not. If you're into something specific, like Indie Rock, or Ultimate Frisbee, or Stamp Collecting, you'll easily be able to find a gang of people who share your interests. If you're into TV writing, I can hook you up with the coolest kids in town...

A major problem for foreigners coming to the US (aside from the work visa thing, which I discuss in this post: Canadian special-interest edition) is getting a credit rating. They can't just check into your Canadian credit history – that would require computers connected internationally via some kind of crazy, I dunno, net or something. No, I don’t understand why my international credit card company could not issue me an American credit card. Anyhoo, I digress.

Without a credit rating, you have to pay cash deposits to get gas hooked up and get a mobile phone service etc. If you're looking into renting a house, you won't have any references and your credit check won't go through, so that might limit some of the places you can move into. But, if you're looking for, say, shared accommodation on Craig's List, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Just make sure you account for that extra cash outlay when you're saving for your move.

Finally, like I said (perhaps unwisely) in my Writers On the Verge application, I think everyone should leave home and move to a foreign place, at least for a little while. It’ll give you a broader perspective on the world, which will, ultimately, make you a better writer.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm still going though the whole "to move or not to move" phase. For now, I'm thinking I'll stay here for a while. Maybe do some independent stuff, or simply get a lot of scripts under my belt and sent out via queries and such. Those living in the states already have a head start on me, and those who already live in L.A have an even larger one, so I need to plan accordingly.

I'm wondering whether I should get into Canada's film/tv industry, however. It has its own problems, and isn't very constructive towards an eventual U.S writing career, so it feels like it would be time well wasted in a place not worth it. Denis (over at DeadthingsONsticks) has spoken about his experiences.

"Anon" can visit my blog. I've written about my similar situation here: http://carloconda.blogspot.com/2008/05/hello-brick-wall.html
A lot of fellow writer-bloggers commented, so check those out too.

Anonymous said...

cool stuff, I noticed that creditcard thing myself so we pay cash for everything now. I did the Canada-US thing myself and am currently in Boston, but since I am a writer I want to end up out there too

Anon said...

Thanks for the info! I also read the post on the more technical/gov't side of moving to L.A. (AHHH!!!) and it was very informative. So, thanks!

Christopher said...

hey Jane, did you and Sarge watch Generation Kill? Any thoughts? xXx