I’m Tommi Kaikkonen, a Master’s student in Aalto School of Business, just a thesis short of finishing my studies in Marketing. I arrived to San Francisco in July 2015 to work for Crowdbooster in more of a technical position (I have a minor in Computer Science). They’ve previously hosted two other Startup Lifers, Ats and Andrei. It’s a pretty sweet company, so they are still working remotely for Crowdbooster.
Having business and technical expertise has been really useful. Don’t be afraid to apply if you have experience in multiple fields, early-stage startups are where you’re the most valuable!
I’m sure you’re already sold on the idea of applying for Startup Life. Come on, it’s a no-brainer. Instead, here’s some advice for when you get here.
You’ll get to live with roommates again!
The housing situation in San Francisco is… challenging. Unless you like living in a closet. It’s a side effect of it being an awesome place — everybody wants to live here. Unless you want to shell out over half of your salary to rent your own apartment, you’re going to live with roommates. It has its pros though as you’ll get to know more local people.
The best deals aren’t found online but through people. It’s a good strategy to get temporary housing when you arrive and start asking around if anyone is looking for a roommate.
You’ll learn to appreciate Finnish public transportation
We’ve been spoiled with great public transportation in Finnish cities. Public transportation in SF works, but it’s not as good. Muni light rails (tram that also goes underground) can be unreliable, BART (underground) is more reliable, faster, but also more expensive. Many people use Lyft and Uber to get around. Sharing rides with other people on these services is a great way to save money; a 6km trip in the city will cost you about $5-$7. If your destination isn’t close to any public transportation line, you’ll likely end up using those services.
You’ll love the food
There’s a big variety of cuisines in San Francisco. Everybody uses the Yelp app to navigate the food & drink scene and so should you.
Since Americans love to work hard and keep busy, food delivery services have sprung up like mushrooms after the rain. There’s Postmates, DoorDash, GrubHub, Sprig, Spoonrocket, Munchery, Uber Eats, Blue Apron… The list goes on. (My favorite out of these is Sprig. Try it out, you’ll see.) Many companies also offer free lunch and dinner for employees. Groceries are pretty expensive here, so eating out is not as expensive compared to cooking at home compared to Finland.
Simple rules for tipping: 15-20% if you’re served by a waiter, $1 for beers and wine, $2 for cocktails.
You’ll love the people
People here are relaxed and friendly to strangers, even compared to other parts of the US. You’ll learn the basics of American small talk. The how are you’s and I’m good, how about you’s will roll off your tongue effortlessly in no time. Even if your English was great before, you’ll become much more fluent during your stay. You’ll develop an American accent. To accelerate your process, be sure to engage your colleagues in “water cooler chat”.