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How is life in the USA: the view of an immigrant

Although I have been living in the States for a long time, not a day goes by that I do not learn something new, interesting or unusual about this country, writes in his blog Between New York and Boston Aleksandra Ukrainko. ForumDaily publishes material with the permission of the author.

Photo: Shutterstock

In this article, I have compiled a selection of characteristics typical of Americans that are most often noticed by immigrants from other countries.

Residents of the United States have less rest

In America, there are much fewer holidays, respectively, and weekends per year. In addition to Saturday and Sunday, Americans have only 9 federal (they are celebrated throughout America) holidays a year.

Of these, only 6 days when all Americans rest: January 1, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.

Another 3 days (Martin Luther King's Day, Veteran's Day and President's Day) in America are also considered holidays, and Americans have the opportunity to relax. But many businesses do not pay their employees this day off, so some Americans still prefer to work these days.

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There is another American federal holiday - Columbus Day, but it is not recognized by all states. In five states out of 50 (Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska, South Dakota and Vermont), this day is not considered a holiday, so they have no day off on this day. Well, in the remaining 45 states, the situation with Columbus Day is the same as with the last three holidays: not all firms are ready to give their employees a paid day off. Therefore, on this day, some Americans make a choice in favor of work, not wanting to arrange a free vacation for themselves.

For comparison, the Russians have 14 public holidays of the year approved by the state.

Short-term American vacations

Whatever one may say, American “workers” are less protected by the state in labor issues than residents of post-Soviet countries. In almost all federal laws relating to the operation of enterprises, it is the employer who is given the right to decide on what conditions employees will work at his firm. That is why there is no unified system for regulating work and rest at American enterprises, and from firm to firm everything can be different.

With vacations, the situation can be something like this: when an employee works at the company for one year, he can get 5 working days of paid vacation (taking into account the days off, it turns out as much as 7). Further, the vacation will increase in proportion to the length of service of the employee at this enterprise. In addition to these 5 days, the employee can take 3 more days at his own expense and, if desired, extend the vacation. But usually no one does this, leaving these days for emergency situations, for example, in case of illness without going to the doctor. At first, this is generally hard to believe, especially if you remember that in Russia every worker can count on 28 calendar days of vacation a year after a year of work at an enterprise.

As I said, every American company independently resolves the issue of employee vacations. Somewhere it may not be 5, but 7 days for the first year of work or even more, but usually employers are not eager to increase the number of vacation days, but are interested in employees working more. On the other hand, vacation, like insurance, and salary becomes a kind of "bonus" option, and if you are a valuable employee, you can demand a longer vacation (in comparison with other employees of the same company), or a different level wages and more favorable insurance conditions. All this will be recorded in your contract with the employer, and no local laws will interfere with this. Therefore, it is beneficial in America to be a valuable and irreplaceable employee.

Garage sales are an American tradition

This is an interesting American way to get rid of boring things. Everything that is little used or just tired, but it is a pity to throw it away, is stored in the garage or in the attic. Usually, once a year, the hostess or the owner of the house starts cleaning in their garage and finds everything that has been going there all year. Things that will definitely not be used, but can still serve others, donate to charity or are sold at the Garage sale. To do this, advertisements with their address are placed in public places. At the specified time (usually a day off), all "good" with price tags is displayed on the site near the garage or on the lawn near the house.

People come in, look and buy what they like. At such garage fairs, Americans sell deposits of their own or children's wardrobe, furniture, dishes, toys, and more. Very often, these garage sales are organized by the children themselves. Having collected their old things, toys and books, the kids sell them for some minimal money, and use the proceeds at their own discretion.

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There are also Yard Sale - this is when several houses or an entire street arrange a sale at once. Neighbors negotiate and sell old things one day. For buyers, this format is more attractive, because the likelihood of finding something interesting for themselves immediately increases.

Money for education is saved from birth

American education (other than school education) is not cheap. Every parent dreams of seeing their child as a graduate of a renowned higher educational institution. Unlike our country, a diploma from a good college is already 90% of success in finding a decent job. According to the unwritten American rules, parents must pay for college tuition, and after that, the child with a diploma in his arms goes to free bread.

Teaching a child even in an “unnamed” college can cost parents a pretty penny. Therefore, in families with an average income, with the birth of a baby, usually another separate savings account appears in the bank, where funds are deposited for the child's future education, and the monthly family budget becomes even less by a certain amount.

Madness on the white-toothed smile

The smile on the face is the hallmark of Americans. They always smile at everyone, shining with the whiteness of their teeth. Smiling has become a part of American culture, like the hijab on Muslim women. Therefore, it is the white-toothed smile that has become a popular position in all dental clinics.

All parents go out of their way to make their children beautiful white teeth. Money for braces and crowns is starting to be saved in much the same way as for a university. In our country, the emphasis is on dental health, and in the United States, it seems that Americans are focused on external beauty and aesthetics.

Dental services in America are as expensive as medical care. But if the costs of the hospital can be covered by the insurance company you work for, then you will have to pay for the dental services yourself. Rare labor insurance covers dental services (you have to be a very cool employee in a very good company). Therefore, our emigrants usually go home once a year to put their teeth in order. Even taking into account the insanely expensive prices for air tickets in both directions, dental treatment in Russia turns out to be more profitable than doing the same in the States.

Expensive and low-quality hairdressing services

To be honest, I didn’t pay attention to this aspect right away. On my arrival in the States at a church service, I was fortunate enough to meet an American woman from ours. My American friend Lena came to the USA with her parents as a teenager and at the time of our acquaintance she had her own small hairdressing business. Therefore, my husband and I immediately became her clients. By the way, our entire church parish was smartening up with her, so it never even entered my head to look for something else or compare prices for similar services.

I will not say that the quality of her haircut was immediately excellent (rather good), but since I am the owner of rather complex thick and coarse hair, I did not expect any miracles from her. Over time, we got used to each other. After moving to a new place, an understanding came: for America, our Lena was just a golden lottery ticket, so more than once they regretted that they had lost her.

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Barber services in Boston were not only expensive (compared to what we paid in the previous place), but also disgusting quality. If Lena had her own small business and a workplace was equipped on the ground floor of her own house, now she had to deal with salons, where the cost of services, among other things, included the rent of premises and the salary of a crooked hairdresser. The quality of the haircut could be estimated at a top three with a big stretch. Even my husband, who is not so picky about this, was very unhappy with the new services.

To give you a little guidance on prices, I will give the rates of several Cambridge salons:

  • Women's haircut - $ 50- $ 70 (this will be exclusively a haircut not from a famous master);
  • For African Americans, a haircut is more expensive, but not because of the color of the skin, but because they have curly hair, for them a haircut will cost $ 90- $ 110;
  • Wash your hair with shampoo - plus $ 10;
  • Blow dry and style - plus $ 45;
  • Painting or highlighting - $ 140- $ 150;
  • Ombre, balayage - $ 175;
  • Men's haircut $ 35- $ 50;
  • Haircut for a typewriter - $ 17- $ 25 (5-7 minutes of work).

I repeat that the price of a haircut includes only a haircut, and after that, if you do not want to wash your hair and dry it with a hairdryer, your hair will simply be blown off. And do not forget about the tip - they will be expected from you in the amount of 10-15%.

Very expensive services to the service station

With very ridiculous prices for cars, especially for used ones, the prices at the workshop can shock you. You can only change the oil cheaply ($ 30-35) or undergo a regular inspection (in Massachusetts it is once a year) - the car is connected to a computer, the most elementary functions are checked: brake lights, turn signals, wipers, brake serviceability ... All this lasts 15-20 minutes, and you will be charged $ 30 for that.

For everything else, be prepared to shell out impressive sums. So, replacing the starter on our middle-aged Volkswagen Passat (without diagnosing them - we addressed a specific problem) was estimated at more than $ 400. After a long auction, the price was reduced to $ 300.

At the same time, the cost of the starter itself is $ 50- $ 70, and it took 2 hours of the working time of a hired Mexican who is paid no more than $ 20 / hour.

Everywhere need advice and guarantee

In the States, the institution of recommendations is very widespread. They begin to be demanded from the moment they apply to college, and for an American, this is not surprising. But our person's recommendation or the presence of a guarantor can be a little scary. At first glance, this looks like our post-Soviet crony system, where people come to decent positions through connections (relatives, godfathers, nephews of sisters or the son of a colleague), but it turned out that in America everything is not the same as ours.

When selecting personnel for their business, the American employer gives priority only to trusted and reliable people. But reliable and trusted people in the States are not needed at all for the way it is customary in our country - to cover up some fraud and schemes, but for this employee to be an expert in his field and benefit a particular company or business with his high-quality work. But how can you verify that a person is really suitable for a specific position, and that everything that he writes about himself in his resume is true?

For this, recommendations and guarantors are needed. Anyone who is trusted where you want to work can become a sponsor. For example, let's say you're aiming for a job at a bank. A guarantor for you can be an employee of this bank, who has been working there for a long time and has proven himself well, or someone whom the bank manager himself trusts, to whom he listens. If such a person can vouch for you and write you a recommendation, this will greatly help with employment.

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A good sponsor is as important as a diploma from a decent school.

However, do not think that Americans are giving out their recommendations to everyone. It is not accepted here to vouch for just anyone. If a person decides to act as a surety for you and give a recommendation, then only if he is completely sure that you are the one who is needed for a specific job. In fact, he kind of gives his word that you are suitable for this position, cope with it, that you are a decent person and you can be entrusted with serious work. For Americans, the word they have given is very important. They start looking for guarantors with good connections from the university, making acquaintances in different companies.

Dear and slow internet

But what I really miss in the States is our fast and cheap internet. Compared to us in the United States, this is bad luck. It often happens that Internet providers simply divide the territory among themselves, and by signing an apartment rental agreement, you get an Internet provider together with it, which will be impossible to change. And if there is a choice, then the prices will not please you at all. Here you remember our usual 100 and more Mbps with warmth - just like about mom's pies with apple jam.

So, in New York, we chose the fastest of two providers - 30 Mbps for $ 60 per month. On campus in Cambridge, internet was included in the rent and was pretty fast. Now we use the services of Cambridge Verizon FiOS: 100 Mbps for $ 40.

I deliberately ran through the latest studies, and they say that the average speed of broadband Internet access in the United States is supposedly higher than in Russia, but I personally did not notice this. In general, the cost of Internet services reflects the All-American trend - any services in the United States are very expensive.

Girls play football

In America, football, familiar to us from childhood, is called “soccer”. And in those states in which I lived, for some reason only girls play it. For me, this was unusual, because in my family my dad was a zealous football fan who did not miss a single match of his native team, and only boys played football in the yard.

Soccer is not very popular in the States, and basketball, baseball and American football are confidently holding the palm.

In all the schools where our eldest daughter studied, there were exclusively women's teams in soccer. Again, I will not speak for the whole of America - maybe somewhere on football fields and boys are chasing a ball. However, in my observation, American boys on the street prefer basketball. In principle, this is noticeable in the results of the men's national football team.

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