Moving to a foreign country is no easy breezy process for most people. While it may be an adventure for those who love to explore, it may prove to be a not so fun experience for others who appreciate a sense of familiarity. Whether it be for college, work, love or even just simply looking for a fresh start away from home, we all face similar challenges trying to adjust. Below, I’ve shared with you a few challenges that I’ve faced and I’ve given you the best advice that I could offer.
The Language Barrier
While English is my first spoken language, adjusting to the American standard of English was a bit challenging. Not only is the American spelling of various words different from that of the British (Jamaica uses the British standard of English), but the pronunciations also! There’d be many instances of persons speaking to me and I’d make that embarrassing dramatic pause because I’d understand nothing they’ve just said! Not only that, but the slangs were also something I had to try to get used to (still struggling).
While I would love to flaunt my Jamaican accent, I felt it was only fair to myself and others that I made an attempt at understanding and appreciating their language and accents, just as I would appreciate foreigners making an effort to learn and explore mine. It made communication much easier and less of a, “Can you just repeat for me please?”.
2. Getting Accustomed To A New Culture
Many outsiders argue that the US has no set culture. Given that the country has an ever-evolving nature, it can possibly be argued to be true. This may be mainly because, unlike many other countries, the US is constantly accepting people from all walks of life to live here, which, in effect, contributes to the culture of the nation (basically a melting pot). However, despite the plethora of cultures residing here, I would argue that this country does hold it’s own if examined from an unbiased perspective. Think about it, Hip-Hop was born here, holidays like Thanksgiving, sports like Baseball, the American style and even the cuisine (yes the Fried Chicken you consistently crave)!
To say that I haven’t adopted the American culture would be a lie. It’s too easy to get accustomed to, given how laid back and not too fussy it is. While it may have been easy to adopt, there were a few challenges along the way, like learning about the different aspects of the culture and what to observe. However, just by living here you’d be forced to examine the culture. To look at it even further, the American culture does influence that of many other countries around the world, if you don’t believe me, check it for yourselves.
I must admit though, I wasn’t so big on culture appreciation back home as I am now. I do realize this is the case with many others. Living abroad makes me miss home so much. It’s like that Jamaican proverb that says, “Cow never know the use of him tail til’ it cut off”. While I do miss the familiarity and the sense of belonging that Jamaica offered, I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given to live, study and work here. Nevertheless, I can and will never lose my roots.
3. Making New Friends
As a child and teen, I would hear the adults back home speak about what the American society does to the kids here. Due to this, they would always ensure that we were raised properly. Trust me, they had a knack for reprimanding us, and still do. If you were moving here as a child, you would hear the older folks say to your parents, “Mek sure you nuh sen her guh foreign guh spoil enuh!” , “Don’t send him guh foreign fi guh involve inna bad company!” (1) Ensure you don’t send her abroad to become spoiled. 2) Don’t send him abroad because he might end up with the wrong friends.)
As a result of this I used to say that I’d never trade my friends back home with new ones here. Now that I’m living here, I’ve seen the importance of building new relationships. Not that I’ve traded my friends (I’d never do that), but I’ve learned to appreciate new ones. I’ve found that being who I am and sharing a piece of myself and my culture with others, no matter where they originate, is the start to building lasting relationships. You’ll need friends to help you settle, network and have fun! As it relates to the type of friends you make, just don’t lose sight of your values and you’ll attract those of your kind. Twisted people are everywhere, not only here.
While there are people who may jump and scream at the idea of being friends with a foreigner, there are those who will turn a blind eye towards you. When in contact with people like those, don’t take it personally, their problems are actually bigger than what it may seem. You don’t need to try to prove yourself to anyone because if they can’t acknowledge and accept who you are, then that relationship isn’t worth it.
Still, I’m yet to come across someone who doesn’t get excited by the fact that I’m Jamaican lool.
4. Knowing What To Expect
Social security, all kinds of insurance, filing taxes, credit cards and all the works! Before moving to any foreign country, you should become aware of all the legal paperwork that you need to get done. I won’t lie, it is exhausting, just as exhausting as applying to colleges or more 😦 As a new resident, you need to make sure you’re in good standing with the law. Having a local friend will help you to better understand what you need to get done, or better yet, an adviser of some sort.
The United States basically runs on credit. Always ensure you pay your bills on time. Developing “bad credit” will have a big stain on your life here, especially when looking to own things like a house or a car, etc. Be aware of the types of insurance you need to have to prevent you from running into debt of any form if an accident should occur. FILE YOUR TAXES and most importantly, tell no one, not even your alter ego, your social security number (SSN). That number is pretty much your identity and if that gets lost or stolen, may the Lord be with you.
There you have it! These are only a few of the many challenges that plague immigrants. I hope you guys were enlightened and please do comment and share any additional thoughts below. I’d love to hear more!