'Crazy prices, terrible quality': a Russian-speaking IT executive spoke about the cost of living in California
Interesting facts about the quality of communication in Silicon Valley, public transport and American healthcare offers to learn Lifehacker.
The new guest of the podcast “Spent” - Ruslan Fazlyev, head of Ecwid and X ‑ Cart, one of the heroes of the sensational film about Silicon Valley by Yuri Dudy, has been living in Southern California for several years and knows how everything works there. Leading a podcast, Pavel Fedorov asked Ruslan about life on the West Coast: how much health insurance costs, what taxes you have to pay, and why you should not use public transport.
Recently, Yuri Dud released a podcast about Silicon Valley and everyone suddenly remembered that there is such a village of Palo Alto, where a real paradise for programmers and for startups. Everyone wondered sharply whether everything there was so beautiful and cloudless, how much it costs to move and live there.
- How long have you been living in California and how did you get there at all?
I’ve been there on visits since 2011, and since 2015 I moved for good.
“Why did you decide to move?”
Our company is so geographically distributed that some employees are located in Russia, and some in California. As it grew, it was necessary to coordinate the managerial part in California with Russia normally. In addition, we are a venture capital company and work for capitalization, and the capitalization is higher when you are an American company. In order for Americans to perceive you as an American company, you really need to live in the United States, just accumulating tenure won't work. A top manager must live in the USA. Therefore, I moved, making the company American, it had a very positive effect on our assessment.
In fact, for the last 15 years of my life I have always lived between Russia and other countries - between Russia and Cyprus, between Russia and Britain. Now it is Russia and California, but I spend most of my time in California.
- How much did it cost to move and do you need a financial pillow to start?
A pillow is definitely needed. Of course, refugees fleeing wars come with one suitcase - this can be done, but I didn’t run away from anywhere, it was important for me to maintain a certain standard of living. It was easier for me - I moved to where I already had a company, people were hired and a local salary was guaranteed in this company. I have people who need to take care that I figure everything out on the spot. I have a circle of people with whom to communicate, there is work. In this regard, my experience is not typical.
In general, for people who are inspired by moving, I would not recommend moving at all - this is usually a very bad idea. Before that, I’ve gone somewhere several times in my life, I’m such a “serial migrant”, I went to Cyprus, to Britain. Actually, he was leaving for Britain because he thought that leaving for Cyprus was a mistake. Already in Britain, I realized that actually going anywhere is usually a mistake. And what happens in your life depends very little on the geography you are in, and a lot depends on you.
All my first trips were “inhuman” - I came to the open field, though with a suitcase of money, but still to the open field, and there I was already arranging some kind of new life. And it was still hard, even with a suitcase of money. I think that many listeners have no money, but they still plan to go to the open field. And this idea is so-so.
“When you moved, what bureaucratic difficulties did you have to go through?”
Moving to the United States was the easiest in this context. After Britain, I realized one thing for myself: I definitely will never move to a country in which there is a titular nation. Spain, Italy, France - it doesn’t matter. Where there are local and non-local. I am a Tatar and have never in Russia felt like an ethnic minority. I felt like an absolutely integrated person and part of the country. I said: “I am a Russian person” and did not feel anything else. When I lived in Cyprus and in Britain, I felt that I was not part of society, although everything was normal and no problems. Just different. If Cyprus is always some kind of “Russian tourist”, a funny little animal. I think people living in Thailand feel the same way when there is a clear separation between local and non-local. In Britain it was the same thing - you can do anything, but you will not be British anyway. No, no racism, but you still will not feel yours.
And the USA is an immigrant country from the very beginning. There are no locals there. I thought that if I ever go somewhere, then only to a country where there are no locals at all. The USA is very well built in order to integrate people from other countries. Nobody cares about your accent; everyone forgets to check your papers. There is such a Russian habit of walking with a passport - but in the USA this is a shit for everyone. Actually, that's why there are so many illegal immigrants.
All procedures are quite simple and typical for all countries: if you live more than 6 months, you need to get local rights, which by the way was a good topic - in the process of obtaining them I became a much better driver.
- What was the first thing you bought when you moved?
Phone and SIM card. I did this in all countries as soon as I moved. Without communication, I feel uncomfortable. By the way, it has been proven that in people anxiety rises in proportion to the discharge of the battery.
- Prices for what surprised you the most?
For medicine. Absolutely - iron! - A healthy person can spend 20-30 thousand dollars per family per year, and this does not mean that something is happening. This is normal. Some operation may cost 100-200-300 thousand dollars. You will be covered by 80% insurance if you have it and there is an operation there. But you pay the remaining amount yourself, and for insurance too. To give birth - 30 thousand dollars. It is very important: what I am saying now is not some level of service for Hollywood stars. This is a household level. Everyone pays, so there is no such thing that you came to a paid clinic, like in Russia, and there everyone decided for one minute and great service. No. Here medicine is very brutal, your time is regularly wasted in vain. You wait an hour for a doctor, he spends 5 minutes with you and throws you away, because the doctor’s time is the most expensive. Deep attention, as in Russia, you do not get.
- How does the health insurance work? Is it fixed or does everyone have their own? What determines its cost?
Each has its own. As a rule, companies pay insurance to their employees. I don’t know how others are, but our company gives a choice of different insurance plans. This creates an opportunity for Americans to become even more corporate and work in large companies. A large company due to volume is easier to negotiate with insurance and there insurance is likely to be better than in a small company. There are a lot of options, no matter how you structure, you’ll fly past something anyway.
Insurance is, for example, $ 10 a year (in California, everything is more expensive), it’s only for me, but there are also insurance for children, for my wife, in addition, the company covers part, and you pay a deductible. For example, an insurance plan when you are covered by everything and you pay, say, 000% (this is approximately equal to the price of premium medicine in Russia or a little more expensive, and medicine is not premium at the same time). The problem with this plan is that you can only be served through your therapist, you come to him, and he directs you further. You cannot buy some medicine without going to the doctor. Almost all drugs are regulated. For example, I am running and my Achilles tendon has become inflamed. You cannot come with an Achilles tendon to a specialist in this tendon. You have to go to your therapist who will take the money and send you to this very specialist. As a result, you spent half a day and $ 20 to get the right to see a doctor, who will finally deal with you. Oddly enough, US medicine has become for me the most Soviet experience in my entire life - it is closest to USSR medicine, which I am not a supporter of.
- In Russia, many travel to small cities to treat their teeth. How about this in the USA? Isn’t it easier for you to fly home to place crowns?
I have 30 kilometers of the border with Mexico and people go there to “catch up” when bars close in California. Or if you are under 21 years old - they don’t pour it in the USA, but in Mexico you can. In Tijuana, among other things, you can go to the hospital. This is so often done that there is even a separate passage passage in which you are allowed to pass faster if you have a special patient pass. The point here is that paid medicine in Mexico (and other countries that are not the United States) is similar to paid quality medicine in Russia. Companies compete for you as a client and treat you very humanely. In American medicine, everything resembles the military - you’ll be repaired, really, but you, Private Petrov, wait in line, the system is more important than you.
- In addition to medicine, the issue of concern to all immigrants is housing. Those same "fabulous" in the negative key to the price of rental housing in California, can you talk about them?
I live in Southern California, almost by the ocean. To go in the direction of cheapening, you need to move inland. And if you really advance there and in some simple area you can rent an apartment for $ 2000. By local standards, it will be small, but they estimate more living space per person than in Russia. You will have cardboard walls and doors, terrible neighbors. This, perhaps, for $ 1500 can be removed. My friends rented for $ 3500 a part of the house that looks at the ocean, the ocean is heard from it. A lot of people live with rummeyta - neighbors in housing. And then we go up - $ 5000- $ 10. If you shoot next to me, it will most likely be $ 000.
It was equally difficult to rent housing in Britain and the USA. They check you, what kind of person you are, study some background checks, credit history. This is shocking: no matter what you do, they check your credit history. The newcomer does not have it. Trying to buy a car for cash, you still need it. It would seem that I brought you a suitcase of money, give the car. No - there is a process, it must be adhered to.
- Are utilities included in rent or do you need to pay extra from above?
I do not exclude that my answer will be unique in my situation. I rented here a part of the house, which was not intended for the life of several families, so the owners did not have the opportunity to share the meters for all tenants. And my electricity was included in the bill, which completely suited me, because I refuel Tesla for free.
- What about the prices of Internet, television, mobile communications?
Mobile communications are of terrible quality and quite expensive. I get about $ 70 for one Internet line, but also more expensive and worse. Especially unbearable in the Valley. When I call my team, I say the classic: "Sorry, the Internet will mess, I'm calling from the Valley." Why so, it is not clear. I have a version that, like banks that are very stupid in the US compared to Russian ones, the technology was built in the old days, it works and it suits everyone. Russia built all this anew, recently and to the highest standards.
- Tell us about public transportation in the USA.
This is a feature of the United States in general and the West Bank in particular - only homeless people travel by public transport. An exception may be San Francisco with the BART electric train system. When our colleagues arrive, I discourage them from taking the bus - I’m just squeamish. Only homeless, often demented people really go there. You can go to the airport by train, but from those 7 or 8 times when I went on it, he was not late 1 time. In America, you must have a car, everyone drives cars. Uber began to supplant personal cars to some extent, but people still drive cars.
- How much does it cost to operate a Tesla and a car in general?
What I did not know when buying a car was that in California you would have to pay tax on it as a property. This is a percentage of the value of the car, and this amount does not go down as fast as the car itself loses value. For example, you buy a car for 100 thousand dollars, the tax will be very large, in a couple of years the car will cost 70 thousand, and the tax will remain the same. Tesla does not break much, but in general it costs zero to contain it. Until then, however, until the warranty ended and I didn’t spoil one of the fashionable traveling pens with a quarantine sink. They cost $ 300, but this is also not so expensive. It will not be thousands of dollars in road tax if you buy the car that an immigrant would buy - and this is usually a used Japanese car for 5-6 thousand, the road tax will be inconspicuous, some hundred dollars.
The USA is a country that has cracked down on price discrimination, when the same product is sold to a richer person much more expensively. And in the USA, if you have money, you will regularly part with it. In this regard, in Russia it is easier for people to live with money, providing themselves with a luxurious quality of consumption. For example, Mike Tyson had $ 600 million, today his fortune is $ 3 million. How can I spend 597 million dollars, I do not know yet.
- Is it true that all Americans eat in fast food and only there?
Americans eat fast food more often than people in other countries. I have an employee for whom food is a burger. For me, a burger is such food on the run, if I need to throw something quickly in 10 minutes. I can’t understand how a burger can be such a home-made meal, as if mom had cooked borscht. But he likes it. And the guys who earn less, they eat fast food every day. This is another area of price discrimination in the United States. You can have lunch for 2-3 dollars, it’s possible. But I can’t imagine that I had lunch for that amount. If I dine, it will be, for example, $ 18 per dish - and this is not some kind of luxurious level. Plus a drink, plus taxes, tips - and now it's 25-27 dollars. I can’t get lower, but the guys really eat for 3-5 dollars.
- If you cook at home, how much more expensive or cheaper is it compared to Russia?
The number one expense I had was restaurants. At home, we practically did not eat at all. Although my wife cooks just amazing, she is a cooking genius. But we ate in cafes, it was easier. The wife claimed that cooking at home would cost the same. Now, in quarantine, I can say that we cook almost all of the food at home and that’s not true! - houses are much cheaper. It was such that my income fell by half, and more money began to accumulate, because restaurants and flights disappeared.
- In Russia, in large cities, you can order delivery of anything. What is the situation in the technological capital of the world?
I never go to the store and nobody goes to my family. In the store I find myself, maybe every 3 months. And then, if this is some kind of beautiful mall, but this is more of an impression than an attempt to buy something. Absolutely everything from food to firewood - I order online. What has changed: with the crown, all people began to order everything via the Internet, and the suppliers could not cope, there were no slots and this affected the consumer basket. I started to cook a lot of steaks. The usual delivery from the store is usually unavailable - you have to sit all night to find some kind of window. But there are suppliers who worked for restaurants and gave premium ingredients, the same steaks. Now these companies have reoriented to delivery. I order a lot of farm food. The Russian restaurant was interestingly reoriented - they just started selling off their stocks.
Interestingly, when you buy something in Russian restaurants in the United States, it is extremely rare to be produced in Russia. This is something to think about. As a rule, all this is done on the territory of the former USSR. I think that from Russia, apparently, it is difficult to import something into the United States.
- What did you try out of your leisure time when you came to California?
The best in life is free. Here it is nature and weather. I got up early in the morning, went surfing and by 8 in the morning I had time to get to the office. My leisure was surfing, running, and work. More food, very cool restaurants here. Besides this movie, I often went to movie theaters. Now cinemas for cars are starting to come to life.
- And any picnics, camping, outings? How common?
This made in America is really cool. In each recreation area, camping, even if there are no houses, there will be a state shower and toilets. If there is a large flow of visitors, there will be a booking system so that there is never a crowd. The infrastructure is very cool. Going on long trips around the United States is fearless - everywhere is a predictable infrastructure, familiar cafes. My friends and I traveled the whole country, it is easy and predictable, despite the fact that I did not live in America then and this trip seemed to me extreme.
- What are the main advantages of moving to California?
Nature, weather. Very healthy food.
- And the main disadvantages?
Everything else is cons. Everything is expensive. Gas is one third more expensive than in other states. Taxes are higher. You have less money, you need to spend more. California is a completely communist state that collects taxes from you and distributes them to illegal immigrants.
- Would you recommend moving to California to people who watched the movie Dude or just some series?
A terrible mistake, by no means. You can think about the States as a whole - there are cheaper and more welcoming places. It’s good to homeless in California, this is the best place for homeless people. If you are a homeless person or a couchsurfer, a person who wants little from life and agrees to shelter someone on the edge of the sofa is ideal. In California, it’s good if you are so rich that you don’t give a damn about money. The rest is the worst staff. Bad for the middle class, for hard working people. If you need an ocean, then it could be Florida, it’s cheaper, and closer to Russia. Miami is a Russian city and comfortable there. There are places like Seattle, there is changeable weather, but work options are more accessible. There are cowboy states like Texas, there are not such crazy prices, there are not many rules.
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