Adjusting to Life in the United States of America

If you're new to the United States, you may have the opportunity to gain valuable skills and learn a new culture and language. But you may also face some challenges. Life may be very different from what you're used to and you may feel culture shock. At times, you may not understand some of your co-workers' ideas, customs, language or attitudes toward work. Other times, you may feel confused about the language, customs and everyday life, such as shopping for groceries or using a public library. This is a natural part of adjusting to a new country. This article provides some basic information about living and working in the United States.

Knowing what to expect

No matter how often you have traveled to the United States, you may find living and working there different from what you expect.

  • Talk with people who have lived and worked in the United States. You might ask friends and family members if they know anyone who would be willing to speak with you. You may feel uncomfortable asking advice from someone you don't know, but talking with people who have lived in the United States will give you a better idea of what to expect.
  • Expect that the work culture will be different in the United States. In addition to building a strong working relationship with your manager, you will want to develop good working relationships with other employees at your organization. As in many cultures, much of what a person accomplishes at work is a result of working well with others. In the United States, you are often expected to meet people and create these work relationships on your own.
  • Get a clear sense of key assignment responsibilities. Make sure that you understand the specific goals and responsibilities connected with your work assignment. In addition to reviewing your overall job responsibilities, be sure you understand what business needs your company is addressing by offering you this position.
  • Find out who else will be working with you. If you are filling a position being vacated by a current expatriate, will you have a chance to work with that person as your assignment begins? Identify others in the company who will be available to answer your questions as they arise. Clarify whether your home or host country manager is your primary supervisor.

Learning about the United States

The United States consists of fifty states and the District of Columbia, the official name for Washington, D.C., the nation's capital. Each state is different and makes some of its own laws. If possible, start learning about the United States before you leave your home country.

  • Visit the United States Consulate or embassy in your home country. The staff members may be able to do more for you than just tell you about the papers you will need. They may be able to give you brochures, suggest helpful websites and recommend places that you might enjoy visiting.
  • Read a newspaper or visit the paper's website. Movies and television shows don't give a realistic picture of life in the United States. You will have a better idea of what to expect if you read a newspaper published where you will live. The newspaper will tell you all about your new community - the weather, food, homes, sports and more. The paper may have a website that lets you read the news for free.
  • Explore United States government websites. The government has many helpful websites on all aspects of life - travel, employment, medical care, children and other topics. A good place to begin is, where you can search for information by category. You can get additional information by visiting the website for the state where you'll be living or where your employer is located.
  • Read books about the United States. Many travel guides have helpful information for both tourists and residents. You can order them from online booksellers or look around your local bookstore.

When you arrive in the United States, it will be helpful to know at least one person there who can help you feel at home. Ask the people you know who have lived in the United States to put you in touch with friends or co-workers who you can look up when you arrive. Knowing that you have someone you can go to for help or just to talk with and ask questions of will help you adapt more quickly and feel at home.



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