How is life in the USA: the view of an immigrant
Despite the fact that I have been living in the States for a long time, not a day goes by that I do not learn something new, interesting or unusual about this country, writes in my blog Between New York and Boston Aleksandra Ukrainko. ForumDaily publishes material with the permission of the author.
In this article, I collected a selection of things that immigrants from other countries notice in the US most often.
Americans have less rest
In America, there are much less holidays, and, accordingly, weekends per year. In addition to the saturday and sunday, the Americans have only 9 federal (these are those that are celebrated throughout America) public holidays of the year.
Of these, there are only 6 days when all Americans rest: this is January 1, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Another 3 of the day (Martin Luther King's Day, Veteran's Day and President's Day) in America are also considered festive, and Americans have the opportunity to relax. But many US businesses do not pay this day off to their employees, so some Americans still prefer to work these days.
There is another American federal holiday - Columbus Day, but it is not recognized by all states. In five states from 50 (these are the states: Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska, South Dakota and Vermont) this day is not considered a holiday, and accordingly they have no day off on that day. Well, in the remaining 45 states, the situation with Columbus Day is the same as with the last three holidays: not all companies are ready to give their employees a paid holiday. Therefore, on this day, some Americans are choosing to work, not wanting to arrange a free vacation.
For comparison, the Russians have 14 public holidays of the year approved by the state.
US holidays are very small
Anyway, the American "workers" are less protected by the state in matters of labor than the residents of post-Soviet countries. In almost all federal laws relating to the work of enterprises, it is the employer who is given the right to decide under what conditions employees will work in his firm. That is why there is no unified system of regulation of work and leisure in American enterprises, and everything can be different from company to company.
With vacations, the situation can be something like this: after an employee has worked for one year at a company, he can get 5 paid days leave (taking into account weekends, the whole 7 is obtained). Further, the vacation will increase in proportion to the employee’s experience in this enterprise. In addition to these 5 days, an employee can take another 3 of the day at his own expense and, if desired, extend his vacation. But usually no one does this, leaving these days for an emergency, for example, in cases of illness without going to a doctor. At first it’s hard to believe at all, especially if you remember that in Russia every worker can count on 28 calendar holiday days a year after a year of work in an enterprise.
As I have already said, every American company independently solves the issue of employee leave. Somewhere it may not be 5, but 7 days for the first year of work or even more, but usually employers are not eager to increase the number of vacation days, but are interested in having employees work more. On the other hand, vacation, as well as insurance, and wages become a kind of “bonus” option, and if you are a valuable employee, you can demand a longer (compared to other employees of the same company) vacation, or another level payment of their labor and more favorable conditions of insurance. All this will be recorded in your contract with the employer, and no local laws will interfere with this. Therefore, in America it is beneficial to be a valuable and indispensable employee.
Garage sales - American tradition
This is an interesting American way of getting rid of annoying things. All that is little used or just tired, and throw a pity, is stored in the garage or in the attic. Usually once a year, the hostess or the owner of the house picks up the cleaning in his garage and finds everything that has been going on there all year. Things that will not be used exactly, but can still serve others, are donated to charity or sold on the Garage sale (garage sale). To do this, in public places are placed ads with your address. At a specified time (usually it is arranged on a day off), all the “good” with price tags is displayed on the ground near the garage or on the lawn near the house.
People come, look and buy everything that they liked. At these garage sales, Americans are selling deposits of their own or children's wardrobe, furniture, dishes, toys and anything. Very often children themselves arrange such garage sales. Having collected their old things, toys and books, the children sell them for some minimal money, and use the proceeds at their discretion.
You can also meet “Yard Sale” - this is when a sale is arranged by several houses or a whole street. Neighbors negotiate and sell old stuff in one day. For buyers, this format is more attractive, because the probability of finding something interesting for yourself immediately increases.
Money for education is postponed from birth
American education (except for school) is not cheap. Every parent wants to see his child a graduate of the eminent institution of higher education. Unlike in our country, a good college degree is already 90% success in finding a decent job. According to the unwritten American rules, parents must pay for college tuition, and after that - a child with a diploma in his arms is sent for free bread.
But even the education of the child “in the absence of a college” can cost parents a pretty penny. Therefore, in families with average incomes, with the advent of the baby into the world, there is usually another separate savings account in the bank, where funds are deposited for the child’s future education, and the monthly family budget becomes even less for some amount.
Madness on the white-toothed smile
The smile on the face is the calling card of Americans. They always and everyone smile, showing their teeth. A smile has become part of American culture, like the hijab on Muslim women. Therefore, it was the white-toothed smile that became a popular position in all dental clinics.
All parents try to make white beautiful teeth to their children. Money for braces and crowns are beginning to be deposited almost as much as with money for a university. And if in our country the emphasis is on the health of teeth, then it seems that Americans are focused on external beauty and aesthetics.
Dental services in America are as expensive as medical care. But if the costs of the hospital can be covered by the insurance of the company you work for, then you will have to pay for the dentist yourself. Rare "labor" insurance covers dental services (you must be a very cool employee in a very good company). Therefore, our emigrants usually go home once a year to put their teeth in order. Even taking into account the insanely expensive prices for round-trip air tickets, it is more profitable to treat teeth in Russia than to do the same in the states.
Expensive and low-quality hairdressing services
To be honest, I didn’t pay attention to this aspect right away. Upon arrival in the States in the church service, I was fortunate enough to meet an American from ours. My American friend, Lena, came to America with her parents as a teenager and at the time of our acquaintance had her own small hairdressing business. Therefore, my husband and I immediately became her clients. By the way, our whole church parish also "perked up," so it didn’t even occur to me to look for something else or compare prices for similar services.
I wouldn’t say that the quality of her haircut was at once great (rather good), but since I am the owner of quite complex - thick and hard - hair, I didn’t expect any miracles from her. And after several times we got used to each other. After moving to a new place, we immediately understood: for America, our Lena was just a golden lottery ticket, and we more than once regretted that we had lost it.
Barber services in Boston were not only expensive (compared to what we paid at the last place), but also of disgusting quality. If Lena had his own small business and the workplace was equipped on the first floor of her own house, now he had to deal with salons, where the cost of services, among other things, included renting a room and the salary of a curved hairdresser. The quality of the haircut could be assessed on the top three with a big stretch. Even my husband, who is not so picky about this, was also very unhappy with the new services.
To give you a little guidance on prices, I’ll quote prices from several Cambridge salons:
- Women's haircut - $ 50- $ 70 (this will be exclusively a haircut not from the eminent master);
- For African Americans, a haircut is more expensive, but not because of the color of the skin, but because they have curly hair, for them a haircut will cost $ 90- $ 110;
- Wash your hair with shampoo - plus $ 10;
- Dry hair dryer and put - plus $ 45;
- Painting or highlighting - $ 140- $ 150;
- Ombre, balayazh - $ 175;
- Men's haircut $ 35- $ 50;
- Haircut under the machine - $ 17- $ 25 (minutes 5-7 work).
I repeat that only the haircut is included in the price of a haircut, and after that, if you do not want to wash your hair and blow-dry, your hair will be blown away. And do not forget about the tip - they will be expected from you in the amount of 10-15%.
Very expensive services to the service station
With very ridiculous prices for cars, especially for used ones, prices for service stations can shock you. Cheap here you can only change the oil ($ 30-35) or undergo regular inspection (in Massachusetts this once a year) - the car is connected to the computer, check the most basic functions: brake lights, turn signals, wipers work, brake serviceability ... All this lasts for 15-20 minutes, and $ 30 will be charged for this.
For everything else, be prepared to lay out impressive sums. Thus, the replacement of the starter on our middle-aged Volkswagen Passat (this is without a diagnosis - they addressed a specific problem) was valued at more than $ 400. After long trades, the price was reduced to $ 300.
At the same time, the price of the starter itself is about $ 50- $ 70, and it took 2 hours of work for a hired Mexican, who is paid no more than $ 20 / hour.
Everywhere need advice and guarantee
The states are very common institute recommendations. They begin to demand from the moment of submission of documents to college, and for an American this is not surprising. But our person’s recommendation or the presence of a guarantor may be a little scary. At first glance, this looks like our post-Soviet crony system, where contacts come to decent positions (relatives, friends, nephews of sisters, or the son of a colleague), but it turned out that everything in America is not the same as ours.
Selecting personnel for their business, the American employer selects only proven and reliable people. But reliable and proven people in the States are not needed at all in our country (not in order to cover up some frauds and schemes), but in order for this employee to be an expert in his business, and with his quality work favor of a particular company or business. But how to check that a person is really suitable for a particular position, and that everything he writes about himself in a resume is true?
That is why recommendations and guarantors are needed. A guarantor can be anyone who is trusted where you want to work. For example, you are aiming for a bank job. The guarantor for you can be an employee of this bank, who has worked there for a long time and has proven himself well, or someone whom the bank manager trusts, to whom he listens. If such a person can vouch for you and write you a recommendation, it will greatly help with employment.
A good sponsor is as important as a diploma from a decent educational institution.
But do not think that Americans are distributing their recommendations to everyone. To vouch for anyone here is not accepted. If a person decides to act as a guarantor for you and give a recommendation, then only if he is completely sure that you are the one who is needed for a particular job. In fact, he seems to give his word that you are suitable for this position, cope with it, that you are decent and you can be trusted with serious work. For Americans, the word they give is very important. Americans begin to look for guarantors with good connections from the university, making friends in different companies.
Dear and slow internet
But what I really lack in the States is our fast and cheap Internet. Compared with us in the States with this trouble-trouble. It often happens that Internet providers simply divide the territory among themselves, and by signing a contract for renting an apartment, you also receive an Internet provider, which cannot be changed. And if the choice is, the prices will not please you at all. About our usual 100 and more Mbit then you remember with warmth - the same way as about mom's cakes with apple jam.
So, in New York, we chose from two of the fastest providers - 30 Mbit for $ 60 per month. On the campus of Cambridge, the Internet was included in the rental price and was quite fast. Now we use the services of Cambridge Verizon FiOS: 100 Mbps for $ 40.
I specifically went over the latest research, and they say that the alleged average speed of broadband Internet access in the US is higher than in Russia, but I personally did not notice. In general, the cost of Internet services reflects the All-American trend - any services in the United States are very expensive.
Girls play football
In America, football we are used to since childhood is called “soccer”. And in those states in which I lived, only girls play it for some reason. For myself, this was unusual, because in my family a zealous football fan, who did not miss a single match of his own team, was my dad, and only boys were playing football in the courtyard.
Soccer is not very popular in the States, but basketball, baseball and American football are sure to hold the palm.
In all the schools where our eldest daughter studied, there were only female teams for scoring. Again, I will not speak for the whole of America - maybe somewhere on the football fields and the boys are chasing the ball. However, while I watched, American boys on the street prefer basketball. In principle, this is noticeable by the results of the men's national football team.
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