The San Diego French American Chamber of Commerce happily welcomes newcomers to California! This guide exists to make your move to California smooth, pleasant and fun.

Expatriates wrote this guide based on their firsthand experience relocating to California. Feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.

Quick Facts about California

  • Geographically speaking, California is the 3rd largest U.S. state, after Alaska and Texas. It consists of 58 counties, and 478 cities. In terms of population, the City of San Diego is the 2nd largest in California, and 8th largest in the United States.
  • San Diego’s economy was once dominated by military and defense endeavors, now the city’s second largest economic sector.  Now, manufacturing is the leading sector. In particular, there is a lot of activity in shipbuilding/repair, industrial machinery and computers, metal production, and the manufacturing of toys and sporting goods.
  • The University of California San Diego (UCSD) attracts many companies and researchers to the area. The acclaimed university is known for their expertise in the medical and biotechnology fields.

Key economic figures in California

  • A national leader in job creation, California gained 389,500 new jobs from 2015 to 2016.  Since the state’s recovery began in February 2010, California has gained over 2.4 million jobs!
  • California has the highest number of ‘Green Jobs’ in the U.S., employing over 318,000 people at high-paying green and cleantech positions.
  • The 3.5 million small businesses in California account for 99% of the state’s employers, employing 52% of the workforce.
  • California funding increased 81% over the last few years, totaling 26.8 billion dollars in 2014. Deals increased by a more modest 13%, but still hovered around 400 deals each quarter.
  • California is the #1 destination in the United States for foreign direct investment (FDI) projects.  The EB-5 Program is one of California’s most effective ways to attract FDI into the state. (


Explore the West Coast!

California is home to a variety of landscapes and cultures. You can easily go from beach to snow, or drive North along the Pacific Coast Highway. From San Diego, you can even visit Mexico for an afternoon of tacos and margaritas!

Check out the nearby National Parks at, and enjoy the natural beauty of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Anza Borrego, or the Grand Canyon.

Plan your trips using the following websites:

San Diego Map

Frommers Map


Remember to tip!

In the United States, tip is not always included. You do not usually tip in fast food places, grocery stores, or for sales assistants.

  • Taxi drivers: tip 15%
  • Hair dressers: tip 15-20%
  • Restaurant servers: tip 15% of the check, before tax (make sure they haven’t already added a “service charge” or “gratuity” on their own, usually for a party of five or more people)
  • Bar keeps: tip 10%
  • Valet parking attendants: $2 or more, depending how far the car was parked
  • Bell hops (hotel luggage handlers): $2 or more, depending on size/quantity of bags
  • Sky caps (baggage handlers outside airport terminals): tip them rather more than bell hops

Sales tax

California has a base sales tax of 7.50%, and can total up to 9.00%. Sales tax applies to everything except services and certain food items. Exempted from sales tax: Unprepared food, bakery items, hot beverages, livestock, crops and seeds, fertilizer used to grow food, certain devices related to alternative energy, and one-time sales.

Emergency and non-emergency phone lines

Dial “911” for emergencies, “311” for non-emergencies. See the California N11 Guide for details.


Like the rest of America, California uses U.S. units: all road distances are measured in miles; speeds in miles per hour (MPH); and gas (petrol) is sold and consumed by the US gallon.