I had the pleasure to talk to Iris, who immigrated with her husband and 3-year old daughter from Austria last year.
How long have you been living in the United States?
I moved here end of March 2012.
Why did you decide to move to America?
This country has always been fascinating to me. And after I spent almost 3 months in New York in 2006 – actually, I would have loved to stay longer but could not since I only had a tourist visa at that time – I really hoped that I would get a chance to come back and work in the US eventually. Luckily, I did. The company I’ve been with for the last 7 years opened a sales office in North Carolina in 2011 and sent me over a few months later.
How did you get your visa/greencard?
I applied for an E2 visa for me and my family, which was finally granted for a two-year period a few days before our scheduled flight to the US.
Currently, we are on the verge of applying for a Green Card.
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
Starting a new life is always hard, I guess. What turned out to be difficult would probably have been difficult anywhere, especially since my family came over with me. What I found particularly stressful was being forced to do a lot of things simultaneously, i.e. find a nice and safe area to live, decide on a preschool for our daughter, buy a car, take the driver’s test again, get business going for my company. Everything seemed to be urgent, nothing could wait.
How did your family do during the transition?
Generally speaking, it was a smooth transition because we did not have to start from scratch, at least as far as our physical possessions were concerned, which we all moved over in a container. And none of us had to look for a new job either. (As soon as my husband had his work permit he started working for the US subsidiary of the company he’d been with before.)
Also, I was surprised how fast our daughter (3 at the time) got accustomed to the new situation, especially me and my husband both working fulltime.
However, it took us longer than expected to find a house that was close to European standards and still affordable, so at times we were all stressed out. Fortunately, we had a friend over for emotional support.
You’ve been living here for over a year now. What do you like the most?
I really enjoy being surrounded by mostly friendly people. I am aware that this friendliness is basically politeness, but I still appreciate it. Childcare is another thing; it is so much easier here to find a spot for your child than in Austria.
Also, it is great being able to go shopping on Sundays and in the evening. But you will never get bored in the US anyway, which may also be due to the fact that – at least here in North Carolina – it is nicely warm most of the time. But even during the winter months there is so much you can do.
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
Most of all: real bread
What I also miss is environmental awareness. What’s the point for example in using dryers when it is so warm outside that you can simply hang your clothes out in the sun? Maybe because your HOA doesn’t want you to do that? Well, that’s another thing I don’t understand. There seem to be rules and forms for almost everything here, there is much more bureaucracy than we had expected after all we had heard about the US. Decisions often taken long because there is always a procedure that needs to be followed. That’s my experience both in private life as well as when I deal with other companies.
What techniques worked best for you to learn English?
I learned English in school and additionally watched a lot of TV, which really helped me as far as understanding American English is concerned. Speaking American English is different of course. I’m sometimes shocked when people ask me where I come from even though I haven’t said more than a few words
Looking back at your migration to the U.S., would you have done anything differently?
Well, the visa process could have been faster if we had done our own research on the visa requirements and not relied on our lawyer. But other than that, no.
Can you give other immigrants any advice about life in the USA?
Too much consideration upfront won’t get you anywhere, I think.
You should be aware, though, that it makes sense to put a little money to the side when moving here, because when you start with zero credit history in this country it will be extremely difficult for you to get loans (even small ones).
And of course, talk to people / try to do some networking – that can save you a lot of time when it comes to finding your way around.
But the most important thing of all: Enjoy the country!!!