If you are thinking of immigrating to the United States, you are making a huge life change. There will likely be moments when you wonder if you have done the right thing or not. The best way to settle into any new country is to prepare ahead as much as you can. Get armed both with knowledge and confidence.
We spoke to Jean Danhong Chen, managing partner of the Law Offices of Jean D. Chen, about the things new immigrants can do to help them settle into life in the United States successfully. Chen’s law office is focused solely on immigration and naturalization law. Chen and her team operate in all 50 states. They have been successful in helping expedite green cards, permanent residency status, and U.S. citizenship for their clients.
Begin with Your Services
It will make your transition much smoother if you not only have your place to stay lined up, but if you also have your bank account, utilities, and cell phone service in place.
Take a Few Trips to Learn the Local Area
If you can, take a few trips to learn where the stores, restaurants, banks, gas stations, and all of the services you need are located. It will make those first few weeks in your new home flow more smoothly.
Have Some Fun
In all of the hustle and bustle of your move, take the time to go to museums, sporting events, music venues, and historical places.
Learning the Language
One of the most significant aids in learning English is a credentialed and experienced language teacher. Of course, your language teacher will help you improve your vocabulary, speech, reading, writing: listening, and grammar. Equally important is the fact that your language teacher can help you better understand the customs in the U.S. Also, your language teacher can help look over your resume and letters of introduction as well as provide mock job interviews and feedback on how well you did.
A big tip is not to choose someone who states they are qualified to teach English simply because they are a native speaker. A trained, professional teacher of English knows research-based means of improving your language capabilities. Look for a teacher who will assess your reading level and understands the power of assigning you some reading and writing homework each week.
A good English teacher will test your English reading and writing levels in the very first lesson and will provide quite several choices of books that are right at your current reading level and are fascinating. Reading a lot of English books at your current level, combined with lessons with your tutor, will make your English proficiency increase very rapidly.
You can always write down things you overhear that you don’t understand and ask your English teacher about what it meant during your lesson.
It is still the reality that most cities in the United States do not have sound transit systems. It often takes a lot longer to use public transit to get around town. In some cities, public transit rides may not seem very safe.
There is a new trend that more cities have e-bikes and e-scooters to ride around for a fee. That works if everything you need is close at hand. The reality of most U.S. cities, though, is that this may not be a safe form of transportation because drivers do not yield for bicycles and scooters as they should. In tourist towns, you are more likely to find safe bicycle routes, but your availability to use bikes and scooters in some places is seasonal.
If you prefer or need to drive, you will need a valid driver’s license. A license issued by your chosen state of residence will allow you to drive in all 50 states. You are responsible for knowing the driving laws in any state that you drive through. Some of the major laws are posted on signs as you enter the state.
Short-term visitors to some states will need to get an International Driving Permit before they leave their home country. The U.S. does not issue IDPs. You will also need a driver’s permit from your home country to drive in many states of the U.S. if you are on a short-term visit.
If you intend upon becoming a resident of the U.S. and are not yet a citizen, you will need to find out the requirements for obtaining a driver’s license for the state you will be living in. These requirements vary.
There are also car rental agencies and car-sharing situations. It is often a more expensive alternative for day-to-day living in the United States.
Keeping Your Roots and Your Children’s
In some major cities, there are Saturday schools where children continue to learn their first language. It is critical because research has found that strength in one’s first language supports the acquisition of their second language. The cultural portion of the class may include history lessons, calligraphy, singing, dance, origami, chess, martial arts, brush painting, cooking, or Chinese silk knots depending on the class and the culture it represents.
Keeping Connected to Family and Friends
A free Skype connection on both ends can keep you and your friends and family in your home country connected. Also, they can keep up with posts you make about your new life on a social media page.
Finding Online Forums of Other Immigrants in the Same Area
Often, you can find online forums of people who are from your country that have settled in the same area of the United States. They are excellent resources for all of the tips and tricks and places to meet. They will also have good advice about where to purchase insurance, for example.
Getting Involved in Local Organizations
The more you are out and about, the more you will improve your English and get to know others in your community. One easy way to get involved in your community is to join a volunteer organization.
Understanding Office Culture
You will find that office culture and norms between different countries vary wildly. How meetings are conducted, issues of timelines, what is okay to talk about at work, and what is taboo are likely different in the U.S. from what you encounter in your native country. These are things you can ask your language coach during your lessons. That is a safe place to ask questions without fear of embarrassment.
One example is the difference between U.S. workplace culture and workplace culture in Japan. In Japan, there is a tradition of going to an office party and getting drunk to say what you mean to your boss. In the U.S., it is frowned on to speak about drinking at the office, and it is frowned upon to get drunk at an office party. Coworkers and bosses tend to distance themselves from a coworker who engages in such behaviors because they take it as a sign the person may be an alcoholic.
Most states prohibit smoking in the workplace. Many also prohibit smoking outdoors close to the building. Twelve states have no ban on smoking in the workplace. Knowing the difference could be an essential factor in avoiding fines or even termination.
Jean Danhong Chen suggests that foreign nationals who are immigrating to the United States do a lot of preparation in advance to make those first few months flow smoothly.