Two Countries

There is tremendous pleasure derived from living in Japan and in the USA, but this does come at a bureaucratic price. I have been in California for over a week and the mainstay of my activities is ensuring that all my documentation is in order.

I go to the Social Security office to see if the money I paid in when I worked at Stanford plus the 16 years I have been paying US tax gives me any kind of pension or Medicare.

The answer is no, by the way. The experience however is salutary. I am there half an hour before it opens amid a crowd of people with needs greater than mine.


There but for fortune.

I have to file my US taxes and I track down a wonderful Russian lady, Elena, who says she is happy to do it for me. She is lots of fun and seems in no way daunted by the complexities of US tax on a Japanese salary. I have to fill in lots of forms.

I have to have my car smogged. California has very strict emission controls and before you change car ownership or anything like that the car has to pass a smog test. The Tacoma fails! Not because of dirty emission syndrome but because the removal of the battery last weekend zeroes out some internal record lost deep in the electronic wilderness of the car. I have to drive it for a couple of hundred miles to reset this thing. I do not understand.


I also get the brakes checked.

San Francisco has excellent public transport and I have to get a bus pass know as Clipper. More forms.

Another smog test – she passes. I am now armed to go to the DMV to have the title changed to my name. It was under Ben’s name for a reason I cannot remember.

Visiting the DMV is not fun, especially the Fell street office, which although very close to the house, is the busiest in San Francisco.


I fortify myself with natural beauty.  This is just outside the DMV and the statue is of  President McKinley, whose parents were born in Kintyre.

I wait in line outside for 2 hours



Luckily it is a beautiful day.


I wait inside for another hour.

When I finally get to speak to the man, he tells me that I have filled in the wrong forms. I should have filled in Family Transfer forms. For a moment I think he is going to tell me to go back and start again, but no, he grins and helps me through the whole procedure. Thank you DMV man.

I have also had to do a lot of banking adjustments.

As I say being legal, running apartments and cars in two countries comes at a price.

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5 Responses to Two Countries

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    Not my business bruv but this “no pension” situation doesn’t right. After only 8 months in 1974/5 and 2 years in 1985/7 working in the US under a special visa (no green card, no US nationality) I have qualified for a (modest) US pension and so does my wife who didn’t even have the right to work in the US. My application was carried out via a website then the US embassy in Ireland (for those of us in Europe). Did the Stanford situation exclude you ? Not fair !

  2. Alan says:

    America does seem a strange country at times and not just because of the Orange One!
    Was all that queuing up your choice or is it required? In San Francisco of all places one would expect things to be done online.
    In the UK transferring ownership of a car is a simple matter of detaching a section of the V5C Registration document and handing that to the new owner then sending the V5C off to Swansea with the new owner’s details filled in.
    Hope you do get something for your work and taxes!

    • Hi Alan,
      Well, everything can be done on line and had I any sense I would have done so. The fact the DMV is only 500 meters away sort of lured me in. When I think about it I would have filled in the wrong forms online ie not Family Transfer forms, so it all ended up for the best I suppose. For Social Security I had complex questions on Japanese pension exchange with US and so had no option but to talk to a “representative.” Just back from lunch with Melinda. Do you remember her? We went drinking together in Menlo Park. She now has my job at SLAC.

      • Alan says:

        I must admit that the lure of the ‘real’ is a strong one in these digital days! People are always more interesting than Alexa and her little chums.
        I certainly associate the name Melinda with my sojourn in Menlo Park. Wish I could put a face to her – I’m sure that she was delightful to the eye. I blame advancing years. Good on her for taking on your old job.

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