Moving to the USA: work, pitfalls and the American dream
The topic of emigration becomes especially relevant when the state is experiencing a difficult period, accompanied by an economic crisis and political instability. Many young people think about moving to another country and starting a new life there. Vadim Myrgorod from Ukraine shared his story of moving to the USA on the website DOUwhere he described the main pitfalls of the move. ForumDaily publishes an abbreviated version of the article.
By the time I moved, I had a team-lead position, working for an American company with branches in Ukraine. I could go abroad, provide my family with everything I needed, help my relatives and just live happily.
With English, as I thought, I was very good, since I directly communicated with the end customer at the meetings. I also wrote a book for an English publishing house and spoke at several international conferences.
After moving in the first months, I had the feeling that I was an extraterrestrial alien with extrasensory abilities, because in most cases I guessed and did not understand what the interlocutors were talking about - especially if it didn’t concern work. In life situations, and in workers too, Americans do not make allowances for the fact that you are a foreigner, unless, of course, you ask them about it. This confirms the most common phrase of my former Chinese chief: “Say it again” - and this despite the fact that he has been in the country for more than 15 years.
Remember: tourism and residency are different things. As it turned out, it was much easier to emigrate from Ukraine than to emigrate from your head.
The company in which I worked in Ukraine promised to work on a work visa for me, but - intentionally or not - delayed this process. Therefore, I decided to get a job in the first company, which will agree to make me a visa, and then look for a better job, if necessary.
In general, this decision was strategically correct, but there was a nuance that I did not suspect at all. The fact is that the majority of programmer vacancies in the States are related to the support of existing projects, and not the development of new ones (if this is, of course, not some kind of startup). Therefore, it is often necessary to deal with code that has been written to you by more than one generation of programmers and has not always made the right architectural decisions. In a word, govnokod - he and in America govnokod.
It is also a typical situation for the States - when a programmer sits on a bench for most of his time and, at best, saws some pet project or writes Open Source, and at worst hangs on Facebook or Youtube. “What is bad?” You ask. After a year of such work, you understand that you are well behind your colleagues, who continue to work in outsourcing in Ukraine.
I would advise the Ukrainian programmer who wants to move to pay attention to the main specialization of the company in which he works. If the main activity is not connected with programming, then there is a great chance that it will get into a completely new environment for itself, in which programmers are not held in high esteem, and any innovation will be perceived as a risky adventure. American managers are overly cautious and reinsured ten times before changing anything.
With the transfer, or rather with the flight, everything is simple: I packed my bags, bought a ticket and got on a plane. I was opposed to taking a lot of things with me, because I thought that all the missing could be bought. Three of us had only two suitcases and a backpack.
My mistake was that I had no idea about future expenses, and any useful thing brought could save the family budget. I can say that there were a lot of expenses. Among them is a security deposit, which a tenant requires before renting an apartment, and a similar deposit that a bank takes before opening your first credit card (and it is necessary to open and use it - all your further credit history, which every American values) depends on, and buying furniture with dishes (because the apartments are rented completely naked), and daily rent a car for the first time.
It is also worth noting that apartments here at normal prices are rented upon signing a contract for a year, so if the company does not provide a hotel for living for the first time, you will also have to rent some accommodation until you find the apartment of your dreams. In our case, it was easier, since we lived with relatives in the neighboring state.
When renting apartments in many US states, there are special rules that make it impossible to rent a small apartment and thus save money. For example, the 3-bedroom (an analogue of our three-room apartment) relies on a family of 2. In general, it is reasonable, but on the other hand, this must be taken into account.
Another stumbling block is that not all companies are ready to hire you (and, accordingly, pay your salary) until you get the SSN. This is an analogue of our IIN, its design takes from two to three weeks.
First impressions and crisis of the second year
I thought I was in a fairy tale. There were a lot of reasons for this: sakura blooming around our house, strolling wild animals (deer, squirrels, hares, geese), and a free outdoor pool with a gym, and a wonderful Russian-speaking community, and good neighbors who give you the keys to their cars , and an incredible amount of free and paid museums, parks and attractions. At first, this all admires, and after a year you get used to it and take it for granted, and in the meantime, life returns to the same old, well-worn and worn-out rut.
With the work it was not so romantic, since I would not wish anyone to downgrade from the Temlid to the Siniory, especially if you are working on the project alone, and fellow developers are working on other projects. On the other hand, in six months I migrated our vokrflow to git and git-flow, automated the deployment processes, fixed most of the burning bugs, programmed new features. Then, as a reward, they raised my salary by as much as 2% and sent me to a conference in Los Angeles. And after I came back, I had been doing some useless work for half a year and was making up tasks for myself, mostly it was OpenSource.
I wanted to say that many Ukrainian programmers think that after moving to America they will work in some kind of software giant, like Google, or they will start their startup and become another Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, but for some reason their dreams are broken on the severe reality. Yes, I have friends who work at Google, at Microsoft, or are founders of startups, directors of software companies, they are all great. But I have many more friends who work as ordinary developers, and they have to deal with not the best job in the world. Who is as lucky, and who is capable of what.
The race for the American dream
Until you moved and accustomed to the United States, you will not think about many things about which Americans are puzzled, simply because these things have not become relevant for you. The American dream is based on three pillars: home, education for children, retirement. In Ukraine, the programmer doesn’t have to think about it, because instead of a house, you can do with a flat inherited; education is free (or cheap); and you can accumulate good capital for retirement.
In America, everything is different: the house in the metropolis will be worth at least half a half. For education in a prestigious university, you will have to give a minimum of 200K, in a non-prestigious one - 60K. And for a more or less normal pension, it is necessary to postpone on average 10% of salary. Of course, there are loans for both housing and education, so many Americans work only to repay these loans. Having sufficiently high wages, which are offset by high costs, Americans spend almost all their money and do not save savings. Also, most Americans, from those that I have met, do not travel to other countries and have no idea how people live, say, in Europe or South America.
Of course, no one obliges you to buy a house and pay for an expensive education for children, and in retirement you will have enough money that you or your employer set aside. In extreme cases, you can go home.
Advice to future expatriates
The first twenty paragraphs were given to me in a light breath, because as I wrote about myself. It is much more difficult to put yourself in the place of the reader and give practical advice, but still I will try.
Everyone has their own reasons for emigration, but in general they are clear, so it makes no sense to list them here. Many articles have already been written on how to emigrate. However, few people say that very often the expectations are different from reality, so it is worth living with the thought that uncertainty is waiting for you.
After talking to someone who lives in America for more than 20 years, I realized that it makes no sense to plan life for more than 5 years.
If you think that you will become happier after emigration, then this is self-deception. It's like buying a new car: for the first six months you will be delighted, then you will get used to it. With emigration, everything is exactly the same: the first year or two will be high, and then everything will return to normal. This was also said to me, but I did not believe it. Well, I had to be convinced by my own experience.
And finally: if you decide to emigrate, then it is better to do this at a young age and not to postpone for later. The older a person is, the harder it is to adapt. However, if you are over fifty, then do not worry, it is never too late to emigrate. Especially if there is a goal for which you need it. I know people who came to the States at that age and successfully found work and their place in life.
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