Common Mistakes to avoid when you first move to the US

Updated: May 2

We all make mistakes. That is what makes us humans. And when we’re moving to a new country such as the US, we’re bound to make mistakes by the dozen. Thankfully, a lot of people have moved to the US before you and they’ve made plenty of mistakes for you to learn from.


In this guide, we’ve compiled some of the most common & uncommon mistakes that you should avoid making when you first move to the US. Some of these are from personal experiences while some are from all the research we did before we first moved here.


Before we move on to share all the mistakes to avoid, you can also watch the full video Guide on our YouTube channel. We hope you find it useful and request you to subscribe to our channel to.


  • Not Understanding American Culture

  • Delay in applying for a SSN or ITIN

  • Delay in Opening a Bank Account

  • Delay in getting a Driving License

  • Not Networking

  • Not researching about Immigration Laws & Rules

  • Not researching about Health / Medical Insurance

  • Unprepared for the competitive job market

  • Overestimating your paycheck

  • Socializing with people only from your own community

  • Not Asking enough questions

Mistakes to avoid when you first move to the US
Mistakes to avoid when you first move to the US

Below we explain all of them one by one.


Not Understanding American Culture


This one might seem simple but trust us when we say it’s not. No matter how many Western shows and movies you’ve seen before moving here, it’s not enough. TV shows and movies have a habit of generalizing. Just like how Indians are stereotyped as nerds and Engineers in mainstream media, there’s a certain stereotype for Americans. Don’t fall for it.


The country is huge and is filled with varied people all across. Having lived in America for more than 5 years as a non-immigrant, we’re still learning about each part of the country, either from friends or by visiting different states in the US. Each part of America has its own identity, customs, and culture.


It’s a lot to understand as a foreigner. But while most people who move to America come from countries with a culture that is quite different, that’s normal. There’s no “mistake” in a difference between cultures. The mistake we see most foreign nationals make when they move to America is that they don’t make the effort to understand the culture. They don’t try to understand their adopted home (for however long they are visiting). In short, they don’t try to fit in. Trying to fit in doesn’t mean that you’re trying to be someone else; far from it. Fitting in means being open to new experiences, especially experiences that are different from what you’re used to seeing.


Delay in applying for a SSN or ITIN


SSN or the Social security number is one of the most if not the most important things you need to get as soon as possible after your move to the US. While people coming here on a dependent visa may not be eligible directly for a SSN, they can apply for a ITIN. Both SSN and ITIN are important documents required to open a bank account, get a Credit card, apply for a house on rent and many other day-to-day activities.


Delay in Opening a Bank Account


This should be a no brainer. But there are many people who end up waiting for months to open a bank account. Some have to wait that long because they delay in applying for their SSN. You see, it’s all connected.


The sooner you open a bank account, the sooner you can apply for a Debit, Credit Card and you can start building your Credit History. If you’ve done your research correctly, you’ll know that building your Credit History in the US is super important from a long-term perspective.


Delay in Getting a Driving License


While America a big and developed country, it’s public transport system leaves a lot to be desired. In short, if you’re not living in one of the bigger cities (read NYC, SF, Chicago), chances are you’ll need a car to even get to a grocery store.


While your driving license from India is valid for at least 6 months after you arrive to the US, it is a good practice to get one here in the US at the earliest. First, you’ll need to appear for a knowledge test before you get one. And preparing for it can be a pain (this comes from personal experience). Second, it also serves as a valid ID anywhere you go to the US. Saves you from carrying your passport everywhere.


Not Networking


We can’t stress this enough. Whether you like it or not, you’ll have to network in this country. Period. However, when new immigrants learn about networking, they are often confused about the way it is done in American culture.


As a result, they often approach new contacts and openly ask them for a job, which most definitely will fail. The idea is to build and cultivate relationships that will help you in the long run. Not every contact you make in a networking even will be able to get you a job. But they most likely be able to help you with something in the future if you’ve spent time and effort in cultivating that relationship.


Not Researching About Immigration Rules & Laws


Agreed that the American Immigration system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. But for now, it is what it is. A lot of Immigrants make the mistake of not doing enough research about the Visa they enter the US with. It might be difficult for some to believe, but we know plenty of dependent visa holders who had no idea that they couldn’t work on their visa status or that they might have to wait for a few years before they can apply for a work permit and start working legally in the country.


Learning about this after coming here can be heartbreaking for a lot of people.


Therefore, it is imperative for us to do to at least some amount of research about Immigration Rules and laws.


Not Researching about Medical Insurance


US Health Insurance system is one of the most complex systems you will ever encounter. We’ve been here for 5 years and even we still can’t explain it properly. If you’re coming here on a Work Visa, your company might have set plans for you to select from and you can even add your dependents in the same plan. But choosing a plan itself is a task that needs a decent amount of research. You do not want to end up with an insurance plan that is no good.


Also keep in mind that you’ll have to buy Travel Insurance for your parents when they visit you here. Having sufficient knowledge about the Insurance may end up saving a lot of money in medical bills for you


Unprepared for the competitive job market


While the current time is known as “The Great Resignation” where millions of workers are quitting their jobs leaving millions of jobs open to be filled. Usually, the American Job Market is quite competitive.


For many newcomers getting ahead in the competitive job market depends on how prepared you are. Newcomers make the mistake of not knowing the job market very well.


To start, know the industries you want to work in, where the opportunities are and keep up to date on trends and news in your industry. Find out the best organizations/online groups etc. to join to get you closer to meeting people in that industry.


If you don’t get a job early on, try to get a volunteering opportunity to establish credibility and get some experience of the American work culture. Things usually end up working in your favor eventually.


Overestimating your paycheck


The cost-of-living in the United States is higher than in many other countries, and the cost can differ greatly depending on what region you are moving to. Do some research to find out what the standard cost-of-living will be like in the area where you are moving. Having information regarding how much you can expect to spend on utilities, groceries, housing, transportation, and taxes is important. This way you can avoid disappointment, and budget more appropriately, so you don’t have to give up activities you love.


Socializing with people only from your own community


Surrounding yourself with the people from your own cultural background, whether in your neighborhood or on social media, leads to the initial feeling of comfort and safety, but may eventually result in an unnecessarily long period of adaptation when it comes to language and American culture.


Also, it often results in a very one-sided, often negative perception of certain aspects of the way American society functions.


We’re not saying that you shouldn’t mingle with people from your own background (quite the opposite actually). We are saying that you shouldn’t mingle or socialize only with people from your background. Remember, they have nothing to lose by not socializing with you, while you lose out on valuable experience and perspective.


Not Asking Enough Questions


Ok, this one might seem weird to you. But stay with us for a bit. Most Indians don’t have a habit of asking questions. It’s just our culture that doesn’t reward (and instead punishes) asking questions.


Remember, it is ok to ask questions.


  • It is ok to ask someone to repeat themselves if you don’t understand their accent. Because you most likely will have to repeat yourself during your initial years.

  • It is ok to ask your shopkeeper if they have halal meat

  • It is ok to ask for questions to clear your doubts with anyone you’re talking. Whether it is at a store, at a restaurant, over a phone call, or even during a job interview.

Instead of assuming something and nodding our heads, we should learn to ask questions to clear our doubts.


Conclusion


These are some of the mistakes you should avoid when you first move to the US. While this may not be an exhaustive list. We think it’s at least a good starting point. You might still end up making quite a few mistakes.


But like we always say, “It’s Ok Yaar”.

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