It’s going to be 9 years tomorrow, October 3rd, since I first set my foot on American land. It’s soooo hard to believe!!!
When I came here I was fresh out of college. It was my first time traveling outside the country, ever. Yet, I don’t remember feeling any fear or anxiety. It was like a brand new adventure, and for some reason I was so certain that it was going to be pretty damn awesome.
*Yours truly as a freshman. This is a front page of a college grade book that every student gets.
At the Frankfurt airport between flights I went to a cafe and ordered some breakfast and a coke. What a disappointment it was, when it turned out that coke is actually just cola. I knew Americans always order it, so I figured it must be good. It wasn’t! Well, at least not with breakfast, and not the liquid kind of coke that I got :)
Everything was big in America: from airport personnel at PHL, to cars, to big wide highways with green road signs that are so easy to read, to even kitchen appliances. And I’m not even talking about Texas.
My impression of American people was that they are very open and incredibly nice: they are always polite in stores, and smile at you, and nobody cuts lines or shoves you on the subway (not even in NYC). There’s a myth in Russia that Americans are dumb. The key word here is “myth”. Americans are pretty straightforward and not sly, like former Soviets, who had to invent crazy ways to survive in a collapsing country. Not being sly doesn’t make one dumb. So “dumb” is a pretty shallow word, especially when used for generalizations (unless it’s used to describe blondes, of course :P).
Everything here is well organized and just makes sense. There’s a lot of conveniences everywhere, from wheel chair ramps and buses, to car rental services, to automated checkout stations at stores… I was super impressed. Not to mention the abundance of stores and things you can buy, things that are actually reasonably priced and well made. My first pair of shoes was from a Payless store, and I was stunned that you could actually get a decent pair of shoes for $19.99.
When I went shopping in a supermarket, I felt overwhelmed by crazy amount of choices. I would walk up and down the aisle trying to figure out what to buy, and why there’s 25 varieties of orange juice sold there, and which one I should get. I also liked coupon clipping, because it felt like a little winning game: you whip those out to the cashier and get so much stuff for so little money. Almost beats that bargaining game you play with Kazakh grandmas at a local market at home. Almost, but not quite.
*My mom, a pro at this game, bargaining with a local seller at a village market
One of my favorite memories was seeing the ocean for the first time. It was so damn incredible and huge and salty. Going to the ocean is still one of my favorite things to do.
* Amazingly crooked photo of me on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard
Even learning things felt much easier here than in college in Russia. I took a web development course and it just came so naturally to me. It might be because technology is easier to grasp in English since nothing gets lots in translation, or the teachers are actually friendly and not grumpy, or because you’re working with modern technology and not outdated assemblers that will ever be used in real world… or a combinations of these things. I felt like fish in the water and consider myself very lucky to find a place and a life path that makes me both comfortable and challenged, in a good way.
There were some difficulties – of course. I missed my family and friends incredibly. Thanks to the internet, we could still talk and write and IM and video chat with them, even when they are half way around the world.
One of smaller things that seems funny now, but was hard at first, is talking to people on the phone. I spoke pretty good English when I got here, but it’s much much harder to understand someone when you don’t see their mouths moving. Especially in Philly where they have this crazy slurry accent. My friend Kelly was a native Philadelphian, and I really liked her and wanted to get to know her better, but it seemed like she was chewing something while she spoke and I couldn’t get it.
Another strange thing for the first few years was pop culture. All the movies, TV shows, personalities, sports… I would go to lunch with my coworkers and just blink and chew not getting what they were talking about, when they discussed some Dr Who (who?), startreks, some local famous people who weren’t actually famous enough to make it all the way to Russia (even that British Dr Who)
Now it feels much easier. With luck and hard work, everything somehow fell into a place. It feels like this is home now, and NYC is exactly the place I want to be. I really can’t believe that it’s close to 10 years that I’m here, and I’m so grateful and happy and excited that I’m on this journey in this wonderful city, and have the best friends and family all over the globe, who were cheering for me this whole time. Thank you my darlings! Could never have done it without you :)