Early 2000 we immigrated in the USA through Green Card Lottery and lived there for 11 years. I would like to share some of the experiences and insights and hopefully help some others who are about to make such move or think to do it.
Our choice was California, because my wife had relatives in San Diego. I would recommend California to all prospective immigrants for:
- its moderate climate
- lots of opportunities to work
- the state is the largest fruit and vegetables supplier, which means that food prices are lower than any other place
- the great number of educational centers and occupational programs, at low cost or free tuition, funded by the state and the counties.
The last one is crucial for many immigrants, coming from poor countries and have no money for obtaining new profession or to advance their education. Later, when we moved to Florida I had the chance to compare some courses, and they were lengthier and more expensive than the same in California. I also took advantage of those opportunities and acquired a new profession, Certified Nursing Assistant, from one of the community colleges in San Diego.
Example for one such program is San Diego County Regional Occupational Program
All information about occupational and educational possibilities could be found at the public libraries, where there is also free Internet access.
The first recommendation: have enough funds to pay for your living for the first months. To find place to live might be very difficult at the beginning. We could not find such place for over a week, despite the efforts of our relatives. Why? All landlords wanted background check, or credit check ( your credit history ), which we simply did not have because we were new for the system. And that was also the first difference we encountered – we were coming from a culture where a short conversation and a handshake with the landlord do all.
And go to Social Security Administration Office and apply for for your Social Security Cards as soon as possible. You need photo ID ( your green card will arrive soon at the address given at the Immigration upon your arrival ) and SS Card when you apply for job and for other identification purposes.
Finding a job might also be a challenge. You will not have work history in the USA and most of the employers might simply disregard your job application. So, be humble and apply for jobs few only want to do – caregiver would be good choice.
After the initial period, to settle down your place to live and find your first job, things will go smoother.
Living in the USA
First of all I would like to clearly state:
I am glad that I had the chance to live and work in the USA and to meet all modest and humble native Americans, who taught me in one way or another and showed me how to work. I got something from every single person I met here. Some of the essential lessons in my life would not be possible to learn at the pace I did here.
I am aware what image has been created by movies, documentaries, magazines, Internet etc. in other people’s minds about USA and that most people immigrating here have expectations for a bright and carefree life amidst luxuries and lots of money. Living in the USA, however, has its price and it might be very high. Below are some of my own insights and realizations, based on 50+ years active life and experiences through other cultures.
Americans proudly name their country “Land of Freedom”, but one of the first things my family and I experienced, was limited freedom. And it is logical. With all the numerous laws, rules and regulations, it is impossible to be free. It is valid even more for minors. They are so restricted in what they do or where they go, that our older daughter even refused to live here in the beginning. And later, the younger one also got fed up and joined her sister in Bulgaria for one full year until they were ready to come back and start working.
Just to give you an idea what I am talking about: I am grown up in Bulgaria during hard communistic time. In my childhood I use to do just anything and go any place throughout the country without “guardians”. And I literally mean “any place” – fields, forests, mountains, seaside etc.
Communication with other people
Another thing we faced pretty soon was: blinds on the windows and locked doors all over. You can live for months in one and the same apartment building without knowing your neighbor. People are scared to go out at dark or to leave even their windows open night time when they sleep. For a reason: too much violence in the streets – something that everybody admits.
I know that there are people who are coming here from places at war and for them it is a big relief to start new life here. But many are coming from cultures where people live true values of life and are but one big family – entire neighborhood is open and everybody is welcome everywhere. Fences are but symbolic.
Several years ago I talked to a Philippina, who could have lived in USA if she wanted, but she told me that it is too much to sacrifice for money. And I fully understood.
To punish others for the mistakes they made is within the entire American culture. This is the reason that USA have the highest incarceration rate ( prisoners ) in the world. It is widely practiced by individuals, companies, institutions and even by US government abroad. And it is part of your daily life – where ever you go there is always paper or sign that if you do something wrong you will be prosecuted.
The above three points are, in my opinion, something anybody should consider before taking important decisions for life. There is something positive to learn from any culture on this planet and apply in your life and if you have already set your life priorities for God’s Love, you are safe everywhere.
God bless you