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We moved with our family from Michigan to California: The best decision ever

Evelyn Pech-Vazquez and her husband moved to LA with their four children to find a change.
Evelyn Pech-Vazquez

  • Evelyn Pech-Vazquez was concerned about the lack of diversity in Michigan and how it would affect her four children.
  • She and her husband decided to sell their Michigan home – along with seven rental properties – for a profit of $177,000.
  • In California, they can only afford a two-bedroom apartment, but say the benefits outweigh the higher cost of living.

We were on vacation in Florida and were having breakfast in the hotel when my five-year-old son made a comment that left me speechless: “Mom, we don’t speak Spanish here.”

It was true. That morning we were surrounded by many other people who also spoke Spanish – a mix of Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican accents could be heard in the background. Three other guests had even sat at our large table because there were no other seats available. My son was surprised to see them bow their heads as we said grace while salsa music played in the background.

My son's reaction reminded me of the importance of diversity and made me question the sense of community back home in Lansing, Michigan. When he came home, he kept asking why no one in our neighborhood spoke Spanish, and I was saddened and explained that there were more people from different countries living in Orlando.

The lack of diversity caused us to leave Michigan

We never planned to stay in Michigan this long, nor did we realize that the lack of diversity would have a noticeable impact on our children. It was my son's comment that made us realize we had to leave.

My husband is from Yucatan, Mexico, my father is from Cameroon, and I grew up in Cleveland, where my mother was born.

I saw that my four children were the only bilingual children in the neighborhood. As they grew older, they found it increasingly difficult to appreciate speaking two languages ​​and constantly resisted our efforts.

Aside from not having any bilingual friends, I noticed something else that was very troubling. My children, who had lived in the same town their whole lives, were becoming increasingly narrow-minded. In our area, there was a general belief that you could find everything you needed in your own community, and few had any interest in exploring the outside world.

It was scary to think that all my efforts to diversify life – traveling, a brief stay in Mexico, and speaking multiple languages ​​- would be in vain simply because of the culture that surrounded us. It was another five years before we left, but when the pandemic rocked the world and presented an unexpected opportunity, my husband and I seized it.

Seeing how proud her four children are of being bilingual fills the author with pride.
Evelyn Pech-Vazquez

After selling our house and rental properties, we moved

We sold seven rental homes and our primary residence with the goal of purchasing a home in California and expanding our children's horizons.

In April 2021, we moved 3,000 miles west to a small town in Southern California. The increasing diversity was evident from the start. In my daughter's first year of kindergarten, she made several bilingual friends. I was surprised at how many children spoke Spanish, not to mention the long list of other languages.

In our new home in Simi Valley, 40 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, the Hispanic or Latino population is 26.2%, almost double the rate in Michigan's state capital (according to the United States Census Bureau).

I'll never forget the day my oldest, now 20, came home excited from working at McDonald's and said he was going to help train a new employee who only spoke Spanish. This was the boy who had complained for years about being forced to speak Spanish.

For the first time, he seemed proud to be bilingual. All three of the younger children have had similar experiences, whether helping a new immigrant translate in class or speaking Spanish with bilingual friends for fun.

Real estate prices have made it difficult, but we have no regrets

After three years, we're still paying $2,600 for a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, which highlights the biggest challenge we've faced: housing. With income from eight homes in the Midwest totaling $177,000, we still don't have enough to buy a home. Zillow lists the average home value in Simi Valley as $846,159. Many of these homes are half the size of our Michigan home.

A pleasant surprise was that our high school seniors could be eligible for two years of free community college through the California Promise Program, which waives registration fees and, in some cases, tuition for freshmen. This was great news for our large family.

Overall, the sacrifices we made to move to Southern California were worth the benefits of living in a melting pot. We would do it again.

Do you have a personal essay about culture shock or family relocation that you would like to share? Contact the editor: akarplus@businessinsider.com.

Anna Harden

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