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Living and Working in America (Living & Working in America) Paperback – 28 Sep 2006
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Looking forward to putting the theory in to practice!
This book will take you through everything from job-seeking before you go, visa applications, what to do on arrival, right through to applying for citizenship. It covers all the major stuff, like buying a home, getting a US driving license, arranging schooling for children, etc right through to detail like arranging telephone service, tipping and social customs. There's even a section on illegal working - if you're thinking about risking it.
There's an entertaining section on 'The Americans', although a better way to prepare for the absurdity of some aspects of American life is to read Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Big Country' - it's fantastic.
As a 'grown up' who moved out to the States and moved back having THOROUGHLY enjoyed the whole experience, the most valuable sections of this book for me were: the US tax system, insurance and credit.
My top tips: arrange adequate holiday medical cover in the beginning and then get proper US medical insurance as soon as you get an address; get every other kind of insurance cover you need - and that means allowing a big chunk of your budget to cover it from day 1; and plan on your UK credit reports being worthless in the US. As soon as you get there, get a credit card, even if it's a $250 limit with an APR of 29%, and use it and make the payments. It's amazing how quickly a good US credit history will make life easier.
The book includes lots of useful addresses and futher reading and is written in a practical, easy to follow manner. If you think you can just 'sort things out when you get there', read this book and think again. We ran into problems and we thought we were thoroughly prepared (like an apartment complex refusing to allow us to sign, even though we could have paid six months, cash, in advance, because we had no credit history). Things would have been unthinkably worse if I hadn't known some of the stuff contained in this book.
Read this book and ENJOY your move to the States.
When dealing with the cold facts - time zones, taxes, insurance, traffic laws, etc., the author does a fairly good job. On the lousy vacation time and public transportation system - he's right, and I apologize! What the author doesn't seem to understand about the lack of vacation time is that most of us see it as a necessary evil and would love to see it changed. The author seems to be under the impression that we enjoy working these long hours.
I did have a problem at times with the authors personal opinions. In a private conversation, I would not have minded much (I even agreed on a few of them) but I did not feel some of them were entirely appropriate in a guidebook, which should be more unbiased. Other times, I did disagree with him. Please be advised, even though the author says that there is no steryotypical American, some of the "facts" he gives about us really are only steryotypes. There are plenty of us whose lives do not revolve around money, shopping, and eating; and who are very much aware of what is happening outside our borders.
Also, be warned, at times when giving cultural inforation, the author is not accurate. For example, he states that it is common for men to kiss female friends on the cheek. It's not. Ironically, this was one of the foreign customs I was told to be prepared for before visiting Europe. Try it here, and you will make some people very uncomfortable. He also says that Americans will not hesitate to ask questions like how much do you make, why aren't you married, why don't you have children. DO NOT do that! Questions like that are considered VERY rude.
On the subject of rudeness, in the chapter on shopping, it is stated that "American shoppers usually dispense with the niceties; 'I'll take" or "Gimme' suffices, with no please or thank-you." Again, if you do this, you will be seen as a rude person. It was also stated that the customer is always right. This part is true, which means if you are unpleasant to the employees, your actions will be tolorated without complaint. (I wonder if this is where he got the idea that this is acceptable behaviour.) However, if you are interested in being seen as a polite person, and would rather the store employees not give you dirty looks after you turn to leave, I'd recommend keeping the niceties. Also note, while the unpleasant customers still get adequate service, employees often give their best service to the polite customers.
Written in a humourous, chatty style this book very readable. The sections on social ettiquette, customs and traditions are great and there are lots of contact details for further information - the book is just fantastic.
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