complex life in the usa for new immigrants

40 Things Your Mom Never Told You About The Complex Life in USA


One of my friends asked me this question today

Why Life in USA is so complex? Why can’t they make things easy?

If you have to understand the above question, you have to know my friend’s background

  • He just came to the USA on L1B Visa. (less than one month)
  • Long Term project (should be staying in the USA for one year)
  • Currently working in a city where there is no public transportation
  • Indian Grocery Store is 1-hour drive (happens when not living in metro)

Life is Complex in the USA

Anyone new to the USA is going to ask the same question – Things are not easy here!

After landing in the USA, it will be not long before you realize that life is a bit complex, and things don’t always go according to your plan.

Everything seems to be interconnected, and that creates the Chicken-Egg problem.

When an IT services company is sending you to work at a customer site, they will provide accommodation for a couple of weeks. By then you should find your place to stay and find ways to get around the town.

Quality of life in the USA is much better compared to India, but the first few months are not easy. For some, the first year may not go easy.

Now, I have written over 200 words without saying any word about why life is complicated and things your mom never told you about being in the USA.

Settling Down in the USA

After initial temporary accommodation, when my friend started to settle down, he started facing problems (that’s what he says), but what in reality he’s taking life head-on and learning to live the new life in the new world.

The following list applies not only to my friend, but you will have the same issues too.

  1. First and foremost, you need a place to stay.
  2. Paying $700 in rent is expensive for someone who just came to the USA.
    • To save money on a rental, find a roommate.
    • If not, find someone who has a room for rent.
  3. Since you will not have any credit history, you will have to pay a higher security deposit.
  4. The apartment has to be located close to the office; if not, you need a car.
  5. Next, you need to open a bank account.
  6. First few months are always going to look expensive (100 Money-Saving Tips)
  7. You don’t need SSN (Social Security Number) to open a bank account.
  8. To get to the bank and daily commute, you need a car.
  9. To drive a car, you need a driving license.
  10. To get Driving License, you would need SSN (unless you prove yo are not eligible for SSN).
  11. It can take 3 to 4 weeks to get SSN.
  12. Someone has to drive you to SSN office (or you pay for the cab)
  13. Someone has to drive you to the Driving License Office to pass the written test.
  14. If you how to drive a car, then it makes things a lot easy to get the driving license
  15. You can to rent a car in your name (if you have an international driving license) and get insurance.
  16. Someone with a driving license has to drive you to take a driving test.
  17. After you pass the road test, you will get the driving license. (no, you cannot bribe to get pass the test)
  18. You need help from others to buy a used car (My First Car Buying Experience)
  19. It’s always not possible to buy a used car in a couple of days.
  20. Again, you need help from someone who can advise about buying a used car.
  21. After several test drives, you will buy a used car.
  22. Now, you have an apartment and a car to drive.
  23. You need to have auto insurance to register the car.
  24. Since you don’t have a driving history, insurance  rates will be high (like $1200 for 6 months)
  25. After getting insurance, you can register your car.
  26. Next, you will need a cell phone. (I say shine new iPhone!)
  27. You can get Pre-Paid plan these days (really cheap)
  28. You could get a cell phone family plan with a group of friends/family
  29. Now you have a cell phone, a car, a place to stay.
  30. Next comes the credit card and building a credit history.
  31. Apartment:
    1. You would need Gas, Electricity, Internet and Water connection
    2. You just have to call the right companies, and they create a new account in your name



Did you see so many things are depends on SSN. What if it takes a few months to get your SSN? Can you imagine how long it would delay other process?

If your passport doesn’t have a Surname, things will get tough quick.

Your first problem will start at the SSN office, and you will have a cascading effect.


Things are interconnected here n the USA.

Starting with your SSN.

Cars and Auto Insurance Rates

  1. Car Insurance rates depends on your driving history.
  2. If you are new to the USA, you don’t have any driving history.
  3. So, expect to pay higher insurance costs.
  4. Accidents:
    1. Drive Carefully!
    2. If you have a fault driving ticket (speeding or accident), then your car insurance rates will increase.
    3. Expect to pay 20 to 50% high insurance rates for the next 3 to 5 years if any accidents.


Credit History, Credit Cards and Payments

There is a complex link between credit cards, credit history and credit score.

  1. You need a credit card to build your credit history.
  2. You need a decent credit history to get a credit card. (Get this Card without Credit History)
  3. If you consistently pay bills late, then the credit score will go down the drain.
  4. Less credit score = high interest rates for any loans.
  5. You might now get an apartment with bad credit history.
  6. If you want to rent an apartment in your name, then for electricity, water, gas  connections need a high security deposit.

So, don’t mess up with your credit cards and pay your bills on time.

Don’t buy things you can’t afford. Period.

Back to the Story

Now, you can realize why my friend asked me the question – Why life in the USA have to be so complex?

While you are at school, you would have enough time to get things done.

There will be a lot of friends to share their experience and help you. But, in my friends case, he’s working in  city that doesn’t have public transportation, couldn’t find any Indian friends nearby to help him.

He’s getting things done by going to places in the cab and looks like his manager at work is giving him a ride to his apartment after work.

He’s very desperate to buy his car, but he never drove a car in India. So, he has to now spend money going to driving school to learn how to drive in America.

Life comes as a package.

When you pack your bags to come to the USA, your mom will advise you about staying safe, taking care of your health, but they will not be aware of such complexities of life in the USA.  Hopefully, you have learned something new from this blog post.

Do You have a story?

Everyone reading this post will have one such story. Can you share your experience. You an send your story using the contact form.

Did you face such problems with respect to SSN, Car license, Auto insurance, apartment rental, …etc. and how you managed to solve those problem.

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  1. hey.!
    hah…seriously life ‘s never easy and when its away from ur home and out of comfort zone it seems ridicluous..
    thanks for this post and m thankfull to HSB which day by day brings out the truth of the US FANTASIES…!


  2. A wonderful experience of yours but i have a question that who goes for Phd courses from scholarship (GRE.TOFEL) Are they also face this problem ?
    I wants to know if anybody’s has no freinds so they should go foreign for higher studies or not.

    1. hi.!

      Well first and foremost when you have dreamed of this thing then don’t panic. Think of giving the situations a TOUGH FIGHT.

      Secondly, either you give GRE,TOEFL situations prevailing will be same as quoted above .! Its a new place and def. you should be ready to face these challenges cuz when u are in a foreign land you should least expect any help.



  3. “Someone has to drive you to Driving License Office, to pass written test.
    Someone with driving license have to drive you for taking driving test.
    Again, you need help from someone who can advise about buying used car.
    Now you have cell phone, car, place to stay.”

    I don’t understand what you are trying to do. Putting up a lot of nonsense as different points and trying to increase the count ? Unless this post is meant for kids in their pre-teens, any grown up person who is responsible for themselves should be able to pull through. Its true that you’ll be pulled into a bit of discomfort during the initial weeks. A person with an international attitude and an open mind would find your post rubbish. To get a credit card, I can put a 50 point list showing how difficult it is in India.
    1. Go to counter1
    2. Go to counter2
    3. Go back to counter 1
    4. Produce Electricity bills, or DL and desposit cash into account before you get a credit card. The minimum amount itself is very high – Rs.20,000. Now you need help from a friend.

    I am sorry to say that I find a lot of negativity in the post and on the whole discouraging and useless.

    1. Totally agreed.

      The author has just tried to over complicate the whole thing for no reason. And many things are not true. You don’t need a DL to drive, most states allow you to drive on you Indian Driving License for sometime before you get your local driving license.

      What’s so wrong in expensive rent? Did you not know that before you left India?

      Don’t you have commute problems when you go from 1 city to a different city in India?

      For credit card, you can always get a secured card with a deposit of like 200-300 and 1 year later you can get your deposit back.

      For all other points in credit history section, I feel the author is going overboard. Its more than fair that your credit history takes a dip if you don’t pay on time and you have to pay high interest on things and other hardships. Will you give loan to someone you know never pays back on time?

      To conclude, 300$ deposit on a card and having to go to RMV/DMV office to get a DL and a SSN before that doesn’t make life any complex. Apparently the author has never seen a government office in India.

    2. supalyk@KAL,,,YO negative dude@complex life &HSB,,,IS IT SO EASY TO LIVE IN INDIA???,,,I can’t understand your point,,,,In India,if you want D/L you gotta bribe 5 guys,,,you want PHONE,,costs you much more,,,branded clothes much expensive,,education system textbook oriented i.e tough,,,,,I DON’T KNOW WHY EVERY TOPIC IN HSB has a conclusion ,,that studying in US is waste of time and Money,,

  4. Thanks for an excellent post.

    As I read the comments I realized how quickly these response sorted the men from the boys.

    If in India,they had mom to was their clothes ,feed them literally and carry their bags ,they are in a hell of a trouble in the US

    and for those whose minds are closed -well more trouble.

    But if you want to be a global citizen then mails like this should just prepare you for what it is-and you learn to find a way out of it.A little struggle wont kill

  5. hi all,

    happy to see some of the problems i am facing on this blog page. well to start with the cellphone case is similar to all but guys don't go for expensive phones initially because you will have to save your money for other things like getting rides from Indian friends and using cabs. There are certain networks which do not need SSN like TEE, virgin, cricket etc but at&t surely requires SSN so i advice to buy any of this mobiles initially until u build your credit history or something like getting your SSN and secondly most of the Indians of course bachelors have problem with their apartment its true that you need to find a room mate to share the rent or a room already rented. Now finally the drivers license.. its really good if you know driving or learn driving in India( I used to drive myself in India) or else you need to learn freshly up here and pay for it!! If possible get international drivers license.

    Well if you stay in places where the transportation is miserable like having cabs then i am sure you need to get the car !!

    But after all this complex issues at the end of the day i always feel satisfied with the thought that i have learned something that i don't know before. You need to maintain a family for yourself right from purchasing groceries to paying your bills. I never ever know how my dad used to pay the bills and how my mom used to get the groceries but now i am learning everything!! of course when i call up my home and tell about all this stuff my parents feel glad that i am knowing the responsibilities of my own life

    And now……. rock up man we are living for ourselves !!!

  6. Hi! Thanks for your great work in this website! I have a question: I've applied for a 6 week program in US and I'm getting more scared every second! If this is so complicated, can I go through those 6 weeks easily?? I must confess that I apllied to this program to not only improve my knowledge but also "touch the ground" before I apply for studying master's in US!


    1. scares more.Be prepared as HSB said.You have a bachelors degree right so it will not be walk in the part or no one will spoon feed. 🙂

  7. It seems I have to be with a close friend or sort of a relative of mine to let things go as expected if I am to land to US for a longer stay. Oh! is that possible really?

  8. It scares more than actually providing a solution for these problem.It would have been nice if also posted solution for these.Definitely no MOM's will allow her son/daughter if they read this post.

    1. No mom will allow their son if they read this – Agreed. Do you think life is going to be walk in the park and expect to be spoon-fed even after completing bachelors degree? Solutions to each of the problems will be posted as separate blog posts.

  9. @SS, you are absolutely correct, when in the companionship of good friends/relatives/neighbours. The problem is when you are alone or not getting support when required.

  10. All these are bachelor stories, when they came to US alone. Imagine a person coming over here with a family of spouse & 2 kids and surviving life in such a costly city like California (several taxes on salary upto 30%). Thank God, i work for a reputed company, so getting credit card is easy, as they tied up with us and got SSN seamlessly. But, yes, life is not at all easy and getting tougher day-by-day, it's not lucrative any more. My suggestion for forth-coming visitors on job visa, would be, to do as much enquiry as possible for all these things, before landing here and never take anything for granted.

  11. Well…it would be nice if you mention the positive things too. I know it is certainly hard for newcomers but things here are so straightforward without hassle…for instance I lost my wallet few years ago and just by making 3-4 calls everything was corrected and I had my life back at the expense of zero dollars. Imagine in India if you lost your wallet with bunch of credit cards. By the offense …people in US have more courtesy, helping nature compare to people in India…I am sure everyone will agree with this….so guys don't worry it is easy to survive those first months/years when compared to the struggle we experience while taking GRE, applying univ's or getting visa….you will be perfectly fine and at the end of the day you are the winner!!!

  12. My experience was about job.

    I am in US because i won visa lottery from Nigeria. I am not married.

    Things were not much difficult for me because my uncle helped me in using his car to take me to SSN office and MVA for Learners Permit Driving License.

    but in the area of Job finding, It was so tough. But I was really interested in going to school.

    So when i found out about the benefits in the United States Navy concerning education, I went to write the Entrance Examination and i score 89. So i was enlisted. In the Navy there is constant pay although it is not much, but it is constant. A continuous drip of water can make river/ocean.

    I wish to share to people in my shoe to think and consider the Navy too. 2404817480 is my number.

  13. Hi all

    I want to share my story.

    I came to USA 4 yrs ago.I came with other 6 frnds from india.

    We have the image that we are going to usa and will have lots of fun and everything will be easy but when we lend here the scenario is opposite.

    At every step we have to struggle.

    We cant get the SSN. I took the ssn denial letter and apply for the license, I failed couple of times and then need to pay money for rent (we share big house worth 1400$ fro 7) abt 200$ which is not that bad but still we have to pay fees.

    I have to pay 10000$ for 6 months which is above limit.

    So then I start job(cash) and doing abt 90-94 hrs a week coz then and then only i can survive.

    Everyone knows students dont have any options.

    So we forgot abt the ssn and license.

    After 2 yrs I finished my MS and graduated luckily without borrowing any money and any bank loans so now I feel relax coz I can take time to find a job by agent.

    But the market is so bad (2009 january- recession at the peak) cant find any agent even they are closing and suggesting to go to india.

    I still try myself to volunteer.

    Finally god and luck helps me and I got the paid job just withing 15 days as my opt is starting from january 19, 2009 next problem is i didnt got the opt card and applied on time and still it is saying pending(believe me it is tough time/ Have job but cant work)

    I waited till feb and finally i get the mail that they need some documents.

    I mailed them express and got the opt card feb 19th .

    I am really thankful to my employer they keep waiting for me and I joined and I am there since last 2 yrs.I got H1 in 2011.

    Now the life is quite good compared to before.


    believe me there must be the solution if there is a problem.

  14. First thanks for information about student life in usa. I really like above blog. I never find any website which provide great information about education in USA. I find many university, GRE,GMAT,TOEFL related information. Thanks from my deep soul to this website.

  15. Hi HSB,

    Since there is so much talk of Credit History, I just wanted to know if your Credit History in India will have any value in US? I am working in a IT company and have a credit card with good transactions as well. I have already applied for fall 2011 and am getting restless for an admission decision.


    1. What I think the purpose of this post is to prepare those going to the U.S. so that they are not caught off guard.. It's true that if one has the will, nothing is impossible but at the same time it doesn't hurt to be prepared for whats coming

    2. Why are you complaining when we post the facts? No one said its not possible to get along with life in this post. What is the use in painting rosy picture about life in USA?

    3. You are right dear micky. Nothing is impossible.You give strength me. By reading this type of complex life in USA some may not go there.

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