2 Months Stateside: Retrospective View on Life in San Diego

Wednesday marked two months in the country. Two months in Cali land. Two months in (most of the times) sunny San Diego. 

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I cannot deny that I love my expat life in Southern California. That’s why it probably was so easy to get settled - way easier than the times I had in Leipzig last year. But this is not something one can possibly compare and I am not going to.

San Diego is wonderful (of course, there’s also the ugly side, the sad things, as in every big city, such as the homeless people and there are quite a few here, because of the weather). One of the major things bugging me is public transport. It’s beyond worse (maybe slightly exaggerated) but once you’ve lived in London…you can hardly call this public transport here. 

It’s just a fact: This is car nation. Period. This won’t change in a 100 years. This country is simply too big and the level of convenience you experience when owning a car too high. 

But a car is just not something I could possibly afford right no, so I am sticking to my $72 monthly pass. But, you know, it’s doable and I don’t mind a little bit of walking. Nevertheless, having a car on the weekends would be sweet (or better public transport to that effect). 

But I know I am whining at a high level here so I just leave it at that. 

Bottom line: San Diego is and will be a perfect place for me, with or without a car! (I do have a bike though.)

I’ve been reflecting upon my past two months spent in the sunny city and this is what I’ve come up with: a few personal facts and impressions as well as things learned while having settled into the good life. (Of course, it’s not always sunshine in every respect.)

Groceries are expensive - and everything is bigger. 

There might be a lot of things that are cheaper in the U.S. in general, such as clothes, depending on where you shop, of course, but groceries is not something that falls into the category of cheap. Holy, have I looked at the receipt when I first went to Vons (a grocery store chain here) and just bought a couple bananas, tomatoes, a loaf of bread an cheese. Almost $16? Geez. But it’s something I have to live with and complaining about it every single day doesn’t help. 

But then there’s places like Costco that you can go to and buy huge containers of everything. They don’t even have smaller items. It’s literally a warehouse and you can only shop there with a particular card. I am lucky because my landlord owns one, that way I can use it. And once you shop there, things are comparatively cheap. For that huge container or oatmeal - and I can live on that for probably 2 and a half months, not kidding! -, I paid a little over $8. Buying a small one that doesn’t even last a whole week and still costs me about $5 is not an option anymore. Same applies to the tasty dried cranberries and granola bars and so many others things. You just have to find the right places, I guess. 

You find a lot of tasty food - more Mexican than anything else

I honestly should start brushing up on my Spanish skills, it’s like the second ‘main’ language here. Tijuana is just a stone’s throw away and Mexican food is technically part of the daily routine here - at least for a lot of people so it seems. 

I mean, we had tamales for dinner on Christmas Eve, which is a traditional dish. San Diego is basically part of Mexico, especially when it comes to food and there are so many amazing places around here that I yet have to try. I’ll be broke, I know it. 

American food porn continues in form of this. This is just an example of how deliciously sweet things can get here. If you have a sweet tooth, this country has got you covered. Peanut butter everything - naturally. 

The mostly unbeatable sunrises every morning I go to work

When I leave the house in the mornings, a little after 7 (if I don’t squeeze in a morning workout session), I see the sun rise on my way down the hill. This makes the day a lot brighter and I am reminded, every day, what bliss it is to live in SoCal. 

The picture below shows the view I have when opening the back door from my room. 

The Sunsets are definitely something

Leaving work to this and then, about 10 minutes later, ending up right there (photo below) undoubtedly is a wonderful way to finish off a day. Especially if it has been very hectic (there’s things like a routine for me even here in San Diego, believe it or not).

I just like wandering the streets, getting out of the office to a cotton candy sky and soaking in the last bit of light of the day.

The view from my office window isn’t something I am complaining about.

However, seeing the sunset right from the port is what I prefer, with a fresh breeze on my face.

San Diego sunsets always get me. (Almost) everyday. 

My CrossFit Box is just down the hill

I checked out a few CF gyms, compared prices, services as well as the locations before I eventually decided on CrossFit Victory, who are situated just about a 6-7 minutes walk from my house and right at the bus station. So, this is definitely the most convenient thing, for I can either go at 6 am in the morning and squeeze in a skill work session before work or hit the box right after work, when actual classes take place. So far, this is what works best for me but who knows, I might try another box within 18 months. I’ll figure it out. And oh boy are those guys and ladies fit here. I’ve yet to do a lot more work to get anywhere near their skill level - if ever. 


I love the sea. I always did. Being near it makes me feel free and - although running the risk of sounding cheesy here - I can actually breathe and completely clear my head. 

Finding some nice spots just minutes from the house is fabulous. It’s quality of life, it’s always a slight vacation feel, although more during the weekends, of course, than during the week, when everyday life does hit me. It just happens but it’s way more different than back in Germany. It’s lighter, brighter, simply perceived differently and more manageable I should maybe say. I guess you get the point. 

Ocean Beach Pier is my favorite one - and also happens to be the closest to my home with about 15 minutes by bike. It’s a nice ride down there. 

Just having the chance to technically go over to the beach whenever I want to is such a great thing and I still can’t get over the fact that this is real. 

Sometimes, I walk along the shore and ask myself if I am dreaming (no, really, I seriously do). Then I usually get that stupid smile on my face. 

Once the sun has set, things aren’t less brilliant. Getting a nice view on parts of the city from Pacific Beach Bay is surreal all too often. That’s been the case just Wednesday. Sit down with a paper-covered bottle of wine and the night is yours - aka you can sit there forever, chat about life and make crazy plans. 


Jump in your car (I mean, rental car) and head a little further east. Within half an hour or so, you’ll have the chance to go hiking and be rewarded with stunning views. If the weather is real clear, you can even see the ocean from atop. 

It’s great to not have to choose between either mountains or the sea. You just take both. Who would say no? 

So, whatever you feel like, you can go back and forth. I have yet to go to the desert, which is a couple more hours away but still within easy reach. 

Spoiled for choice and a paradise for lovers of all things natural. 

The laid-back surf and vacation feels I get every time

Volleyball at the beach, surfers with their surfboards diving into the ocean, clear blue skies and breakfast with a view? 

There’s not much that doesn’t make you feel as if you’re on vacation. 

I don’t know how people who’ve lived here all their life or at least for a significant amount of time see this, but to me, this is pure bliss and work-life balance does exist. It’s a thing here. 

I have actually just recently read an article on how San Diego is apparently the number one city in the states with the best work-life balance based on the work hours and things to do. 

Guess I am in the right place. 

Sunday brunch at PB Shore Club tomorrow?

Wildlife is real here - and so are mountain lions

San Diego in particular and Southern California in general have an abundance of wildlife. 

Pelicans, seals - even mountain lions. They’re technically all on the doorstep. 

I saw those signs when we were up in Lake Elsinore, close to San Clemente, a few weekends ago. I thought mountain lions were a joke. Not at all. They are wild and free right here. I better be prepared on my next hike then. Rattlesnakes, though…

San Diego always makes for a surprise, positive and negative

Lately, we’ve had a lot of rain. The city has been so dry that it can’t absorb this much water. I was literally swimming home that one night and Midway Drive, close to home, was completely flooded. Luckily, I live on top of a hill. Yes, I felt ashamed when I saw how flooded flooded really can be, because I initially thought the bus driver was exaggerating. 

And then there’s the nice surprises like the change in weather. San Diego is the sunny city but every once in a while, there are clouds and there is rain (see above) but this can change in an instant. Especially in the mornings. It can be foggy outside when I leave the house and then, around noon, the sun is showing off again. Gotta love this city!

I’ve had so many fun times with lovely people in such a short period of time

There’s the fun times, of course. Renting a Mustang and cruising around going places all day; hiking up the mountains; spending time seaside; talking to people that have interesting stories to tell; staying up late and watching the city lights; dancing the night away and walking home at 2 am along the beach…

…and sometimes, experiences leave their mark on me. It’s just the way it is. ;-)

My lovely landlord and all the warm-hearted, outgoing people

Annelie and Joe have welcomed me warm-heartedly the very first day - and I’ve never had a second thinking this could not be my new home, on the contrary. I love where I live here and I feel completely at ease. Being introduced to her friends and simply - as if they’d known me for years - being invited to spend the weekend at their best friend’s house is amazing. 

I feel very welcomed wherever I go, not like a stranger, like a guest, simply as part of the circle, or even family.

People here in Southern California are so darn open-minded and easy to talk to. Approachable, I should say. They are very open towards people coming from other countries and every time I take a Lyft or Uber (my life saver apps here when, pretty early at night, buses don’t run anymore or I need to get somewhere that would usually take forever with public transport), I have fun and interesting conversations with the drivers. It’s just amazing to me. 

This lady is simply amazing. She might look like 73 but she’s 25 at heart. And I love her for that. She sure is an inspiration. 

The bottom line is, if San Diego continues to treat me this well, then those 18 months will be the experience of a lifetime and I don’t know where to store all pictures and memories. This blog will just explode with Cali vibes and my little treasure box (as known as memory box of a blog) will be something to look back on at the end of my time here. But no end yet, it’s only the beginning and grasping at the opportunity of coming over here has been one of the best decisions of my life. 

Soon, Mr. T. is going to come visit and we’ll see and do a lot more. I am in the midst of making plans already. But first, my dear friend Aly will visit me in a few weeks and I am so excited to have her around for a few nights. We’ll do a couple crazy things…but that I will tell you in another post. 

Expat LifeJulia BellComment