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The search for a better life: why the Ukrainian returned to his homeland from America and why he wants to move to the USA again

Among the immigrants who move to the United States, one phrase is popular: “When you came to the States, you made one of the biggest mistakes of your life. But there is one more mistake, a bigger one - to leave the USA back. " Artem Shulyak made both of these mistakes and told the publication DOUwhat it feels like.

Photo: Shutterstock

Shulyak, DevOps at Exadel, is now preparing to move to the US again. Artem talked about how he was looking for a job in the States, why this country is a different world, how his worldview changed after his return, and why he still chooses to live abroad.

Next - from the first person.

In 2016–2017, I worked with an outsourcing company whose main client was in the United States. To work, you had to issue a B1-B2 visa. If the employee has such a visa, you can, if necessary, go to the States, meet, talk with the project leaders.

I collected documents for a visa and prepared a photo according to strict requirements. In the process of preparation, I noticed that the photo for the visa should be exactly the same as for the green card lottery. Therefore, I decided to send him to the lottery. And suddenly, unexpectedly, he won. I did not go to the States from the company then, but I had the opportunity to get a green card and move to live in the USA.

My wife and I understood that immigration is not tourism, it is a serious decision. It was especially difficult for my wife to decide to move. But still, in August 2018, we left. In the States, we have family friends, almost relatives, they live in Memphis. We went to them and spent the first, most difficult time for adaptation with them, and I tried to find a job.

Work searches

At that time, I was looking for myself as a System Engineer or Linux Engineer. If in Ukraine I could find a new job within a week, at most two, then in the States two months of searching were fruitless. I was looking for a place all over the country, not only in Memphis, because we were free birds. I had many calls, but all to no avail: as they say, everyone tries, praises, but does not marry. Then I realized for the first time that the United States is not even another country, it is a different world.

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Job search in the States is completely different from ours. Half (if not more) of 30–40 calls a day were “junk”, and few real vacancies were offered. There are people here who collect a database of vacancies, then they find developers and try to "sell" them to projects. For this they receive a percentage of the developer's salary. Some take it immediately, others - within a year. This is the so-called bodyshop. Not a galley, like ours, but a little different: they do not deal with projects, they almost do not help specialists in any way - they just find people and sell them to the company.

After a while, I also had interviews. Sometimes I went through 2-3 interviews a day (by phone or online). But in the process of a conversation in the States, you cannot understand whether they are hiring you or just training to conduct interviews.

I have not had any offline interviews. America is big if you are in Memphis and are looking for a job in California, Texas or North Carolina - not many companies will offer to pay for your tickets so that you come. In our circumstances, I was also not ready to spend money on flights. Therefore, I refused an offline interview, everything took place online.

Two months later, I received a call from EPAM (I worked in this company before leaving Ukraine) and offered a vacancy in the States. I agreed to her.


By the time I agreed to work at EPAM, I already had interviews with interesting American companies. They walked for a very long time. I thought they were fooling me, there would be no work there. But when I got a job at EPAM, people from these companies called me and wondered why I didn’t wait until all the stages were completed: we had a good conversation, found a common language, and already made an appointment with the director of the company.

In the States, interviews take a really long time. A month or two may pass between them. Urgent vacancies are when they are ready to speak with you in two weeks. You can wait six months for your job there. I'm used to the fact that in Ukraine everything is simple and clear: you come to a company, talk to HR, then - to a techie, and you are already at work.

In the USA, you first need to communicate with HR, this interview lasts 30 minutes. Then with a person who determines your professional level. He tries to superficially figure out whether the candidate is suitable for the position: he asks basic, sometimes even stupid questions (there are people who apply for the position of a developer, but at the same time do not even know what Python or Java is). This interview takes an hour and a half. Next - an interview with a potential future team.

And after that - with the person who will lead the work or with the director of the company (if the director does not like it, they will not hire you). I'm not talking about big companies like Google - they probably have their own specifics. These are mid-level vacancies. For example, then I was interviewing at GAP, a large retailer in the United States.

Another caveat: in the United States, you need to be able to pass interviews. I was lucky with EPAM, because the interview was conducted by a person from Ukraine and we understood each other: he understood what I could do, and I understood what was needed for work. In the States, if you look at the resumes of candidates (this is especially the case with people from Asia), it seems that they can do everything, they have 150 years of experience in any industry, even in the one that appeared only yesterday. What we call "bragging" is the basis of life in the States. There you have to brag, sell yourself, otherwise you will not find a good job.

I didn’t know how to do interviews with Americans. I was born in the Soviet Union, all my teachers were born and raised in the Soviet Union, where “I” is the last letter in the alphabet, and upstart and self-praise are negative qualities. In the USA, on the contrary, it is very important to present yourself, your ideas. In the interview, you should know your strengths and weaknesses and take the conversation away from weaknesses to strengths. When an unprepared person comes from Ukraine, he says: “Well, I can program, I can work with Kubernetes. That, in fact, is all. "

Another candidate comes to the same vacancy and says: “I have 15 years of experience in programming (while he is 25 years old). I write complex parsings (he looked at a 5-minute lesson on YouTube, copied it and thinks that he can already write parsings). I have a certificate for Kubernetes (he attended the course, but has not yet tried to use this system in his work). " Of course, in this regard, the candidate from Ukraine loses.

Life in the USA

In the US, I worked online from home. We rented an apartment in the town of Cordoba, near Memphis. It was not difficult. In the States, there is such a concept as a "surety": if someone is ready to take on this role, to be responsible for you, all problems are much easier to solve. I came to the apartment complex with a guarantor. In addition, I already had several salary payments from EPAM, I showed the checks. Within a day, they answered me from the apartment complex that they agreed that we should live with them.

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My salary in the United States was three times higher than in Kiev. This is what I got my hands on. But the costs were four times higher. Overall, it worked well. They lived comfortably.

Life in the United States generally suited me, probably 90%.

From my point of view, most of the United States is a huge village with educated, intelligent people, expensive cars, good roads and very strict rules of life. For example, it is forbidden here to carry out any repairs to a car on the street, to put a fence or a pool on your land without permission, to paint a house in any color, and much more. Overall, I like it.

Of the minuses - there were not enough close friends, people with whom you can talk. There were no products we were used to in the store. Although in Memphis it was even possible to buy a fresh "Kiev cake" made at the Roshen factory in Kiev.

But my wife didn't like life in the USA. Most likely it was nostalgia. She wanted to live in Ukraine.

Most of all, the lack of full-fledged social interaction here upset. Americans have a concept of "personal space", they honor it on a par with the Constitution. Therefore, 90% of the time you talk to Americans about the weather. And then not for long. The main task of the wife was to keep the hearth, to engage in lessons with the children. But she still decided to go to work. Since my wife is not an IT specialist, but a tourism manager, she could not find a job in her specialty. Let's just say it was physical work.

For me, the most important thing is family, so after a while I decided that we were returning to Ukraine. But even then I was almost sure that over time we would still return back to the United States.

Return to Ukraine

We returned home a year and a half later, in February 2020, before the pandemic. I asked EPAM to relocate me from the USA to Ukraine (probably, I was one of the few who contacted the company with such a request).

But after returning from the United States, I realized that I had changed. For a year and a half in Ukraine, I wrote seven statements to the police (now, however, I don’t write them anymore), and they wrote one statement against me.

I participated in the creation of the OSBB, in filing an application to the court. For some reason I hoped that the people who live nearby, in my house, would be active and proactive when it comes to defending their rights. Probably, somewhere I believed that I would come and build the States here. But this is unreal. Not even because of Zelensky or Poroshenko, but because people are inert. Until the problem specifically touches them, they will not do anything.

In Ukraine, we arrived at an apartment in a new building, with a new renovation, with new neighbors. Our house is bordered by the private sector. Next to the house there is a vacant lot, it was abandoned a long time ago, construction waste was brought there and all that. We removed it a little, planted trees. After that, the tenants of the private sector decided that this was their land and began to build a fence. They explained their actions simply: “I do this because I can. And you won't do anything to me. "

Or another problem - on the upper floors in our entire complex (in 9 houses) there were duplex apartments. They were remade. For example, in our house 12 one-room apartments were made from three two-room apartments. In another house, 5 small one-houses were made from a 10-room duplex apartment. And so everywhere, throughout the complex. Everything turned into complete chaos and delirium.

When this lawlessness was happening with apartments, we sent inquiries to DABI, turned to the management company, which was from Kievgorstroy. But, alas, there a hand washes his hand. In our basement, the load-bearing walls are being demolished, while the management company is quietly sitting in the next entrance. We say: "Do something, the walls are being demolished there." They answer us: "We cannot go there, we have no keys."

Here in Ukraine, you can have an apartment or a house with a large fence. What's inside is yours. Everything around is no longer yours. Therefore, we burn garbage, park on lawns, at pedestrian crossings. If you don't like it, the only way out is to build a large fence around you. Or get out. In the States, if people come to your house and want to do something bad, you can take up arms and defend yourself. In Ukraine, even this right is not.

In Ukraine, we have everything: an apartment, a summer residence, a car. But despite these advantages, the most important thing is missing - law and justice.

Emotions from filling nostalgia lasted for two months. Then I had to remember that in Kiev there is a terrible situation with the environment, especially closer to spring, terrible behavior on the roads and many other problems. In Kiev, I passed my license, then I drove a car here for 18 years. But after returning from the United States, he was afraid to travel around the city for six months.

Satisfied with all this flavor, I realized that I still don't want to live in Ukraine. But he waited for his wife to come to this idea. After coming from the States, she also changed. I started comparing what was there and what is happening here. She didn't like the comparison. She still doesn't really want to go to the USA, but she doesn't want to stay in Ukraine either. Now, I think we have unity on this issue. In addition, we are going to a region where there are even Ukrainian schools. I think my wife will like it there.

About plans to move

We have planned a move for November this year. We are going to go to North Carolina - where the Research Triangle Park is located. Moving a second time is no longer scary. I have a feeling that I am not going to the USA, but returning. It's easier: there is already a credit history, a work history, there are acquaintances - people who can confirm that I am adequate.

For the move, we will choose an area with a good school and with a Ukrainian or Russian-speaking community. It is difficult to communicate only with Americans, they are different people. Sometimes you want to discuss politics, religion, or sexual orientation. For Americans, these topics are taboo. They are very tolerant. It seems to me that the Americans, even if they hang someone, will ask: "Is the noose pinching?" (here people even help with obscenities).

People living in the United States value personal space very much. On the one hand, this is good - they never approach you in line right in the back of the head, they always keep a little at a distance (this was the case even before the pandemic), no one crawls into the soul. But, on the other hand, the friends there are something like close acquaintances. Although, of course, there are exceptions.

Now I set myself the task - not to go to the United States without work. A few months before leaving, I started interviewing and even received my first offer within a month. The market situation is now different from what it was in 2018, so you can find a job in the States much faster. The IT sphere is developing rapidly. Factories are rarely built here, because it takes a long time, and IT is fast. Accordingly, money is poured there.

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I went through these interviews mostly to support the English language. I learned to represent, to praise myself. By the way, Ukrainians have already figured out the needs of the market and are actively learning to be interviewed. Some companies even have internal courses in which people are prepared for interviews with a customer. I went through these at EPAM when I worked for this company. I think I'm still not very good at praising myself, but I already have an understanding of the difference in culture and mentality, I know what is important for a good interview.

There is such a thing as small talk - a conversation about nothing. But these conversations are considered insignificant only with us. In the States, if you don't know how to conduct such a conversation, then you don't know how to do anything. His goal is to break the ice. An interview should not start with a discussion of Kubernetes. First, it is worth talking about something else - about the weather, the flowers on the window, about the TV series that has recently been released ... Any topics that interest you that are not included in the "taboo" list will do. After people have found common ground, melted the ice, become friends, they can continue the conversation, get down to business.

And yet - in a conversation, you must be polite: very polite, intelligent, educated. If you are rude (rude, impolite) - in the United States, this is a big cross on you as an employee.

Due to the fact that I passed the interviews from Ukraine, there were some difficulties: it was necessary to show the documents that I have the right to work in the States. Many people from all over the world want to work in the States, but this requires permits. Getting these documents is a whole business.

This time it was easier: the company Exadel, where I work now, will continue to work with me in the USA. Moreover, they agreed to pay part of the costs associated with the move.

About the American IT market

I think that in terms of professional development in Ukraine I have more opportunities than in the USA. The main part of the Ukrainian IT market is development, something new. A smaller part of the market is those cases when outsourcing companies maintain the performance of the product, which, as a rule, they also developed.

In the US, on the contrary: most of the market is support for what has already been built. There is, of course, Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle on the East Coast. But this is a smaller part of the American IT industry. In the US, you can still find a mainframe engineer or Fortran developer, COBOL job. In Ukraine, no one has been working with these technologies for a long time.

As for the top companies, you still have to get there. If one candidate can receive hundreds of offers with vacancies in our country, then in the USA one has to compete for this job.

There are many projects in Ukraine where they pay money just like that - for the fact that you are so smart (as for me, these are bad projects, but they exist). In the US, no one pays money for nothing.

But, nevertheless, I choose to live in the USA. I am not looking for a rich life, career growth, justice is important to me. And in Ukraine it is not enough. Of course, I will come here to my parents. But, relatively speaking, this is a one-way ticket - I do not plan to return to Ukraine for permanent life.

There is one phrase that is very popular among expats who live in the USA: “Having arrived in the USA, you made one of the biggest mistakes of your life. But there is one more mistake, a bigger one - to leave the USA back. " I made both of these "mistakes", so I understand what they are talking about.

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