13 pluses of living in the USA according to a Russian-speaking immigrant
Many Russian-speaking immigrants, moving to the United States, see differences in mentality and lifestyle. There are some nuances that we don't like, but there are a lot of such that we like in our new country. On the pros of living in the USA Journal.Tinkoff said Nadezhda Dvoinikova.
Next - from the first person.
My husband and I moved to California because we won the green card. This is just our personal experience and subjective assessment. It is possible that after 5-10 years of residence, we will change our mind.
Easy to become your own
USA is a country of immigrants. People of hundreds of nationalities live here, and the locals generally relate to foreigners easily and without snobbery. It is felt immediately upon arrival.
If a foreigner has a green card, he can apply for citizenship. My husband and I won it in the lottery that the US government holds every October. You can participate in the lottery for free. Six months later, in May, the results of the winnings are published, and after that the process of preparing and submitting documents to the consulate begins.
As far as I know, no other country competes for a residence permit. In Europe, to obtain a residence permit, you need to purchase real estate for a certain amount, more often from 250 thousand euros, or be a highly qualified specialist.
If you come as a refugee or illegally, the process of obtaining citizenship will be delayed. We'll have to find a lawyer to handle the case and pay him. We were told that the average cost of his services is $ 7000. But there is no guarantee that the lawyer will win the case. If the judge decides not to issue a residence permit, people will be deported to their homeland.
In the United States, we met guys from Donetsk: they moved to Sacramento in 2015 as refugees, but they still have not been issued a residence permit. But in 2017 they received a work permit. With a green card, the guys would already become citizens of the country.
Thanks to immigrants, there is an opportunity to get to know the whole world without unnecessary problems with passports, visas and expensive flights. Virtually every state has ethnic communities, so an immigrant from any country is likely to meet fellow countrymen. Approximately in 2020, approximately 3 million Russian-speaking immigrants live in the United States. The data is inaccurate, because many cross the border with Mexico or arrive on a tour and remain illegally.
If you can't imagine life without Russian, you can join the immigrant groups on Facebook in advance and meet new people. This is how I found a hairdresser and manicurist, learned about festivals, exhibitions, discounts and received other useful information.
Free to learn a language
When we moved, my husband and I rated our knowledge above the average, closer to the Advanced level. In practice, it turned out that native speakers are not always easy to understand the first time. It's one thing to communicate with foreigners in Europe, where English is the same second language for interlocutors, and it's quite another to chat with native speakers, because everyone has their own accent or dialect.
Many states have free ESL - English as a second language schools. Here you can learn English from scratch. I entered such a school in the capital of California, Sacramento, to improve my language proficiency.
To enroll, you need to pass a test for knowledge of English. It is held once a week for everyone. Our testing lasted for almost 3 hours. Each applicant sat at a separate laptop and answered questions. The test checked knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, understanding of local values. Then we were asked to write an essay and talk to one of the teachers. After that, we were immediately given the test results and sent to the right group.
There are 7 levels in my school: the first is for beginners, the last is for advanced students. The worse you pass the admission test, the lower the level from which the training will begin. To move on to the next one, you need to pass an exam. Someone quickly grasps knowledge and passes one level in a couple of weeks.
After the end of the seventh level, students are waiting for the High School: there you can learn a profession and get a license to work. The specialties are simple: truck driver, educator, manicurist, hairdresser, but they will be trained for free. The only negative is that you have to study from 6 months to 1,5 years.
I got to the seventh level and studied on weekdays from 8:30 to 12:00 with an American teacher. Our teacher devoted himself completely to the lessons, looking for interesting and relevant topics. There were about 50 students according to the lists, but 25-30 people attended classes. We talked a lot, learned vocabulary, recalled grammar.
There were no grades, no one was forced in the class: if you want - answer, if you don't want - sit and be silent. To practice the material, we worked in the Quizlet and Classroom mobile applications. I liked the training, but there were guys who understood everything, but spoke English badly, and this slowed down the work in the group.
My husband immediately went to High School, but dropped out after 3 days: very boring and no motivation. If I tightened my language, vocabulary and communicated with people, then my husband's study was like self-education. Together with him, 10 students 40-45 years old studied in the class - those who at one time did not have time to get secondary education.
In the morning, the teacher gave an assignment for the day: for example, read a chapter in a history textbook and take a test on the material covered. On the first day, the husband completed the tasks two days in advance, which greatly surprised the teacher. She suggested that he just wait until the end of the school day, looking at his phone or computer.
Everything at school was free, even pencils and notebooks. Such institutions receive funding from the state and various funds, it is beneficial for them to keep students.
High wages and living standards
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage in the US in 2020 is $ 957 per week.
Earnings depend on the specialty. The highest salaries for doctors and executive directors of large companies - from $ 10 per month, oil and gas workers - from $ 000, pilots and military - from $ 9000, engineers, IT specialists, lawyers - from $ 7500.
The lowest paid professions are nanny, farmer, cleaner, fisherman, salesman, gardener. People in these specialties earn less than $ 3000 per month.
In the USA, real estate, medicine and life in general are expensive. You can compare prices as much as you like, but this does not change the main thing - there is a lot of money in the USA, and you can earn it. Let me explain with examples.
Our friend from Petrozavodsk worked in the support service of one company: he received 40 rubles, and spent 000 rubles on renting an apartment. Six months ago, he moved to the United States on a green card and got a job as a handyman at a construction site. Now he receives $ 17, of which only $ 000 goes to rent.
This works in other areas as well: a programmer, a taxi driver, a pizza delivery man, an engineer, a yoga instructor will become richer - anyone who can learn English and return to their previous level in the profession or find something new for themselves. If you work, there will be money.
In Russia, we made good money: my husband did his job, and I worked in tourism. However, we did not have huge savings: almost all of our salaries were spent on food, clothing, repairs and vacations.
A couple of months after the move, my husband got a job as a courier at Amazon, and I - in a travel agency. My salary consisted of a $ 2500 bet and a percentage of the tour sales. The husband earned $ 2500- $ 3000.
We spent $ 250- $ 300 a month on groceries: we bought greens, berries, fruits, nuts, meat, cheeses and Ben & Jerry's favorite ice cream. Sometimes they went to the farms for vegetables - it was cheaper and tastier that way. We spent $ 3000 a month on food, rent, two cars, insurance, sports and weekly outings outside Sacramento. From the first working months, we managed to save $ 2000.
State aid to
The social security system consists of various programs that are approved at the regional and federal levels, as in Russia. Only the amounts of aid differ.
Benefits to the unemployed. Americans and residence permit holders are eligible for unemployment benefits. Benefits vary from state to state, but average 20-30% of average monthly earnings. For example, with a salary of $ 4000, the benefit would be approximately $ 1200. To find a job, you need to call social services or come to the office.
During the pandemic, all taxpayers (working and unemployed) were given $ 1200 each, and the amount of aid for children and unemployment benefits was increased.
In the United States, benefits are paid to the poor, for minor children, for disability and loss of working capacity. For example, in California, you can get paid if the annual income is less than $ 47 for a single person, or less than $ 000 for a family of 97. Depending on the situation, they can provide money for food, help with rent, get free kindergarten and free Medi-Cal. Each state has its own nuances, you can find out about them in the social service.
Some people manage to live on benefits and hardly work. In the States, I met a girl from Russia who had been living in the United States on benefits for almost 4 years. She and her husband have three children, but they practically did not work, only occasionally earning money for their own pleasure. Nevertheless, the guys had a two-level apartment and a minivan. The state also paid for the kindergarten for their children. None of the spouses ever learned English: the United States has a large Slavic community. You can find a Russian-speaking employee anywhere: at gas stations, in banks and shops.
All citizens over 66 receive the pension. The state pension fund pays it to both Americans and immigrants. The amount of the pension depends on the length of service, age, salary and state. To receive payments from the state from the social fund, you must have at least 10 years of work experience in the United States. If it is not enough, pension payments will not be assigned, but it will be possible to receive social benefits.
In the states, the retirement age is determined by the year of birth: for those born before 1960 - 66 years, for those born in 1960 and later - 67 years. The average pension is about $ 1000. The later you start working officially, the lower the payment will be.
Those who have worked for at least 35 years receive a full pension. You can go on vacation earlier, at 62, but then payments will be less by 20-25%. For retirees, there is a Medicare program - it's something like a compulsory medical insurance: you can get medical consultations and outpatient treatment for free.
The United States cannot boast of high pensions, but if you work hard, you can easily save money for a comfortable old age. In the travel agency where I worked, the main clients were retirees. They could afford to go on vacation 1-2 times a year and spent on a 10-day trip from $ 10 for two.
The state supports pensioners not only with money. An elderly man who had problems with the musculoskeletal system lived next door to us: he moved in an electric chair. Every morning a social service bus came to pick him up and the workers picked him up for the day. Together with the group, they walked and went on excursions. All this the man received free of charge, at the expense of the state.
Free food. Churches and charities often distribute food to unemployed young people, families with children, and retirees. To confirm the status, they will ask for an identity document and a rental agreement with a paid utility bill. Once we went to one of these centers with fellow guys. We were given vegetables, pork, beef, eggs, dairy products, nuts. You can find places in Russian-speaking groups on Facebook: usually they are called free, or bank food.
High level of medicine
The average life expectancy in the United States in 2019 is 78,9 years. This is seven years more than the time allotted for the Russians: 71,7 years.
In the USA, medicine is expensive - major surgery can cost you a year's income. But when life is at stake, the main thing is the quality of medical care. As a rule, the USA has qualified personnel, modern technologies and equipment.
Most medical needs are covered by standard insurance, which costs several hundred dollars a month. Low-income people get cheap or even free Medi-Cal from the government. You can check if you are eligible for the program at the social service or on the websites of insurance companies, for example, the Kaiser family foundation.
I can't imagine the American medical staff being rude on examination. The doctor asks permission when you need to touch any part of the body. The diagnosis is explained in great detail, and if something is not clear, they will draw and show on the fingers. The patient will never be driven naked through the corridors and offices. Unlike our hospitals, in the USA they always provide disposable gowns, even for ultrasound examinations.
Once a child of my friends fell ill. They recently moved from Russia and asked me to go with them to the Emergency room as an interpreter. With the child we were accepted out of turn.
The pediatric ward had several TVs for kids to watch cartoons, comfortable flooring, and tons of toys. The nurse invited us to the ward and invited the child to change into a children's disposable gown.
After a while, the doctor came up and proceeded to the examination. She constantly smiled, praised and encouraged the child, despite the fact that he did not understand English and was constantly turning around.
A couple of weeks later, with the same composition, we went to the children's dentistry. There, the doctor also spoke out her actions, smiled, and at the end of the appointment gave the child a toy, paste and a brush.
These hikes weren't worth a dime; in California, kids under 18 can count on free travel insurance. Most states have child insurance programs funded by charities and the government. In addition to a pediatrician, children's insurance includes speech therapist, ophthalmologist and dentist services.
Comfortable life and lots of greenery
In the United States, the urban environment is thought out to the smallest detail: there you can always find where to relax and what to do. The cities have green parks with benches, shady canopies and drinking fountains, free skate parks and tennis courts. There are many playgrounds for children, where adults are not averse to fooling around. The streets are also full of toilets: always clean and free.
We settled in an ordinary residential area. There is everything you need for life nearby: construction and grocery stores, outlets, pharmacies, cafes, parks and even a transcontinental highway. There are no messy car parks on the streets that obstruct pedestrians.
Every neighborhood has dog parks: large fenced areas where you can almost always find cleaning bags and a spring of water. I do not remember that there were stray animals on the street, except perhaps squirrels. They love to sneak under the hoods of cars and chew on wires.
On the streets there are wide and level sidewalks, clear signs and signs hang. Everywhere there are necessary elements of improvement for people with limited mobility: slopes, elevators.
Openness of society and freedom of religion
There are fewer secure facilities in the US than in Russia. Here you can freely enter public organizations, educational institutions and libraries. Many businesses offer guided tours and open days. For example, you can take a tour of the Boeing factory, the offices of IT giants, free tours of Harvard, or even the Pentagon.
One day my husband and I walked to the California Capitol, the state's deliberative body. It turned out that the entrance is free. At the height of the working day, we got to a council meeting, where we discussed budget allocation to private language schools for immigrants. We sat on the balcony, like in a theater, and watched what was happening, and then wandered around the building for our pleasure.
Freedom of religion. In the United States, 250 different religious trends, including the most strange ones, are practiced. For example, Las Vegas has a bacon church. Bacon is an image designed to draw attention to discrimination against atheists. People raise money for charity, ridicule all beliefs, including their own, and, unlike other religious organizations, pay taxes.
Healthy social climate
I worked as a travel agent and communicated with different people. I like that Americans believe in themselves: they don't complain, they fight diseases and move on. They are also very determined. Here people go to universities before the age of 70 - and this is absolutely normal.
I often hear about the fake smiles of Americans. Maybe they are not always sincere, but in general the people are very friendly. When we issued a bank card, the manager noticed that it was my birthday in a week. It seemed to me that we are old and close friends, because his wishes were warm.
In the States, people notice a person's strengths, inspire development, and rarely give negative characteristics. When at first I did not understand how to work correctly in a computer program, my colleagues supported me with the whole office. In their place, I would have freaked out long ago.
Back in the United States, I was pleased with the attitude of Americans towards children. In Russia, I have often met the sidelong glances of sellers if a child touched something in a store. In the US, no one will reprimand someone else's child.
An atmosphere of friendliness and hospitality reigned wherever I was. People hold doors, smile at each other, and don't hesitate to compliment strangers. One hot day I was walking in a pink wicker hat and received an incredible amount of compliments in an hour: people came up to me and asked where I got one.
Once in a language school we brought up the topic of racism, and a friend of mine from Honduras said that I would never have the same problems as his, because my skin is light in color. Perhaps, if I were black, the cops would really pay attention or stop me more often: in the USA there is even a special term "trust in whites."
In the States, things are allowed that are prohibited by Russian law. For example, marijuana is legalized in California. In many states, sex minorities feel comfortable. Let's say there is a separate gay neighborhood in San Francisco. There are processions, parties and parties in support of LGBT people.
Each state decides for itself what rights to grant to sex minorities. Some people disapprove of gay culture, such as North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. In 13 states, same-sex marriage has been banned by constitutions, and in two other states - Missouri and Kansas - they are not concluded everywhere. Here, the priest can refuse a wedding, and the pastry chefs can refuse to bake a wedding cake.
In the USA, you can find any cuisine in the world: Japanese, French, Ukrainian, Italian. There is everything here, the main thing is to know the places. National dishes are prepared by chefs from these countries.
I love fish, seafood and Asian food. During lunchtime, I sometimes went to a cafe near the office, where for $ 7 they gave a bowl with rice, trout and vegetables. And on my birthday, we went to a Japanese restaurant and left $ 110 for two. It was delicious - every cent was worth it.
In the United States, tap water is available for free at any establishment. It is drinkable, clean and odorless. In restaurants, each visitor is immediately brought a glass of water and poured it throughout the meal. Sometimes cucumber, grapefruit, lemon and ice are added.
Convenient to travel within the country
The US has an ideal infrastructure: roads, planes, hotels, Uber and Lyft taxis everywhere. In terms of the variety of natural attractions, only Russia can compare with the United States, but our infrastructure is not so well developed.
Beautiful places. There are megacities and provinces, deserts, waterfalls, sequoias, geysers, mountains, volcanoes, beaches, ski resorts. The United States offers so much tourist and recreational value that a large number of locals never dared to get a passport and see other countries in their entire lives.
If you want the beach and the sun - come to Miami or Hawaii, go to Colorado, California, Oregon just around the corner. If you love forests, go to the national parks of California, Oregon, Washington. Those who are interested in big cities are welcome in New York, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles. If you need to retire, then there are incredibly beautiful Alaska and Wyoming.
There are airports everywhere. Domestic flights can be reached anywhere in a few hours. Each state has large airports, and there are small ones in almost every city. For example, the same number of people live in Sacramento as in Lipetsk: 508,5 thousand people. At the same time, the Californian capital has as many as four airports: the international Sacramento International Airport, two small ones for domestic flights - Sacramento Executive Airport and Sacramento Mather Airport - and one private public airport Sacramento McClellan Airport.
There are many airlines operating in the USA, including budget ones. If you catch a promotion or arrange tickets in advance, you can fly across the country from west to east for $ 54 one way. For this money, Sprit air carrier sells tickets for September 2020 on the New York - San Francisco route. Between them 4500 km and 6 hours of travel - almost like from Moscow to the UAE.
Convenient tracks. Traveling around the states by car is easy, fast and safe. In my opinion, American signs and road markings with a minimum level of knowledge of English are clearer than Russian ones.
The States are also famous for their incredible interchanges. For example, the denouement of Judge Harry Predgerson's name is one of the largest in the United States and the world. It contains five elevation levels for highways. Almost everyone who travels from the airport to Los Angeles sees it.
A separate carpool lane helps to save time and gasoline. It is intended for the passage of cars with 2 or more people in the cabin. Electric cars, drones and bikers can also move around Karpul. In California, the fine for one carpool ride is from $ 240 to $ 500.
Despite their busy schedule, Americans value a healthy lifestyle. Many people go in for race walking, yoga and pilates in parks. The mythical stories that Americans are fat have long been in the past. There are overweight people, but many adhere to a healthy lifestyle. I left for work at 7:40 in the morning, and a couple ran by every day: a muscular guy in shorts and a girl in a tracksuit.
Fitness classes are inexpensive: I bought an unlimited membership to Planet Fitness for $ 10 a month. Group classes and trainings with an instructor are free, but in my opinion it is a waste of time. The coach does not look at the client, but only sits on the phone and tells what to do.
Products for every taste
American stores have absolutely everything: a warm blanket in the shape of a mermaid tail, popcorn topping - melted butter, ice cream salt, separately packaged potatoes.
There are a huge number of outlets and discount stores: TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Burlington, Ross, Nordstrom Rack. They sell cosmetics, oversized appliances, furniture, decor items, branded clothing for people and animals at a minimal price. On the sites OfferUp, Craigslist, MarketPlace on Facebook, you can find used and new things with huge discounts or even for free. This is something like ours.
On Black Friday, people go crazy: they literally buy everything. Crowds line up in front of store entrances hours before opening. At the Walmart hypermarket, our friends took a Hisense 55-inch TV at a discount for $ 160 instead of $ 270. I've never heard of such a brand, but the guys are happy with the purchase. In November 2019 on Cyber Monday, we took the cordless Dyson vacuum cleaner for $ 260 instead of $ 350.
In 2018, Amazon opened the world's first store in Seattle without sellers, checkouts and lines - Amazon-Go. Payment is automatic thanks to motion sensors, cameras and smart scales. The buyer navigates the store using a mobile application and scans all the goods from the basket, and before leaving, he allows the employee to scan a special code from his smartphone - this is how the payment takes place. This eliminates the need for checkout and waiting in lines. In 2020, 26 of these stores opened in New York, Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco.
It is almost impossible to steal goods: there are hundreds of cameras on the ceiling of the store, they cover the entire space of the trading floor. There are weight sensors on each display case. When a product is lifted, a system that knows the weight of each item determines exactly where it stood. Also, using sensors, the system will understand that the goods have been returned to the shelf.
When returning goods, Americans do not ask for documents. It is enough to bring a check: paper or electronic. The seller will accept the goods without any questions or expertise. Most often, a month is given for a refund.
I once took a packaged body cream to TJ Maxx as I found a better fit. They also accepted the decorator's technique and objects without question - a mirror and candles. Once we took the wrong vitamins from CVS Pharmacy by mistake - we took them unopened on the same day, they sent us a refund.
Sea of entertainment
We tried not to sit in the city and every week we went to parks, neighboring cities, to festivals, to the ocean. We didn’t have time to see all of California in a year.
The Great Reno Balloon Race is one of the largest annual balloon festivals in the world. The entrance is free. In 2019, the festival was held in early September in Reno, Nevada.
The event lasts three days from 3:30 am to 9:00 am. The most beautiful thing - the launch of the balloons - starts at 5:00. We planned to get there by this time, but we were two hours late: we got stuck in a traffic jam at the entrance to the parking lot. Experienced spectators arrived at 3:30, took out their sleeping bags and enjoyed the scenery.
We did not see the launch of the balloons, but I appreciated the organization of the festival. Everywhere there were tents with food and drinks at humane prices (cocoa for $ 1-2), clean dry closets, souvenir shops, contests every 30 minutes, a play area for children.
In the summer, there were often food truck festivals - food trucks. This is something like our agricultural markets, but farmers also sell ready-made dishes: tacos, burritos, sweet desserts made from ice cream, cream, berries and chocolate, Asian cuisine, pizzas, hot dogs. Admission is free, you need to pay only for food: hot dogs cost $ 2— $ 5, burgers - $ 5— $ 10, desserts - $ 5— $ 15, Mexican snacks - from $ 1.
During such festivals, the main streets of the city are blocked and mass celebrations are organized. Sometimes dance and music groups perform, they hold master classes on cooking, and an area with face painting is often set up for children.
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