4 weeks (!) have flown by since we touched down in the US. Life has settled into as much of a rhythm as you can get when half your life is still somewhere close to the Panama Canal aboard a cargo boat.
The expat life, as I emailed a friend recently, is a huge challenge when starting out. I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be anything other when you uproot to a new country in which you have absolutely no base – financially, medically, friend-ly or even foe-ly. Being the citizen of a country should never be taken for granted. Yes, we have legal status (our visa says that we do), but for nearly all companies here we are huge liability without any “everyday status”. No credit history means we can’t get a credit card, we can’t get a loan, can’t get a mobile phone or utilities. Of course there are ways around all this, but these things in life, that we consider everyday necessities, aren’t easy to come by at all. There are hoops (some of them on fire!) that you need to jump through.
To give it further context, our neighbour wanted to get a rescue dog. Great! So he went online, found the one he fell in love with, proceeded with several interviews with the dog refuge, a police check, a background check, and two home visits before he was allowed to apply to get the dog. As he put it, “It’s easier to get a woman online than it is to get a rescue dog.”
I almost feel that there should be a Welcome to America pack handed out to newcomers in the Arrivals Hall which contains (at the very least) the following:
- a social security application form
- a wallet guide for conversions eg Celsius to Fahrenheit, weights, distances, measures
- a chopping board like the one to the right (utter genius available at Crate & Barrel)
- three free driving lessons and/or if you live in a city where public transport exists, a travel pass
- a glossary for US medical and insurance systems
We speak the same language but the vernacular is different. It got to a point where I You Tubed how to say “water” after going to a Bucks game and it took about 5 minutes for the cashier to work out I wanted a bottle of water. [For those linguistically-minded, the ‘a’ is like in ‘father’ and the ‘t’ is like a soft ‘d’.] So I think this ICONSPEAK World Edition traveller t-shirt should also be in the Welcome Pack. It may also come in handy for non-Spanish speakers when travelling to nearby South America.
After 4 weeks, lessons learnt so far:
- A day that is 70+ degrees is a no-socks-needed-might-need-sunscreen-day.
- When your sat nav says “1000 feet” get ready to turn very soon.
- A gallon of milk is heavy and cannot be carried in a single plastic bag.