About here: A German in Silicon Valley (2)

Hey there!

Thank you for getting back to my blog about interning in Silicon Valley. This time I am writing about costs of living, mobility in California as well as about some weekend activity.

[read part 1 first]

About Here: Cost of Living

Your face when you get to know your salary for the first time…


Interns in the bay area earn quite well and get plenty of free stuff like snacks, coffee, lunch or even things like onsite haircuts and bike repairs (the latter two sadly not at MBRDNA).

Sunnyvale is pretty much at the center of Silicon Valley (15 minutes to Google, 14 minutes to Apple, 18 minutes to Facebook), but for some reason rather few people know it. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it is “quite cheap” to live here.

All the interns I know live in shared flats (in Sunnyvale) with 3 to 5 roommates, prices on the low-end start at around $600/month which gets you a bed in a shared room (or even the living room) with a shared bathroom. In the mid-range you get a private room with a shared bathroom around $700-$1,000/month. Private rooms (still in a shared flat) with private bathrooms can be up to $1,400/month. Utilities & Internet access can be an additional $100/month.
That’s a lot of money, but most apartments are aggregated in apartment complexes including parking lots and even swimming pools; our stay even has a balcony and a BBQ grille.

… and your face when you hear about the rent:


Since it can take over 2 weeks for you to receive your first paycheck, you should bring some money to “kick-start” your stay here.

Most companies around here provide free snacks, drinks and at least a cheap lunch, so the major part of your monthly expenses should be the rent and a car (in case you buy one; see next section).
After all spendings, there should still be some money left for weekend trips, which is where the real fun starts [see last section] 🙂

About Here: Mobility

Since the US of A are the third-largest country in the world when it comes to area (and #1 when it comes car size), your feet may not be the best means of transportation.
Here are the pros and cons for the options you have to get from A to B:

  • Public transportation

    … is cheap but really shitty & the infrastructure is not exactly as advanced as in most European countries. Taking the train from Sunnyvale to San Francisco is one of the rare cases where public transport may be the best choice (if the train doesn’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere, leading to a revenue peak for local Uber drivers).

    The thing about public transportation:

    PROS: Cheap
    CONS: Shitty reliability, quality & infrastructure


  • Renting a Car

    … is a good choice if you don’t need a car for commuting to work but for your weekend trips (see last section). If you want to go really cheap when renting a car, check out turo.com, where you can rent private cars quite cheap (e.g. we rented a 4-door 2011 Mini Cooper S with almost 200hp for a weekend in Vegas; price: $190). The biggest downside to this is that most companies require you to be at least 25 years old, or will at least charge you a fee for not being 25.

    Drive new cars & be flexible
    CONS: People under 25 may have difficulties/additional costs


  • Buying a Car

    … or at least owning one apparently is pretty common for Americans. If you want to buy a car, calculate with $2,500 to $5,000 for buying an older used car and $100-$150 monthly fee for car insurance. Look out for former interns or colleagues willing to sell their cars, and try to stay away from craigslist.com if you don’t want to get fucked over.
    If you are ready to invest a larger amount of money (~10K+) for a reliable low-mileage car, I can recommend you CarMax, a legitimate car reseller with a 30-day guarantee for most vehicles.
    Even though you don’t need a driver’s license to buy a car, I recommend you to get a California license to get a discount on your monthly insurance rates.
    All in all, you should have a pretty good reason (or just too much money) to buy a car.

    But at least gas is cheap (1 liter for about $1.1).

    PROS: Be very flexible
    CONS: Expensive, costly & pricy


  • Uber, Lyft & Co.

    … are there to fill the gap between owning/driving a car and public transportation. Ride-sharing (or “ride-sourcing”) basically means “you tell your phone where you want to go & a stranger shows up and gets you there”.
    Even though the public image of Uber can be considered worse than the image of the Intergalactic Empire from Star Wars, getting a cheap ride (UberX: ~$17 for a 12 mile drive; UberPool is even cheaper) in less than 10 minutes (at least in the urban areas) can be pretty convenient. Uber also provides very good customer service in cases of lost items or cancelled rides (confirmed by: me).

    Actual footage of an Uber executive meeting:

    PROS: Cheap & Ubiquitous
    CONS: Supporting an “evil” company (in case of Uber); Quality of the driver/car is basically a lottery


  • PROTIP: Electric longboards

    … are the weapon of choice if you want to go full Silicon Valley. My roommate just started building and selling them, and he’s actually using one on a daily basis, so check them out if you are into that (unfortunately, I’m too stupid to ride a skateboard/longboard).


    [I excluded private bus shuttles offered e.g. for Apple employees, since they usually only get you to work and back home]

About Here: Weekends (I)

Since you are in (motherfuckin) California, you should (and will) spend most of your loose money on all kinds of weekend activities. You can go hiking, sightseeing, doing quad tours on the beach, skiing, camping, surfing, skating, partying, or just doing a road trip to the Mexican border (and much more).

One of the things that’s on the bucket list of most of the people here is going to fabulous Las Vegas (I know it’s not in California). Even though the ride is about as long as crossing Germany from north to south, everybody should do a 20h drive to stay there for not even 36 hours at least once 🙂

Mercedes interns heading to Las Vegas like:


Things you should do in Las Vegas:

  • Book a penthouse suite
    see below!
  • Be sure to pass the “Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas” sign by night
    + with the right music
  • Ride down the Las Vegas Strip in a stretch limousine
    ~$70 for about 30 minutes
  • Go to a club & see a famous DJ
    Calvin Harris, David Guetta & Tiesto are resident DJs in Vegas, prices vary from $40 to $120 per night
  • Go for a hotel-sightseeing-trip
    It is really impressive what money can build in the middle of freaking nowhere (and last but not least, it’s for free)
  • Let the dogs out…

    via GIPHY

    PROTIP for booking a suite
    : Book a 1 king bed suite and move in there with 12+ people (usually the hotel does not care, but: no guarantee that this works!). You will get a penthouse suite in the 20-something floor while paying less than having an actual AirBnB.
    But: Don’t lift the liquor bottles, you will be charged just for lifting (thanks a lot, technology) – just as for opening the fridge (about $50/day in Bellagio).The list above can be extended by thousands of points, but unfortunately I am running out of space for this post… I will try to give much more details for weekend activities in future posts.

Next Up

Thank you again for following up with me, next up is some stuff about the visa process for the US. I may also dive a little bit into technical details about the required qualifications for working/interning in tech companies, especially in the field of software engineering.

[go to part 3]

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