Moving NJ to California. Worth it?
November 3, 2006 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I may have an opportunity to move out west from my native New Jersey to California. A friend of my father's may offer me a position with his company in supply chain out there where I could but my Information Science/Management degree to good use. It's a scary proposition to pick up and move out...has anyone out there done this? More details inside.

I'm 24 years old. I'm 2 years out of college, graduated from Syracuse University with a BS in Information Studies/Management. I've worked for American International Group, contracted by Pfizer through Nokia, and now I'm contracting for Merck Pharmaceuticals.

It was tough to find this contract job after being out of work for abou5 4 months and I'm ultimately looking for full-time employment so I can get the boons of provided insurance again. Recently a friend of my father's had offered a job position out in California where I would train for 6 months and with 2 other men run a supply chain warehousing company.

I've never lived anywhere besides NJ and upstate NY for school before so it would definitely be a fish-out-of-water experience. I have been strongly considering it because the salary could easily be 6 figures. My reasoning is that even if I don't love it out there I could complete the training and be trained for those types of jobs back here in the Tri-State Area. All my family and friends are here in NJ, so it would be tough to leave. I'm trying to weigh what's best for me and my future as opposed to what's comfortable.

So my question falls into a few parts.

1.) Has anyone out there made a huge move like this? From where to where? Did you ever "start-over" in a brand new place far from home? What were the ultimate factors that made up your mind for this move?

2.) If you live in CA now, do you love it? What is there to do out there? Was it hard to make new friends and get back into a social life when you've moved someplace you knew no one at. What things did you do to do meet people?

I'm 24...and very confused about where my life is heading, or if it's even heading anywhere at all to begin with. Any input and advice you can offer is most appreciated.
posted by PetiePal to Work & Money (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just moved from Austin Tx to Berkeley, Ca, two months ago.

I love it out here - great weather, nice people. It's expensive but it doesn't sound as if you'll have money problems.

I'm only a few years older than you but I can tell ya that it almost never hurts to move forward and try new things. If you hate it, you can always go back, so why not see if you like it?

To meet people, I actually tried talking to people. It works and isn't as hard as one would think.

posted by Cycloptichorn at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2006

My wife and I made the jump from NY to San Francisco area when we were about the same age. We knew no one out there, but I was offered a good job. The ultimate factor is that we love adventures.

And living in California for 5 years certainly was one. My wife got a job she loved, we both made good friends, explored the coast and more.

Obviously, we loved it. Meeting people wasn't hard - through work at first but then also through activities. What do you like to do now? They do that out there too, and you can find a group and start meeting people.

The one downside for us too was all our family/friends back east. But if your salary jumps up enough, you can set aside a trip budget and fly back frequently (or fly your family to you sometimes).

We are back on the east coast now, due to a combination of the economic slump that hit back in 2001 and us wanting our kid to get to know her extended family well. But we miss it a lot, and we'll be back out there at some point in life.

Specifics will vary depending on where in CA you are headed, but obviously I'd vote you go for it.
posted by mikepop at 11:08 AM on November 3, 2006

Where in California?

I grew up in Philly, went to school in Philly, and moved out to So. California five years ago (when I was 24) to pursue a career.

It was the best thing I ever did.

Still have the family and friends back home, but have been enjoying life a great deal out here as well.

And you know what? You're right, you can always go home again. It'd be a shame to pass up this opportunity and not give yourself a chance to stretch your wings.

The first month away is the hardest. Just get through that.

But do it. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll love it that you did. Rather than going around wondering "What if....?"
posted by ryecatcher at 11:10 AM on November 3, 2006

California is a big state. Saying you're moving to California is like saying you're moving to Europe. Southern CA is very different than Northern CA.

I was born in Southern CA and grew up in Northern CA. There was a lot to like about growing up in a college town, and then living in the Napa Valley. The bad thing is the cost of living. Again, it depends on where you're going to end up. You couldn't pay me to live further south than Santa Barbara, but that's just my opinion.

I up and moved away when I was 30 and came to Colorado. I had 2 brothers here, but really didn't know anyone. If you get out and do things you'll meet people. What things interest you? Skiing? Surfing? Art? You're young, and you don't need to worry that this will be the ultimate move of your life and the rest of your life will depend on it. Consider it an adventure. The worst that can happen is you hate it and move back to New Jersey, or to some other place. I've found in my own life that things sort have fallen into place. Something is only a mistake if you don't take any learnings from it. If you're confused about your life, what better way to find out about it than to go do things?
posted by Eekacat at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2006

I moved from NY -> SF when I was 25. It's not as hard as you think, especially if $$ isn't an issue. And as everyone says, if you hate it, you can always go back home. But if you pass on the opportunity, you won't be able to go back in time.

One word of advice - do NOT attempt to drive all your belongings in a truck across the country, and don't bring furniture. Box any essential personal items and ship via a freight carrier, then fly or drive a car.
posted by gnutron at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2006

I'll agree with everyone else, DO IT.
When I was about 24 I moved from Colorado to southern Cal. Didn't know anyone in the area, I'd only been to California once, for the interview itself. Never regretted it.
Last year after being in California for 8 years, I moved to Philly. Same deal, don't know anyone in the area, first time I'd ever been there was for the interview. I still haven't regretted it.

Life is short and the world is big. You've got to take a big chance every now and again. How else will you know that you really lived?

California is a great place to live, btw. Have fun!
posted by Eddie Mars at 11:27 AM on November 3, 2006

Let me also note that Southern and Northern California are very different. I'm in grad school in Southern California, and think that, on the whole, Southern California sucks. The inland empire, the particular part of Southern California I live in really sucks. If you were considering moving to the inland empire (Riverside, San Bernardino, Corona, Ontario, etc.) I would strongly advise against it. It's everything that's wrong with Southern California (traffic is horrendous, people are materialistic, really hot weather, bad urban sprawl) and none of the nice things about Southern California (the beach, the museums and other cultural parts of LA, etc). Northern California and the bay area are totally awesome, as far as I'm concerned. If that's where you'd be ending up, then do it. But be wary of Southern California.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 11:31 AM on November 3, 2006

I moved from California to Texas last spring. Ditto what everyone else said - you're only young once. Don't let fear of new situations keep you from adventure (and living in California can definitely be an adventure!)
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2006

Los Angeles is an oasis - if you do you research ahead of time, you could have a great time here.
posted by DudeAsInCool at 11:39 AM on November 3, 2006

I moved from Princeton, NJ to Los Angeles a couple years ago. I like it out here, but I miss seasons. You should do it--but make sure you visit home every fall; they don't do fall here like they do it at home.
posted by maxreax at 11:42 AM on November 3, 2006

I was born in San Diego, and by the time I was done with high school I desperately wanted to get out and live somewhere else. So, I went to college in Virginia.

I came back and have no plans to leave again.
posted by LionIndex at 11:42 AM on November 3, 2006

California's cities are largely populated with people who moved here from somewhere else so you'll be in good company, it's not like some regions I've been where you're forever an outsider unless your family has been in town for a few generations. As a native Californian, I can go days without meeting another born here. I don't mind, hey, it's California.

Most of my family is from back east: MA, CT, NY, NJ. My dad made the break decades ago, he came for a vacation and never left. One of my dearest friends is a Chicago native, moved here 15 years and and never wants to leave. He moved here in winter, rented a convertible at the airport and went apartment hunting in shirtsleeves (this was down in socal)...tells me he laughed for 3 weeks over it, couldn't get over why he didn't arrive sooner?

Come try it. You're 24, you're single, you've got prospects; when ever else in your life will such unencumbered opportunity fall at your feet?
posted by jamaro at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2006

Thanks so much for all of your input so far!

I also have been feeling like if I were to make a move like this now is the best point in time in my life to do it. The opportunity is almost a "deal I can't refuse." So far I have been working jobs with salaries no higher than 50k. I should be farther along out here but I'm not yet.

As for Southern vs. Northern, I'm not exactly sure I'm finding that out soon. But I believe it's more northen like Cupertino/San Fran. I think I'd love San Francisco and that area. LA and the slums of urban sprawl never appealed to me much. I live in the NJ suburbs now and I like that, but San Francisco doesn't seem as ridiculous as LA would be.

If I did this, I'd plan on buying a new car first, (I've got a 86 chevy blazer and it's time for something less costly and more reliable). I was even planning on the toyota highlander hybrid already, so I'd fit into their "green ideals" lol.

Any other advice in terms of moving? What to bring etc?

I think the only big things I'd bring are like my bed, chest of drawers, tv, computer etc and clothes. I'm kind of excited about the prospect because it's something very new that I've never tried. I don't want to live my life feeling like I'm afraid to take a chance or do new things. I don't want to become complacent and stay sheltered. I'd love to see the world and experience new things.

As for what I'm into...I like sports, I got into golfing after college although I'm not amazing I'd love to learn through lessons since I was friend-taught. I love music, concerts etc live shows. I enjoy literature and pop culture too. I'm a big movie fan so it would be cool to be nearish to Hollywood.
posted by PetiePal at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2006

When I was 28 I moved from New Jersey to Berkeley, after growing up in southern NY and going to college in upstate NY.

I can only conclude that you are me, caught up in some twisted time-loop.

I didn't even have a job or a place to live, but those were the boom times.

1. I liked Berkeley a lot more than I liked Jersey.

2. No one can answer this -- California's a big place. There are seriously rural parts that are more similar to the rural Midwest than to either the Bay Area or LA, which aren't at all like each other.

The Bay Area and LA (what I'm most familiar with) both offer just about anything to do that anyone could want, not as geographically concentrated as New York City, but moreso than I found to be the case in Jersey. (Naturally, there's selection bias at work here regarding my being more familiar with the availability of things I want to do.)

Yeah, it was hard to start over socially, but that has a lot more to do with my introverted inclinations than with the opportunities.

Check out the Craigslist events listings for whichever part you're looking at to get some idea of what's up.

And, yeah, I love Berkeley and the Bay Area, though the rainy season gets me down.

I did drive all my worldly belongings, furniture included, in a rented 14' truck. Pain in the butt: people don't want to let you rent a storage locker if you don't have a permanent address. (There were several examples of permanent-address-ism during this brief window of being technically homeless.)

And, y'know, if after a year you find you don't like it, it doesn't have to be permanent.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:49 AM on November 3, 2006

As others have said, CA is a big place, there's a huge variety of places to live that are all very different. Where will the job be?

I moved to San Francisco from Boston a year ago this week, and I love it. I miss my family and friends, but I have new friends here and things are great. I was 25 when I left.

If you've basically always lived in one area, I think it's important to try something else. The younger you are, the easier it is to do this. I made the decision because I was 25, just finished school (part time for 7 years), didn't care much about the job I had, wasn't dating anyone, and my parents are still young and in good health, with my sister nearby if they did need one of us. I wasn't ever going to be any less attached to Boston than I was then, so my rationale was that if I was going to do it, now was the time. Then was the time? Whatever.

The absolute hardest part about the relocation is making new friends. I thought this would be easy because I had a cousin and one friend already living here that I was close with. In the end it didn't quite work out so easily - the cousin and I are close, but of different enough ages and interests that his friends aren't really my friends. The friend I already knew here had changed a lot, and we're not really very close anymore. All this led me to a period of a couple of months where I was really bored and unsure of what to do with myself socially.

What I realized is that I needed to find new STUFF to do, and the friends would follow. I got involved with a pirate radio station, and met a big crew of people through that who are really cool and fun to hang out with. I joined a rowing club and made another big set of friends through that. It's a process, and you really have to go after it. You're not going to make any friends sitting at home watching TV.

Other than that, for more practical stuff, make sure you've got enough money saved before you go. Try to pre-plan your logistics as best you can. In my case I wanted to keep my car and drive it cross-country, so I found a friend to do the drive with me that I could stand to be in a car with for a few days, and planned that as a sightseeing road trip. I liquidated almost all of my assets and belongings, down to whatever would fit in the car, plus some things that I stored with my parents. No furniture. This necessitated buying a lot of things after the move, but I think it was a good choice for me. Travel light.

I could talk about this for hours. If you want more suggestions or specific info, feel free to email me. Address is in my profile.
posted by autojack at 11:54 AM on November 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

When I was 24, I moved from NYC to Chicago on a week's notice. Lived there for 12 years. It was a great experience and a great city. I think it worked for me because Chicago is somewhat similar to NY. It is also a big sports town. There were tons of folks my age who were very open to meeting new people. I went for a work related reason and it got me going in my career as planned.

I moved from Chicago to San Francisco and lasted one year, the length of my lease. SF is a great town. I hated it. Lived in Marin. There is a big difference of life style and thought process from one coast to the other. Neither is better or worse [insert your own opinion here]. Not everyone can or should live in California as is true that living in the NYC metro area is not for everyone either. I also moved for work, but it was not a job I couldn't have done elsewhere. There was no compelling reason live family, work or weather or whatever keeping me committed to the move.

I would also reckon that the reason you move is really important. If you are moving for family or to be with someone, it is a lot easier than if you are moving just for a payday job. While i believe that new experiences are great, it is not so important to live everywhere just to experience it.

While trying new things and exploring while you are young sounds great on paper, be aware that there will be a lot of difficult times if you move. You may overcome them and stay or you may decide to move back. Know what you are looking for before you go.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:29 PM on November 3, 2006

I spent a year in Dover, NJ after growing up in CA (I'm back in CA now...), and the most striking difference between the two states is the weather. As in New Jersey actually has weather. I remember needing to pay attention to the Weather Channel for fear of being caught by surprise by the elements. Here, I just look out the window and I get a decent guess as to what the weather's going to be like for the next week.
posted by lekvar at 12:30 PM on November 3, 2006

Although I don't have an opportunity to take a job in CA it seems like we have a number of things in common, although for me it was VT instead of NY. I moved between temp and service industry jobs before finally landing something FT with very good benefits/coverage in Big Pharma.

That said, Get Out. Easily six figures and you're currently temping for Merck? I think I would be selling and giving away things I didn't plan on reclaiming in 10 or so years. Your social circle is a strong incentive to stay, which is one aspect of your situation I can't relate to; this is because the vast majority of my friends have gotten the hell out of Jersey.

As others have said, you probably wont regret it if you give it a go and it doesn't work out. Your will mourn the lost opportunity if you end up sticking around and falling into a sort of banal and complacent routine.
posted by exit at 1:46 PM on November 3, 2006

In '97, I moved from IL suburbs to the SF Bay area.

The first year, I was in love with it. Everything was so different and wonderful and everyone was smart and cool.

The next year, I missed seasons. I missed people who showed up on time to stuff. I wanted thin (or fat) pizza, not this weird bland stuff. I wanted all-beef hot dogs, not falafel. I needed a good gyros. I was sick of rich dot commers and people who thought they were so damn smart. I ended up only hanging out with people from Illinois who moved to California.

That phase lasted a little over a year and I quickly got over it, once I stopped calling going to Chicago "going back home". I made friends from all over, and even managed to meet Californian native friends (they're rare).

Now, I love it. It's my only real home and I can't imagine living anywhere else. I went through culture shock and I miss bad-for-you Chicago food, but I don't regret it for the world.

Expect culture shock. I'm a different person that the person I was in the midwest. I like to think it's for the best.

As Utah Philips says, "In California, you have to be open to new things. If you're not open, they'll pry you open."
posted by Gucky at 3:05 PM on November 3, 2006

To quote the great Mark Twain:

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Enjoy, friend!
posted by wordwhiz at 3:05 PM on November 3, 2006

I'm also 24. I'm also a Syracuse grad. (Checked your blog, don't know you.)

I moved to Los Angeles over 2 years ago without ever visiting, and knowing about 3 people. And without having a job set up before arriving.

Among other things, I have had my life threatened in my own living room, served on an LA county jury, been physically attacked on the street, seen celebrities freak out, sat in traffic for 3 hours at 2am Sunday morning, been to the beach on Christmas, gone nearly a month without driving, and almost eaten a cow-brain burrito. I also saw a guy stick a banana up his butt and then eat it.

I never would've imagined some of the things that happened, but that's exactly why I signed up for this ride.
posted by dogwalker at 3:49 PM on November 3, 2006

I moved from South Jersey / Philly to.... Wenatchee, WA. Talk about culture shock. But I fell in love with the west and haven't left after 8 years. Eventually I moved to Seattle and now live in Tahoe.

For me the biggest difference (besides the obvious of big city to small town) was that out west, there is just a different ATTITUDE. Every job I've had since I moved out west has a more relaxed dress code, offers flexible work schedules and is dog friendly. Moving out west also changed how I viewed my free time - I haven't stepped foot in a mall in years and have been lucky to live in areas that are just so beautiful where camping, hiking, etc. is something you can do in literally in your own backyard and do it spontaneously - as opposed to planning it as a special event.

That said - go for it. I would hate to have spent the rest of my life wondering..."what if." I do miss my family and friends, but all of them have come out and visited, and I go back a few times a year.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:54 PM on November 3, 2006

I moved from Morristown, NJ to Mountain View, CA when I was 23. Clearly we are in a slightly different time-space continuum, but fairly close.

I encourage you to explore the world and try to find out what you really like in a place if you don't already have an idea of that. That level of freedom and exploration is more challening as you age and as your life gets more complicated.

On practical matters, I accepted a job in March, moved in June with a nice corporate subsidy for the relocation expenses. Couldn't beat that as incentive to go. It was a light-weight, painless move.

I was more of an outdoorsy person in NJ and there were several things that I really had some trouble getting used to. Maybe you'll experience the same things, maybe not:
  • The sky was the wrong shade of blue. Faded and not rich enough
  • Leaves on trees were missing the lush verdancy that you get in a climate with more pronounced seasons
  • I felt vaguely disquieted by being surrounded by so much wildlife that I wasn't initimitely familiar with
  • I loved the access to top-notch produce, which sparked a love a canning and preserving
  • Learned to hate traffic more, but to also tolerate it better
Generally speaking, these are all environmental things. There were a number of social and community things that will be very, very different based on your locale. For me, they just weren't my cup of tea, although I really loved taking my vacations in the summer in the June Lake, CA to completely escape from the Bay Area and kick back. I don't quite have the same place here (western massachusetts), but then again this area is so close to an ideal living place, I don't have the need to escape.

So in sum: be open to adventure, learn what you like/want/need and go find it. Don't be afraid to say, "this isn't what I was looking for and move on". That's what Plan B is for. If you like it, stick with Plan A.
posted by plinth at 5:51 PM on November 3, 2006

I was even planning on the toyota highlander hybrid already...

Sounds like this was meant to be. Honestly, from your described interests, you'll love San Francisco. I live a short drive away and am there frequently for business. There is so much in San Francisco (and the bay area in general) for you to see/do, I'm positive entire lifetimes have been spent enjoying just a fraction of what there is to offer.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 12:03 AM on November 4, 2006

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