Escaping the cold: from Quebec to California

  • Californian landscape
  • Nature in California
  • Californian beach
Published last year

Jenny spent most of her life in Quebec before she started feeling the need to explore other parts of the world. It was only after giving birth to her second child that her and her husband decided to move to California. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn't mean she's bored. With an online boutique, a blog, and lots of family activities, she is kept busy. Now that she has obtained her Green Card, she's reminiscing about her journey with



Je suis restée la majeure partie de ma vie en banlieue de Québec. Depuis janvier 2012, je suis dans le sud de la Californie. L'adaptation a été difficile au début (2 enfants avec nous aussi) mais j'adore ma nouvelle vie aussi.

Hi Jenny, please tell us a bit about yourself and your journey.

I'm from Quebec and spent most of my life in the suburbs there. I've been working as a secretary for the provincial government for many years. Following my second daugher's birth, I've been a stay-at-home mom with a small photo studio in our basement. I'm really passionate about photography. However, we had reached a point in our lives where we started feeling the need for change. There was much more to life than how we were living. We then started looking at different options before choosing to move south and live among palm trees.

What brought you to California? How long have you been in the US?

The climate was one of the main reasons. We had enough of Quebec's long winters. It gets extremely cold in February. My husband managed to find a job in the South of California. He had made several business trips there prior to that. It's been six years now since we moved here.

What is the process of moving to the US?

How long do I have to talk about it? Seriously, procedures were many, lengthy, and complicated. Once you've landed a job, you have to apply for a work visa which can take several weeks. It almost seemed like forever. We then had to get the visa stamped at the US immigration border. Five years later after a few visa renewals, we now have our green card.

Californian beach

What is your favourite thing about the US, and what is your least favourite thing?

I really love the temperature of California. I also like that there are people everywhere around where we live, so we easily feel safe and comfortable. People in general here are really patient and understanding. Most of those I know never got annoyed by the fact that I could hardly speak English on my arrival.

I have to say that when we first arrived here, I used to feel uneasy whenever I came across someone dodgy, fearing they might be hiding a weapon – which is no longer the case as we live in a very safe environment - i don't feel in any more danger here compared to where i lived in Quebec.

What I like the least is the competition, especially in our area. I'm not too keen on the idea of our girls growing up in a superficial society. I'm not generalising, but the need to look good and show off is very much present here. On top of that, rent prices are really high – which can be complicated for young people. Many natives of California prefer to move to other cities for more affordable housing, compared to their parents' era when real estate was much more accessible.

How would you describe California in a few words ?

California is a wonderful and diverse place where there's so much to see and do, with a pleasant temperate climate and where we feel like home.

What has surprised you the most about California?

I'd say life in California is almost the same as it would be in Quebec except for the temperature, which is not a problem and not a constant topic of conversation. I found that in my environment, people are very open and understanding. They are curious about why we chose to move here, and most of them don't even pay attention to my poor English.

Californian landscape

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in California, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

It's quite easy to find accommodation in my area even if it can be quite costly. You can rent a flat, a condominium, or a house from its owner. For a two bedroom flat, you will need around US$ 1,600 per month. If you're moving alone, finding a room for rent can be a better option.

How do you find the lifestyle in California?

It's quite fast-paced. People work a lot and many like to show off. For our part, we're enjoying a better work-life balance. It's all about having your own instincts and values.

How is the transportation system? How do you move around?

The public transportation system isn't the best. Quebec, for example, has school buses. Here, parents have to drop their kids at school, which is not so environement-friendly.

Have you been able to adapt to the society?

It wasn't so hard except for the language barrier. For the rest, it's not so different from the lifestyle we had in Quebec.

Nature in California

How is the everyday life for you?

In general, I believe it would be the same as it was in Quebec. When the kids are at school, I work on my personal projects and some small contracts. I do some shopping, go to my appointments, and take the kids out to their favourite activities. I also train and plan our family trips. I run my errands and do things on my own without family and long-time friends, and that's the main difference.

What do you do in your free time?

I work on personal projets and I also volunteer at the kids' school. On the weekends, we try new restaurants and go trekking or to the beach. I've just launched my photo boutique, and I also like to cook and to travel. Those are the things that keep me the most busy.

What new habits have you developed in California? And what old habits have you quit?

I can no longer grab a coffee with my mom for instance, or attend shows with my sisters, go to family dinners, or spend the evening gossiping with my sister-in-law, or go swimming with friends, etc. Those are things I had to let go of, which comes with moving to a different country.

I have definitely new traditions and habits, which develop as our lives change and the kids grow up, as our schedule changes and new opportunities come up.

Living in California

What is your opinion on the cost of living in California?

The cost of living in California varies from one region to another. In my area, childcare service and housing are really expensive, especially since we're close to the coast. Most houses sell for over half a million dollars, even though you can still find cheaper accommodation on the other side of the mountain. Food costs about the same compared to Quebec. However, drinks cost 1/3 of the price in Quebec. Beauty care is also very costly – which is not surprising given the high rent prices.

What is something that you would like to do in in the US, but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

I've been planning a long road trip from California to Quebec.

If you could do the move to California over, what would you do differently?

I think I would have tried to react differently, especially regarding my daughter's reaction to the move, even though I know it's easier to say. We did our best to adapt to our new environment. On a different note, we wouldn't have taken our car! Moving it here was really expensive.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?

Since there are many Mexicans here, there are so many restaurants reflective of the ambiance and culture that we almost feel like we're on holidays in Mexico.

Californian cuisine

What do you miss the most about your home country?

My family and friends, of course! A couple of food items, French books and French music, and the Quebec culture including comedy shows, theater, etc.

Have you had a moment that you almost felt like leaving the US? How did you overcome that? What kept you in the country?

Less than 3 months after we arrived here, our elder daughter who was only 5 had a significantly serious reaction to all these changes. We almost felt like moving back to Quebec. Fortunately, things have fallen into place and we have managed to adapt over the past years. However, we do randomly ponder about what we could possibly do in the coming years.

Give us some useful tips that expats-to-be in the US will benefit from.

Take the time to adapt even if the lifestyle seems similar to yours. Moving overseas with your family is a complicated process during which you either have to give up your old habits and create a brand new routine, or find a way to integrate your old life with the new. You can't really overcome that in two weeks. It's even more complicated if you're very close to your family. That being said, for those who want to try it, take a leap of faith and don't look back! This could be one of your most incredible life experiences.

I would advise to put some savings aside, because when you arrive in a new country, you will have to build up your credit history again. We had to make deposits everywhere (for a lease, mobile subscription, etc.). It piles up.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm currently working on my online boutique and we should be making a family trip in the two coming years. For the rest, let's see what happens. We haven't thought about concrete anything yet.

Is there something you would like to bring with you upon leaving the US?

I would bring some friends, palm trees, the ocean, and the warm climate.