Tracey Patrick left Preston to work with a family in the USA. Twenty years later and she is still there, very much settled with a family of her own. In this revealing interview Tracey talks about the realities of family life and schooling in the US, including the gang violence and threat of kidnap, and how she would never leave the warmer climes of California.Advertisement
Tracey Patrick, 38 yrs old, lives in San Jose which is just fifty miles south of San Francisco and the largest city in Silicon Valley. The city boasts three hundred days of sunshine per year, with very few rainy days.Tracey lives with her husband Steve and three children. She left Preston for California in 1992.
“I actually wasn’t looking to leave the UK but an opportunity arose when a colleague asked if I would be interested in working as an au pair in California for a family she knew. I jumped at the chance!” says Tracey. “I was only going to be in US for 13 months but I stayed a bit longer.”
As she hadn’t planned on staying Tracey found the move went smoothly and she didn’t face any big challenges. I wondered if she missed Preston at all?
“ I miss my family and friends the most but also the way things were in general. It was a slower pace, people took the time to get to know you where as here in the US everyone is always rushing.”
So would she come back to the UK?
“I would not consider moving back because it would be a huge culture shock for my husband and my kids. It’s a totally different way of living,” she says. “I took my kids to England for three weeks in May 2008 and they loved it. It was strange for me because it felt so much safer. My kids would take off and be gone all day without me knowing where they were exactly because we didnt have our cell phones with us and that scared the heck out of me but my mum would remind me that I was in England and chances are no-one would kidnap them and they wouldn’t get caught up in a gang shooting.”
Tracey explains that kidnap and gang violence are the realities of life in California’s third largest city, which for half a century experienced intensive suburban sprawl, “You know these are just a couple of things that can happen where I live. I actually live in a great neighbourhood but you have to be aware of whats going on around you. I think its just the way Americans are you know, you learn from early on which areas to stay out of.”
“Kids are taught in school what they can and can’t wear as far as gang related colours and types of clothing, although I hear that there are similar problems in England too,” she says. “I mean do schools in UK have drills for what to do if an armed person comes onto campus or if shots are fired? Do they have police on campus all day? My kids know exactly what to do and the school goes into lockdown. They are taught how to barracade themselves in the classroom and so on.”
San Jose is situated between the San Andreas Fault and the Calaveras Fault and is shaken by moderate earthquakes once or twice a year, Tracey says, “Earthquakes happen every now and then so our kids are taught about that. Its crazy but its part of life.”
I wondered why she wanted to stay and what the benefits were to her family.
“Its a really different lifestyle but the good really does out weigh the bad believe it or not,” she says. “ There are excellent schools with tonnes of activities and parent involvement is always welcome in the classrooms.”
Tracey went on to say that, “There are lots of sports that kids play. Sports are the biggest thing in the country and kids who play are respected and treated like heroes. My children’s high school is well known for sports especially football, which is American football. A lot of children get full scholarships to college through sports from our school. Basketball and baseball are also huge sports to play. Most kids I know play or have played on a sports team at some point.”
So what are the other benefits of living in California?
“Quality of life is much better here. Its like no-one ever gets old! I think it has a lot to do with the weather and the fact that Californians are very health conscious. Once people retire its as if their life is just starting and its great.”
Tracey went onto explain that the cost of living in California does differ to that in Lancashire, “It is very expensive to live where we live. I think the average cost for a single family home can be anywhere from $500-600,000 in the least desirable areas and in the millions in the more desirable areas. Its hard for many people to make ends meet but you pay for the ‘privilege’ of living in Silicon Valley the computer capital of the world I guess.”
So what advice would Tracey offer to someone seeking to relocate to the golden shores of California?
“I love living here and wouldnt move for anything. I think if someone was to consider moving here I would advise them to have all the immigration paperwork done before hand as the INS takes forever to complete your residency papers. They should have enough money to afford a place to rent and hopefully they will have somewhere already picked out as housing is limited here. Last but not least they need to learn the language. I know we all speak English but it is very different. People had a very hard time understanding me when I first came here and it took a while to pick up on certain things. It can be quiet amusing at times!”
Next time Kerry Pearson from Preston talks about the challenges of setting up business in Perth, Western Australia.