**Editor’s Note: This article is a two part series. The second part will be released this Wednesday. Stay tuned!”
“I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan.” – Miley Cyrus
I couldn’t believe that I could finally relate to that song. I really did just hop off the plane (with my Husband) at LAX with a dream and a cardigan. AND two suitcases, one carry on, a back-pack and a HUGE immigration package. I guess Miley flew private and had her things pre-delivered.
Feeling the hot sun hit your face in December is something a Brit like me has never experienced, so I was already living a dream. I’d heard so many horror stories about making it through security for the first time when immigrating. It can take up to 3 hours for them to go through your papers, and they choose that moment, after a 12 hour and 45 minutes flight to TAKE YOUR PICTURE, and for it to be permanently on your Green Card. Luckily, I’d prepared and spent the last 30 minutes of the flight preparing to look more hot than definitely NOT.
None of that happened at all. I whizzed through immigration after I was escorted to the front of the line. The officer could not stop laughing at the size of my package, which she decided to shout about across to her fellow colleagues. And by package she, of course, meant documents.. but I didn’t get a chance to explain that to the immigration hall that was, now, currently laughing at me. No picture was taken.. and I was told my Green Card should be sent out within a month. It was a little too EASY.
“Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time. Look to my right, and I see the Hollywood sign”
I’m seriously living out this SONG. I will never forget the moment I looked to my right whilst traveling from the airport and it just appeared from behind a building in the distance.
I LIVE IN HOLLYWOOD.
Bank Accounts, Walking and Best Buy OH MY!!
I’m so happy I did my research before I arrived in LA. I’mMovingtoLA.com (not sure you know it), British ExPats , and Visa Journey. I knew it would be smart to have a settling in / holiday period but I knew there were things that couldn’t wait.
I went straight to the bank my second day here. I had pre-booked the appointment at Bank of America, on Sunset Blvd, and had warned them of my situation. I met with Garo and he escorted me into the side office. The bank looks JUST LIKE THE MOVIES.
*Side Note* I would go on to say this at least 63 times a day over the next 7 days as EVERYTHING REALLY DOES LOOK JUST LIKE THE MOVIES.
Trying to act professional and not like I was on a studio tour, Garo set up my bank account using my UK passports and old UK address. He was unbelievably helpful, and made me feel like everything was going to be ok. It was my fault for turning the meeting into a life coaching experience but he was all for it. I expressed my fear of having NO CREDIT, and Bank of America is able to help get you started with that too. They offer a Cash reward card. They apply for a Credit card, which gets denied, but then the system offers you the option to pre-pay your credit limit. The minimal amount is $300 but it gives you the opportunity to start building your credit immediately.
Stage one of becoming American was complete.
Do you need a car in LA??
I really don’t think so. I love walking. A) because I am loving sending selfies in my shorts to my friends back in London freezing their butts off. and B) you get to find out where things are. LA seems very spread out. Not just with the different sub-cities but you can be walking in the middle of nowhere and find an amazing clothes shop, a restaurant .. OR JIM HENSON Studios??
Even after talking with my small American network of friends. It is like they are offended by walking here but would happily invite me on a hike. I really had to find a gentle way to let them know that it was the same thing. Just without the spectacular views.
I was so excited to step into Best Buy because .. yep you’ve guessed it.. It’s just like the movies. Just hearing the happy sales rep say “Welcome to Best Buy” gave me chills. I am used to getting the I-hate-my-life welcome nod back in London. I was escorted over to the cell-phones as I was already bored having to live vicariously through WiFi Hotspots. Mr Best Buy knew his stuff and within minutes I was set up in a BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) AT&T Pre-paid Sim. Perfect, and the deals seem just as good than if you had credit and could apply for a contract.
$10 one-off fee for the Sim Card. $45 for unlimited calls and SMS with 6GB data. Having no real idea what that last part meant, I just asked can I post all the pictures of me in the sun to my social media platforms?? The answer was YES!
I left happy … with a number that when I rang home (UK) would display.. Los Angeles..
The very next day, we walked to AT&T to get my Husband his sim card. I’d read that you can add a second line to your account and get $5 off, also if you set up auto-pay you get a further $5 off per line. Total savings of $15 which is $3 short of a bucket frozen margarita at Fiesta Cantina.
OH MY! BEST BUY.
Best Buy cheated me. So… not only did AT&T not charge you for the Sim card.. They also let you choose your area code. When my husband calls it displays BEVERLY HILLS!!! I couldn’t be more jealous. How could Best Buy do this to me.
Home is where the CREDIT is!
I have to start looking for a home. I wanted to look for apartments in WeHo as it’s kind of the only place I knew. With a high walking score I thought it would be the best place for us ‘walkers’. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there are tons of bars, and I might catch a glimpse of a Real Housewife. NOTHING!
There was one piece of advice that I received from a guy that was an Actor, Writer, Chauffeur and a Realtor (WOW,.. I was impressed), that saved me a few bucks. I had started to look on WestsideRentals.com and thought I would pay the subscription when I was definitely deciding to organize the first viewing. Steve (the man of many jobs) told us that apartments.com had bought Westside Rentals and they now give the apartment details for free.. SO DO NOT PAY FOR WESTSIDE.
I had spoken with Missy from therentalgirl.com (make sure you type that right or you end up somewhere completely different) and she had also offered some great advice. She had told me in advance what would help my case if I wanted to apply for a certain apartment. Copy of my Green Card, my resume, reference from my previous UK landlord, previous finances, she even mentioned adding your social media account to the cover letter can help. So LA! I also sent her my cover letter to read before I arrived, and she happily gave me feedback.
I’d plucked up the courage to make my first US phone call, and had a few numbers to call in the hope of booking the appointments for the next day. I’d looked where they were and tried to formulate a route so we could walk to each one.
This is how the phone call went;
Me – “Oh hello, yes, I’m interested in viewing the apartment at ————————-, errrr.. can we see it?”
(panicked at the end there.. had no idea how you actually ask?)
Realtor – “Oh, errr. Yeah. Sure. I’m just round the corner when do you think you can get here.”
Me – “Do you have time around 12pm noon tomorrow?”
Realtor – “I’m there now, it’s easier to see it now.”
Me – “OH OK. We will leave now, should be there in 30 mins”
OK .. So I’m going on the first viewing.
I rushed out the door, with husband by my side, after making myself look a little bit more presentable as I had heard that can help. Google maps said it was going to be a 32 minute walk, but they always think your gonna walk slow. I was on a mission.
*side note* Sometimes you actually have to push the crosswalk button or it doesn’t change to the ‘WALK’ sign even if it’s your turn, so you end up standing there like an idiot.
I made it, and I actually beat the realtor.
I also think I have watched too much Million Dollar Listing. When the Realtor turned up in jogging pants, and a vintage rocker T-shirt I was a little bit shocked.
Realtor – “Hi, how are you?” (as he walks me into the apartment.. that looks just like the….. MOVIES.)
Me – “Great, thank you”
Realtor – “The apartment has just became available and is move in ready.”
Me – “That’s great, We’ve just moved here from the UK and this is our first viewing.”
Realtor – “Oh, so you don’t have any credit”
Me – “No!, not yet.. we’ve ju..”
Realtor – “We can’t lease it out to you. We need a credit score of at least 640.”
We didn’t even get to see the rest of the apartment. He did mention that he thought not all leasing agents have this requirement but EGL Properties do.
Cue.. Absolute freak out!!! I hadn’t had one yet so I was waiting for it. I suddenly saw us homeless living in a tent on Sunset. If everyone needs us to have credit we will be STUCK. So like the mature married couple we run to the closest Happy Hour to calm our nerves, and would just have to hope that the credit problem wouldn’t hold us back there.
Four $4 dollar wines later, and we had calmed down. It was our first clear sign that you need to stay calm and move forward, no one wins in a freak out. (that was the wine wisdom talking). Our server Annie also came to our rescue (Shout out to The Village Idiot – Melrose) and suggested looking for sublets. Facebook pages such as LA Housing and Gypsy Housing -Los Angeles. If credit really was going to be our biggest problem we could sublet until we created/earned/gained a good score. (It’s confusing).
But it wasn’t all stress and panic. Week 2 is when I got my first taste of Stardom. I mean I am in Hollywood for a reason. I wanted to reap the benefits of having all of these TV studios in your back garden. I got priority tickets to The Late Late show with James Corden. I just had to fill out a form on the 1 Iota website. I couldn’t wait to see a fellow Brit and dream of having the same success as him (or his credit score). I even got picked out to be the Barman, which I knew I would be great at. I would have to dig deep to bring the character to life, but he would definitely notice me, and then hire me as full-time Barman, and my life would be set. Sadly, all it meant was that I stared at the side of his head whilst being the only audience member that had to stand for the entire taping. I did see myself on TV though.
LOOK MUM oh.. MOM I’m a star!