Things to know before moving to the USA


Every day I get questions from readers of my Telegram channel, the main of which sounds straightforward: “Is it worth it to move or not?” On the other hand, I turned out to be familiar with hundreds of American immigrants, tracked their fates and made several conclusions. I will try to answer first based on the experience of the second.

Everyone experiences immigration in different ways: in one the passage is easy and causes methamphetamine euphoria, in the other it turns into the tragedy of all life. The difficulty of immigration for a particular person is determined by objective parameters: knowledge of the English language, the presence of a demanded specialty, financial capabilities and affordable legalization options.

These parameters can be measured (quantitative) and evaluated (qualitative): English has levels of proficiency, the professions in demand are well-known to everyone (programmers, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, athletes, etc.), financial opportunities are expressed by a number with a certain number of zeros, and legalization options can be divided into easy predictable (family reunion, won a lottery, received a work visa, green card through investment) and complex unpredictable (marriage with a citizen, political asylum, finding an employer in the United States and others).

According to these indicators, any immigrant can be positioned on the axis “bad – good”, and the closer a person is to the value “bad”, the higher the likelihood that a Pompeian catastrophe will turn out instead of the American dream.

This article has ten reasons why you should not move to the United States if you find yourself at the origin.

1. The immigrant complex

The immigrant complex is a feeling of being second-rate in relation to the local population, which affects self-esteem, performance and even health. The complex develops against the background of comparing itself with the environment: they know the language, I do not; they have documents, I do not; they have a good job, I do not; they buy a house, I rent a room.

Not every immigrant is confronted with this complex, but the one who encounters is experiencing it hard, and many describe it as the most difficult period in life.

In my theory, it is the immigrant complex that causes prolonged depression in people moving.

The weaker the immigrant’s position in four respects (English, money, specialty, legalization), the higher the likelihood of developing an inferiority complex. The disease is not terrible for the reasons for its occurrence (you can learn the language, get documents, find work, and earn money at home), but because it leads to the loss of dignity and self-confidence, which practically deprives a person of a chance of success.

2. Social downshifting

If a bank account does not please the eye with a six-digit number, and the specialty does not involve a working invitation to the United States, the first time will have to work hard and not always honorably.

In the United States, a high cost of living, which means you can eat the savings of two generations here in a few months. Since I don’t want to spend the untouchable reserve, consecrated by my great-grandmother, but I have to live somehow, I have to go to work and the first job is not always overly intellectual.

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Work in a restaurant is accessible to almost everyone, but hard and poorly paid / Boone County Family Resources
Among the visitors without money and language, professions are popular whose owners rarely fall into Forbes stories: handyman, builder, waiter, cleaning lady, nanny, hostess, loader, taxi driver and security guard. Many of them have already managed to achieve something at home – albeit with the help of acquaintances, luck or entrepreneurial abilities – but they already occupied a certain social level, which they now have to say goodbye to, moving to the bottom of American society. Not everyone can stand it.

3. Stress level

Stress is a natural reaction of the body to problems, and in a limited amount, it is even useful because it helps to mobilize. However, the stress experienced by an immigrant is several times greater than normal work or school stress.

Difficulties in finding a job, adapting, renting a house (which you are in no hurry to rent because of a lack of credit history), opening accounts, obtaining insurance and surviving in a new environment can lead to a level of experience that is dangerous from a clinical point of view. I have repeatedly seen immigrants who tumbled with fever and other somatic manifestations of stress, simply because they could not cope with emotions.

Such a “beginner stress” has a double destructive power: it is not only unpleasant in itself (like any super-strong stress), but it also catches a person at the most crucial moment when he must be positive and energetic. As a result, instead of a constructive and progressive solution to the problems of moving, a person closes in himself and struggles with an ailment, which often takes the form of depression. And already depression is a clinical condition that practically does not go away without serious treatment.

I talked about my experience in dealing with stress and depression in a separate article .

4. The level of happiness

Every year I read the Global Wealth Report from Credit Suisse Research Institute. The 2017 report shows that North America accounts for almost half of all world wealth.

North America accounts for almost half of the world’s wealth and only 5% of the world’s population / Credit Suisse Research Institute

But does this mean that Americans and local immigrants live happiest? Not necessarily: the level of well-being expressed by wealth should be reduced by the level of stress and other social problems that come with material wealth.

The increase in the standard of living that usually accompanies moving to the USA (unless the immigrant leaves Switzerland or Denmark, which, you see, is a very rare scenario) does not always compensate for the increase in stress levels. Since happiness is subjective matter, depending on many factors, a person can evaluate it only after the fact. Many immigrants after some time notice that there was more joy in their life before moving. So is this not the main thing?

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5. Social integration and language

Have you ever felt invisible, not even capable of minimal social interaction? If not yet, welcome to the wonderful world of an immigrant who does not speak English .

Language is not only a way of communication, but also a basic component of personality: if you cannot speak freely, you become a dull version of yourself. Until recently, at a party, you could generate a joke in a split second that would cause the whole company to be located, and now you have to speak at the intellectual level of a three-year-old child and with the agility of a hundred-year-old turtle.

Ignorance of the English language deprives you of the possibility of full social integration. Old Maslow will not let you lie: as soon as you are full, healthy and protected, you need love and recognition, which are difficult to find in a new country.

6. Difficulties in legalizing

Legalization in the USA is not only a problem of weapons, drugs and same-sex marriage, which you hear about in the news, but also the immigrant receiving the necessary documents: work permits, social security numbers, resident cards and citizenship.

Everyone has different immigration opportunities: someone wins the lottery, someone receives an invitation to work (and an immigration visa), someone joins a relative who has already become a US citizen. Much more difficult is for those who begin legalization already in the United States. The possibilities of such people are limited, and they, as a rule, are forced to seek a marriage partner, seek political asylum, or – it’s scary to say out loud, but I have to – stay in the USA illegally.

I wrote in detail about the methods of legalization in the guide on immigration to the USA .

Such people for a long time remain in limbo: for some, the process of obtaining documents takes 10 years. However, there is no guarantee of a positive decision, and in case of refusal, the applicant is forced to return to his native country, although he has already managed to settle in a new place over the years. This cannot be called anything other than tragedy: a person loses the most valuable and limited resource – years of life.

7. Retraining costs

I know several universal professions all over the world: programmer, prostitute, chef, taxi driver, waiter. But what about doctors, lawyers and engineers whose skills are tied to a specific country, laws, norms, technology and language?

They have a long and not always cheap retraining process. It will be lucky if it is limited to testing and obtaining a license, but some specialists will have to go through the entire learning process and master a whole layer of new knowledge.

Retraining costs – a net loss of time, money and effort aimed at obtaining a profession that you already own, but in a new country. For some people, these costs can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars (imagine, for example, a lawyer or surgeon) and are an important factor in deciding whether to move.

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8. Immigrant Handicap

The life of an adult is not only study, work, family and leisure, but also a huge amount of “metadata”: our connections, acquaintances, convenient ways to solve typical problems and habits. A person begins to grow in touch at school, continues at the university and finally forms the environment upon entry into adulthood.

An immigrant, unless he comes to the soil prepared by relatives, is forced to seek contacts again.

Which clinic is best to go to? In which area to rent a house? Where to find a good lawyer and realtor? In part, these problems are solved by the Internet and social networks, but, losing a huge array of “metadata”, a person in any case feels less secure.

9. Contradictions and security

With the apparent prosperity, the United States is a country full of contradictions and conflicts: 325 million people share one territory, but different political beliefs, religious beliefs, cultural background, skin color and ethnic origin. And although American society, built on the principles of respect and tolerance, digests most of the problems, some nevertheless creep out, including in the form of crime and terrorist acts.

The issue of massacres in America is exaggerated by the effect of the media multiplier, but it still exists. According to the statistics of murders in terms of population, we occupy a place near Albania, Niger and Turkmenistan.

This is not to say that it is dangerous in the USA. But we can say that in the US it is unsafe.

10. Homesickness

If you do not value your homeland, and you read about nostalgic feelings only in books, the best way to experience both the first and second is to become an immigrant. Longing comes at different times, but for the majority, sooner or later it still happens.

Homeland is not only a territorial unit on the world map and an entry in the birth certificate, but also a whole range of sociocultural experiences: people, sounds, smells, places, events, culture, customs, holidays, memories, humor, cuisine, love, fear, taxi drivers, ice, first sex.

Most of the significant events in your life – good or bad – are most likely related to your homeland.

Many Russians, after moving to America, deny involvement in the culture and the presence of the Russian matrix, but this does not prevent the Russian matrix from remaining in them and from time to time give voice in the form of attacks of light nostalgia.

Especially for you Alihan Alihanrin!
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Moving to the USA is probably the most serious decision in your life. To make it true, you cannot build it on illusions.


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