My girlfriend (my wife in two months) got a job in Houston, Texas. Since I'm not intending to be apart from her for 18 months, I'm coming as well. This changes my writing perspective quite a bit. I will no longer be 3000 miles away from the big publishing companies but 300 or less. I'm planning to use this chance to be published in English for real.
I would appreciate any advice about travelling and living in the US. I'm interested to hear anything from price of food to legal stuff. Anything that comes to your minds really.
Don't forget to get a gun. Us Americans won't respect you unless you a have a big six-shooter strapped to your hip, especially in Texas. I'm not talking about any of those wimpy glocks either. I'm talking a real life Colt 45. The kind that will snap your wrist if you're not holding it tight when you fire it.
Hope this helps!
[This message has been edited by snapper (edited May 30, 2010).]
Do you have a more specific question about Houston? Good bbq, beaches nearby but they rather suck. Hot beyond belief, but humid- drink lots of water, if you can survive the summer, winter is beautiful and every 5 years or so, it snows. Make sure you have hurricane and flood insurance. If it floods, don't drive through it thinking your car is special- it probably isn't. If it does snow, no one knows how to drive in the snow, so it is crazy dangerous. Though driving is crazy dangerous anyway- basic ruler- if I have a bigger car than you, I win. Get a pick up truck. Vegetarian is another word for bad hunter (seriously, don't expect vegetarian option- I hear that complaint a lot from people). Ren fest in Oct and Nov can be tons of fun.
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Oh yeah! I forgot about the beaches. Bring paper towels. They have a bit of an oil problem and need some help with clean up. Every little bit helps!
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Well as I'd say to anyone in a different environment, don't forget to people watch. (Not through windows or anything like that, I'll bet there are pretty strict laws about peeping toms.) You're going to find a wealth of observations you would never have thought of.
Also, I remember a while ago you were talking about a dearth of fantasy novels where you were. I'm sure you'll have quite a sampling in the libraries and bookstores in Huston.
Hi Martin, sounds like some exciting times ahead (and congrats on the upcoming nuptials too).
I lived in Texas for a couple of years many, many moons ago. My memory of that experience ranged widely. On the one hand it was like being on another planet (everything's different, from flora and fauna to people's attitudes, accents, or expectations). On the other hand, I made some of the best friends I've ever had while there, and miss the place and the people dearly.
In the end I'd only advise to take things as they come, be friendly and, as they say, do as the Romans do. Maybe I've been lucky, but I've found at various times when travelling that people can be quite accommodating of foreigners who don't know the local customs.
It's true, sometimes to get through sticky situations I affect a bad french accent and people end up helping me because they don't think I'd understand their explanations.
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I don't know anything about Texas, but I have traveled a fair amount in different parts of the world. The one thing I find is that being friendly and polite will usually be returned in kind, and then some. And if I were to take a guess about Texas, I'd say that being forthright and outgoing will get you more friends than reticence.
Texas is in some ways more like its own country than part of America. I know because I have a friend who won't shut up about it. Just remember that Texans like to be told how nifty Texas is on a regular basis. You can theorize if it is some type of compensation mechanism or genuine pride, but it is best not to...
A lot of useful info here though I don't think I will go buy myself a weapon.
Let me ask something more specific: airports. I've heard that there are different limitations for luggage in different parts of the world. Since I'll be living there quite some time, a simple bag might not be enough. Any restrictions and/or rules I should be aware of? If this is posted somewhere, send the link.
They are indeed quite strict about what you can and cannot bring on a plane. Usually you are allowed one carryon "item" and a bag; for me this is usually a small bag and my laptop case. One of the two things is supposed to be able to fit under the seat in front of you.
Stay away from Spirit airlines if you don't want to be charged for your carryon. Also - liquids. You can't bring liquids on except in containers that are less than three ounces, and all of your containers combined must fit in a one-gallon plastic bag. Wear shoes to the airport that are easily slipped on and off for security, and get your laptop out of your bag before you get to the scanner if you want to avoid annoying those behind you (it has to go through the xray machine separately).
The TSA site has a good list of all the prohibited items and such, though they're mostly common sense (no guns, no knives, etc).
Not sure where you're from, but one thing my friends from Europe said shocked them when they came here was how unbelievably far apart things are - both within a city (especially a driving madhouse like Houston) and between cities; it's not at all unusual to go for a vacation with your family and drive 8 to 12 hours to get to the destination. Over 12 hours I prefer to fly, though I know people who don't. In the west, these distances are greatly expanded - there's lots of room out there in Texas, and even though there's lots of people, it's mostly empty space.
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Congratulations on both big life changes coming up! That's very exciting.
You should check with the American Embassy where you are right now about any regulations regarding visas, permission to work, etc.
Make sure you make photocopies of all of your important documents and leave them behind with a family member or friend at home (carry another copy with you, but apart from your own travel documents in case anything gets lost or stolen.)
Once in the U.S., I predict you will find everything wickedly expensive. Presumably your soon-to-be-wife will be traveling with a business account of some sort. Find out the details, read the fine print. Sometimes a resourceful person/couple can find ways to benefit better from an international assignment (e.g., using housing allowance creatively by finding a cheaper place to live.) Start building a budget so you can figure out how much room you have for buy books. Or, when here, get involved in a book swap program (there are many online) and then you can read english fiction to your heart's content. Having a U.S. address will help with that.
Everything is really far apart here, definitely. Houston is also kind of ...forgive me, Texans, in the middle of nowhere. It's down on the southern coast of the U.S., in about the center of the country. You'll be in driving distance to New Orleans, San Antonio, Austin. Worth visiting, when you guys have the time. If you can also go elsewhere in the U.S., I recommend San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., and anywhere else on the East Coast you can get. That would give you a good overview of this very strange and very large country.
It's going to be a great time, you'll love it here!
Oh, and for air travel within the U.S., you are limited to one carry-on bag (there are maximum dimensions, you can check ual.com or americanairlines.com for the rules - those are two of the biggest US Airlines--there are lower cost carriers too, but those two are the biggest.) You can usually carry on a small handbag (e.g., a woman's purse or a small laptop computer bag) too. There are rules about liquids. The FAA is our governing body for air travel, I'm sure there's a website like faa.gov to check the rules on.
Remember your electronics from home may not work here, we run on lower voltage (? someone who actually knows what they're talking about can tell you more) here - 120v instead of 220. Unless things like hairdriers, alarm clocks, etc. have a converter, you'll either need a converter or it might make more sense to just buy inexpensive things here and leave them behind/sell them when you leave. Wal-Mart is your low-cost friend (it's a large store that sells everything from grocery items to furniture to blenders to clothing to fishing gear, just about anything you might need and all at low costs.)
Martin, if memory serves me right you are from one of the former Soviet states - I don't remember which one. My father-in-law is a linguist who used to work in Russia; I can ask him if there is anything special you should know.
One addition to what everyone has been stating about the U.S. and Texas in particular. Our international airports are like cities unto themselves. Within them there are moving sidewalks and shuttles to get from one place to another within the airport. It can be quite overwhelming for the lightly travelled. Also, I would recommend you not make too many purchases in the airport - You will have all kinds of opportunities to spend money when you get out and a lot less expensive too.
Bush (IAH) isn't as bad as a lot of the other airports though. Of course, I have traveled a decent amount. Once in the US, if you are going places, try Southwest flying out of Hobby (HOU). One fun thing in the US is sometimes you get a lot cheaper depending on the airport (for DC, we always flew to BWI and took the MARC- saved like a hundred bucks, for Toronto, fly into Buffalo and drive over the border). From Houston, you can do roadtrips to San Antonio, Dallas and Austin, also New Orleans (like 8 hours I think). After that, you are looking at like 15 hours minimum. Texas is big, hot and boring.
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My wife, who grew up in Germany, just informed me that most european airports are just as large as american ones, only not as commercial. That's what I get for getting my knowledge of europe and western asia transportation vicariously from movies.
Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008
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quote:Remember your electronics from home may not work here, we run on lower voltage
This is KEY!! A lot of electronics (computers, especially) have power cords designed to run on both 110 and 220 voltage, but most other appliances do not. (I fried a heating pad that way, once.) A converter is good, but since you're going to be living in the US for so long, and there are baggage restrictions, you might want to just buy stuff here.
Re: flying internationally - you're usually allowed two "checked" bags per person, though there are weight restrictions. You can also pay extra to bring on a third bag, an amount which is more or less equivalent to paying for overseas shipping. I lived out of two suitcases for a year - it's very doable, especially if you can rent someplace that's already furnished.
Not sure if this is a universal vice, or just an American one, but either way: YOU DO NOT NEED AS MUCH CLOTHING AS YOU THINK YOU DO. Seriously. It's amazing how much you can reduce the amount of crap you're packing if you just wash your clothing more often.
Also, when you're packing to go overseas, try to leave a little extra room in your suitcases - you'll buy stuff and have more to bring home with you than you left with.
If you're buying furniture, etc. once you reach the US, check out craigslist and IKEA for used and cheap but serviceable furniture (respectively).
I agree that Southwest is usually the best local carrier of the airlines, and they don't charge for baggage.
You are limited to one carry-on but that does not include a small personal bag like a laptop carrier, briefcase or purse.
And yeah, buy as little as possible in the airports, they're outrageously expensive. Also, don't plan on buying popcorn and sodas at the movies. It is even more outrageously expensive. A $20 bill will disappear on two sodas and a medium popcorn. Eat beforehand or carry a backpack or have your wife (soon to be - Congrats on that) carry a large purse and smuggle it in. Expect similar pricing at concert and sports venues. They will check your bags so try cargo pants and smaller foods.
Also, with regards to your important documents. You might consider scanning them and e-mailing them to yourself. That way, even if you lost everything, as long as you can get to the internet you can have access to them. I've also sent myself my credit card numbers split into different e-mails and reversed. On a side note, there's a company called, Duluth Trading Co. (they're online)that sells a 'Smuggler's Belt'. It has a zippered space on the inside of the belt where you can hide money, and passport copies. You just have to be good at folding. It's great for travel.
If you have any big city experience, use it here. Common sense. Don't look like a target. But this is true of any big city. If something seems shady, assume it is until you know better.
I know these are a bunch of warnings and cautions, but we're really a pretty decent bunch here in the States. I hope you like it.
Do you know where you are going to live yet? Houston has numerous options and sometimes how good a neighborhood is can depend on the street. I lived in scary ghetto, which was within walking distance of million dollar house neighborhood when I first moved to Houston. I was fine, though I slept better when I moved to a nicer apt (esp since in the nicer place, I never woke up with cockroaches running over me- also lacked the massive amounts of poisons we used to lesson the cockroach invasion). You can rent cute little houses out in the burbs or you can go for Montrose district, which is well, Montrose district- artsy, kinda bohemian, very inclusive (that area is "blamed" for Houston's first lesbian mayor).
Posts: 232 | Registered: Apr 2010
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I lived about an hour from Houston for a couple of years a few decades ago. When we were there, the places to see in Houston were the Manned Space Flight Center, and the Galleria (a huge--at the time--shopping mall--I have no idea if it's still there).
There are what are called "barrier" islands that run along the Gulf Coast, though, as snapper has pointed out, they may not have been much of a barrier to the oil spill, so you may not want to visit them. The beach we would go do was on Padre Island.
As soon as you can, you really ought to visit the Aransas Wild Life Refuge, which is also near the coast. Alligators, big wild pigs, wild turkeys, little wild pigs called "javelinas" (pronounced "have-a-leen-a"), and maybe even whooping cranes. A very cool place.
The people of Texas are great--very friendly. I missed them when we moved away, but I certainly didn't miss the heat and humidity.
The dirt looks nice and dark and fertile, but when it gets wet, it turns into what is called "Texas gumbo," and if you walk in it you may never be able to get it off of your shoes--it also sticks to itself and can make your shoes much higher.
There are trees around Houston called "live oaks" which have little fingerprint-sized leaves on them. You'll see some pine trees and some palm trees as well (a combination that still boggles my mind). The live oaks often have something hanging from them that looks like old-lady hair and is called "Spanish moss." It's actually pretty cool to see.
You'll also see a lot of medium-sized black birds in large groups, and I was told they were called "graeckles."
If you like fish, I recommend that you try flounder. You can actually hunt for it (or you could when we were there), with a long spear called a "gig," but you have to be careful that you don't stick your spear into a stingray by accident. I love the taste of a well-cooked flounder and I hope you can experience it.
Be sure to try the barbecued meat as well, and the Tex-Mex food, though watch out for the jalapeno (pronounced "hallah-pane-yo") peppers. The first time I had one, I thought it was an okra (well, when they're cut up, they don't look all that different), and I was very surprised. Okras are a mild vegetable eaten most often in a batter--deep-fried--or in a soup. Texans like to batter and deep-fry lots of food, including wads of cornmeal (called "hush-puppies").
In the spring, the bluebonnets (Texas state flower) are all over the fields, and they're very pretty. The grass they plant for lawns is called "carpet grass," but it doesn't feel like carpet. The blades are quite thick and almost feel like astro-turf (synthetic or imitation grass). But the grass tolerates the heat and humidity quite well.
There are four kinds of poisonous snakes (or so I was told): water mocassins (or cottonmouths), rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral snakes--we lived there for two years, and only saw one snake, which we thought was a baby rattlesnake and which we killed because they are more dangerous than the adults.
There are also two sizes of mosquitoes--regular and B-52s (and they seem huge). There are two other kinds of insects to be aware of: chiggers and fire-ants. Chiggers are very small, and hard to see, and can cause what looks like a rash but is supposed to be a bunch of tiny bites. Fire-ants are also very tiny with a very nasty bite, so you need to watch where you stand for any length of time, because if you stand on a nest, you will regret it.
They usually have a pretty good idea if there is a chance of tornadoes, so you should have plenty of warning. A tornado sounds sort of like a train going full blast, but they are not considered "official" tornadoes unless they are actually seen. While we lived there, we heard about a few things that happened that were probably caused by a quick "touch-down" of a tornado: the corner of a motel's second story was clipped off, a semi-truck-trailer was flipped onto its side, and the brick wall of a building was pulled over during the night (neighbors heard a freight-train sound).
Also, if you are driving on the highway in Texas, and cars coming toward you have their headlights on, it's a signal that you are heading toward a highway patrol car and you might want to make sure you stay close to the speed limit. (I have driven in Europe, and was told before I went that you could drive as fast as you wanted on the Autobahn. I didn't find that to be the case, always, but in the US they are a bit stricter about speeds and speed limits.) They aren't as strict about the far left lane, however, and sometimes a slower driver will get in that lane and stay there (I was told it was illegal to do that on the Autobahn). Some highways have a special restricted far left lane for carpools (vehicles with more than one rider), motorcycles, busses, and people who pay a special fee to use them. Everyone else has to stay out of them or risk being fined (they're called HOV--high occupancy vehicle--lanes where I live now).
You'll find out more from those wonderfully friendly Texans when you get there, but I hope some of this helps. And sorry for the long post.
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited June 08, 2010).]
Oh, yeah! I forgot to mention cockroaches! YUCK! And crickets (I could catch crickets in the dark, but never cockroaches). You have to have someone come spray for cockroaches. My husband thought he could do it and save money, but the cockroaches just laughed at him.
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Phew! Tons of info! Thanks a trillion, people.
Ok, next topic: food. Are there any restrictions about bringing your own food (preserved, for example) through airports?
Here in Slovenia (no, that's not a former Soviet state. Wikipedia can clear it up.) we usually cook our own meals and go eat outside only for special occasions. Of course you can find a McDonalds in most cities as well. I've heard that Americans tend to eat outside more often. Take for example Italian food. Here this means pasta with a myriad of sauces. When you go out for Italian food, does that mean a classy or an ordinary meal?
Any particular things I should be aware of when buying groceries, especially dairy products? What about drinking water? Is it safe to drink tap water (here it usually is)?
[This message has been edited by MartinV (edited May 31, 2010).]
We actually have been doing our own bug treatments for about 4 years now and it is doable depending on where you live and the setup. Fire ants are evil beyond belief and eliminating the buggers is almost impossible. Also, once bit, nothing makes the itch do away. Avoid them at all costs.
Galleria is still around. It has an ice rink in it. The museum district (next to the medical district with like 20 something hospitals in a few miles) isn't bad. Most of the museums have a free night once a week- Fine art is Th and Science is Tuesday. LBJ (space station) is worth doing once- though we get free parking and various discounts since my husband has a NASA badge. If you want planned tourist place, the Kemah Boardwalk is expensive, overhyped and has a bunch of rides. We were supposed to get the pres heads, but the company defaulted on their mortgage, so the heads are gone.
Tap water is safe (we think we're stricter than anywhere else in the world about things like that, and that's usually the question we ask when we go abroad). Dairy products are regulated, so the standards are supposed to be high (and if they aren't there is a huge scandal about it--there's always a huge scandal about any food products that are not high-standard).
If you have room in your luggage to bring preserved (in sealed containers) food, you can probably bring them. You might want to check the TSA website and google US Customs to see what they say to be sure. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not usually permitted.
Lots of people here eat at home--restaurant food can be expensive. And there is quite a range in kinds and classiness of restaurants. You can find a "fast food" Italian restaurant almost as easily as you can find a "classy" Italian restaurant. But you can also go to a grocery store and buy anything you might want to prepare at home, and never eat out at all. I can't remember what grocery stores we went to when we lived in Texas. The names vary from region to region.
In a large city like Houston, you may also be able to find international grocery stores that sell imported goods which you may find more familiar. I've been able to find such stores in smaller cities, so I'm confident you'll find them in Houston.
By the way, "Italian food" in the US can mean pasta with sauces, but the kinds of pasta are probably more varied than the kinds of sauces. It can also mean pizza (talk about myriad kinds!) and it can mean Italian flavor variations on all kinds of foods (including fish).
Americans like lots of different kinds of foods, but most of them are Americanized versions of those foods. (I love the Greek, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese (sushi), Indian (not Native American), Israeli, Belgian, English, French, and German food I have had the privilege of trying--some in the actual country when I have visited there.)
Elizabeth Moon told us once at a science fiction convention that you can only learn to love a place if you can love the smells and tastes. I hope you will come to at least like the US.
For eating out, you can go classy or casual with just about every meal. For a while, we even had a drive through sushi restaurant- until the owners decided to make it expensive. By eat outside, do you mean at restaurants or literally outside? Texans love their BBQs, so a meal on the back porch is pretty typical. We also eat out a lot, though really that is a person by person decision. You can find a lot of different style restaurants to fit your mood. Don't remember where in Eastern Europe you are from, but one random food Houstonians love- kolaches! So, so yummy. Just about every donut place, breakfast place, bakery carries them. Kolache Factory is my favorite place for those. Eating out gets massively expensive though, so be careful.
Dairy products- nothing special I can think of. I find milk is fresher at HEB versus other places. If you don't like hormones and stuff, organic is available everywhere for about twice the cost. If you hit a farmer's market (be warned- they generally are super small and disappointing) you can get a variety of locally made cheeses. Drinking water is safe, but we run ours through the Brita for taste. I can't think of anyone out here who doesn't do some sort of home water purifier (though as I said, it isn't for health really).
My husband has a cousin who is actually working on a solution for fire ants. He's been to Brazil (where fire ants come from, I guess) several times, testing different things for the government to see what will be the most environmentally safe.
The other imported plague of the southern US is kudzu--a Japanese ornamental vine that "knew its place" in relatively cold Japan, but which has tried to take over in the US. If you pass huge mounds of green leaves as you drive along the highway, it may be kudzu eating a forest.
Hmm. I just remembered, one time when I was in Austin, TX for a science fiction convention, I noticed that the tap water had a moldy taste. So Brita (a water-purifier) for taste is a good idea.
If the tap water tastes strange to you, MartinV, it can still be safe to drink, but different parts of the US have vastly different tastes in the water. I like it where I live, with the somewhat hard taste (from the minerals in Rocky Mountain spring water), but others don't.
quote:Any particular things I should be aware of when buying groceries, especially dairy products?
If you've been used to drinking raw milk, you might want to be careful when you first try American pasteurized & homogenized milk. I don't remember all the mumbo-jumbo speak why (something to do with all the processing we do to it here), I just know that I have a mild intolerance to American milk, but I've never had a problem with milk overseas.
In addition to full (4%) fat, 2%, 1% and skim milk, you can get ultra-pasteurized or normal pasteurized (the first is worse, if you're going to have issues with pasteurization), so check the bottle to see which you've got. If you end up having issues, there are all sorts of options to get different types of milk (I knew a guy once who had a part share in a cow on a local farm!) so look around and you should be able to find an alternate source.
Sorry, Martin. Meant no disrespect. But I do believe your climate is much like mine in Michigan and trust me, the air in Houston is heavy. All jokes aside, make sure you have AC. In the place you plan on living and the vehicles you drive.
I'll vouch for that. I've only ever been in Houston for about an hour, all of it at the airport. Walking between the airport and the plane (not across the tarmac, either), just about knocked me over. But then, I've never done well with humidity.
quote:A lot of useful info here though I don't think I will go buy myself a weapon.
No worries, when the time comes, and it will come, you can get a nice glock at a yard sale.
Regarding Customs, if you don't come in with your luggage, you'll have to fill out some extra forms.
You can hire a Customs broker in Houston, and I can recommend one, or you can find the Customs house and bring them your papers and a 3299 form filled out. Won't cost you if you go yourself. A broker may charge $100 - $200. Plus, don't forget the ISF form! Egads...
Seriously, if your luggage is coming separately, e-mail me. I'll send you the rest of the info.
Another random comment- if you like free stuff, try Miller Outdoor Theatre. They have random shows throughout the summer for free. Stock up on mosquito repellent though and drink lots and lots of water.
Posts: 232 | Registered: Apr 2010
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Now you've done it Kathleen - I'm experiencing time shifts!
Here's a very important fact - it could keep you from getting lynched by an angry mob:
Football in Texas has nothing to do with people in ugly shorts kicking a round pentagonally sectioned ball back and forth for hours.
Instead, it involves very large men crashing into one another, while all the tall skinny men try to play keep-away with a brown egg-shaped ball meant to resemble the tanned hide of a pig or cow. This is managed by little men in prison uniforms who can't tell time very well and make all the giant men take breaks every thirty seconds by blowing whistles at them and using obsene hand-gestures.
Something else I realized as I was driving around this afternoon is that most of my European friends walk a LOT each day. Like miles and miles (or kms and kms...a dozen would not be out of the question.) Here in the U.S., nobody walks ANYWHERE. Especially not in a place as hot and humid as Houston. I live near a really lovely upscale outdoor mall that is probably 1/2 mile in length (along an L, with a few sideways sections.) Nobody walks the thing. If they have errands at each end of the mall, they park at one end, run that errand, then move the car to the other end. Ridiculous, but it just is what it is.
There are exceptions, of course. There are lovely walkable downtown areas. Somewhere other than where I live. So, it's a caution, of sorts, because as aforementioned posts have indicated, in the U.S. we tend to eat out more than elsewhere. We tend to walk less. Do you see where this is going?? This is why we all belong to gyms. Or develop running habits (which, in Houston, requires also an early morning habit...too hot otherwise!)
Well, i've lived in texas for about 18 years, here what i've learned:
- friendliest, nicest people to live amongst. - best bbq ever - wide open country roads - really dry heat (unless by the coast) - austin is only a few hours away, is the live music capitol of the world, and has a budding film industry/community (AICN's Harry knowles lives there, Quentin Tarantino host a movie marathons etc) - If you're ever in austin, attend a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, drop by 6th street on a friday night, have a thundercloud sub (I love that place!), attend Eeyor's birthday party celebration, and attend a longhorn game. - austin has a Fry's electronics (awesome place to shop for every kind of electronics you may need) - half-priced books - i think i spent half my childhood there. - Rush-hour: expect huge traffic, especially in houston, he he. - Colleges in Texas are very very affordable (especially for instate residents) and very very good - Dallas has one of the premier medical research institutions in the country - Southwestern Medical Center - texas has a lot of medical schools and it's own application system TMDSAS that are very favorable to texas residents. - Texas is big enough to be a country so there's a lot of country to explore for mountain climbing, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing... - houses are relatively cheaper compared to other states, but depends on where you buy it. - don't expect too much snow... - And...if you don't like the weather in Texas - wait 15 mins.
dry heat is never used to describe houston. Right now, in the Houston area, the humidity is 72%. That's typical. Looking at the forecast for today, we will drop to 55% around noon. Yeah! Houston has at least two Fry's Electronics. Houston also has a thriving medical district with high ranks.
Posts: 232 | Registered: Apr 2010
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In the one and only time I was in Houston, Texas, during a family vacation sometime in the seventies, the only thing I recall besides the tour of the Astrodome was that it was kinda "buggy," I mean, there were a lot of flies and bugs swarming around. Does that hold true these days?
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I've heard that in the US people tend to use credit cards to pay for most stuff. Personally I stick to cash for smaller purchases or use debit card otherwise. What kind of credit card should I get?
Posts: 1271 | Registered: May 2007
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Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted. Discover is worthless, many places don't take it. American Express is also accepted at fewer places, though it's much better than Discover.
Personally, I have the Chase Freedom Visa and it accumulates rewards that don't expire and you can redeem them any way you want; cash back, cover a purchase, ordering a reward - like a trip. It's the first time I've had a rewards program pay off. It paid may airfare to Utah this summer.
Also, don't feel obligated to use a credit card, though it's good to have one for backup. I'm a cash and carry person myself and I only use my card occasionally, and never more than I can pay off in a month, so I don't carry a balance. It's best to stay out of debt as much as possible.
Hope this helps.
Edited to add: Don't use your debit card at gas stations if you can help it. There are scammers that use add-on devices to get your number. Be careful in general with your debit card because it comes out of your bank account and doesn't have the same fraud protection as a credit card. It's a lot harder to prove your case and get your money back.
[This message has been edited by genevive42 (edited June 03, 2010).]
The fraud protection is a nice thing though. I don't carry cash and when my wallet was stolen, I lost like $3 cash, nothing from my credit cards and debit (I cancelled before they used them and even if they had, the credit cards would have not charged me). I did lose like $50 in gift cards because it was Christmas and I had just bought a bunch of those, but didn't have the numbers recorded (if you record the numbers, they can freeze the cards and transfer the money back to you). But I like knowing I will never lose over $20 cash because I never carry more than that. I also view credit cards differently than cash. If I have cash, I spend it very quickly, whereas credit cards I think first. I also pay off my balance every month, so if makes budgeting pretty easy (everything is listed in one place). I use Citibank Mastercard- like 1-2% cashback depending on what I buy.
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