ADJUSTING TO LIFE IN AMERICA

The Ultimate Guide: What You Need to Know

JOE K. MUNGAI

PREFACE

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK

“Learn how to use the experience of others to succeed and thrive using their strategies. Why re-invent the wheel if it’s working?” – Joe Mungai

I wrote this book to help you with your adjusting process in America, especially if you are new. I want you to have a good start in your journey of integration. But more than that, I want you to have a better outcome. This is in line with my passion of helping others as they navigate new cultures, environment and systems. And so I have made it my goal to help make your acculturating in America less complicated. Part of this involves reflecting on my own journey of acculturation in America so as to share with you what I now know, that I didn’t know, when I was new in America. The knowledge I share with you in this book has contributed immensely to my personal success in America. I will also share with you some important nuggets of wisdom that other immigrants have discovered in the course of their immigration journey. My aim in sharing and passing on this important information is to help make your life easier while you are settling down in the United States of America. This is my contribution in helping you as you battle what I call “The Beast of Integration.”

There are lots of things that I now know and which I have included in this book that make me say, “I wish I had such a manual upon arrival.” But then, I wouldn’t have discovered what I have discovered and what I’m sharing with you now.

You can tell how strongly I feel about this topic; I felt compelled to compile and publish this book to help you adjust to life in America.

I tell all my students that, “You shouldn’t re-invent the wheel if it’s not broken.” I encourage them to learn how to use the experience of others to succeed and thrive using their strategies.

My mission in writing this book is to broaden your experience and help you learn not only from my own experience, but also from the experiences of other immigrants who landed here before you.

 I have lived in America for more than fifteen years, and in the course of that time I have discovered the importance of quickly learning the ins-and outs of the host culture. As you know, learning never stops. You pick up new ideas and information as you progress in life. This book will not provide you with all the information you need, but it will give you a good starting point and a structure as you lay your foundation. I personally make effort to learn something new every day; I hope that you will learn to do the same for yourself. It’s a good practice to adopt, and it has amazing outcomes.

Part of the acculturation process in your host country means adjusting bit-by-bit and balancing your new culture with the culture you have always known. What this means, is that you will find yourself keeping some part of your old culture at the back of your mind as you learn and acquire what you need to know in your new culture. This realization gets more grounded in me with every passing year. It took a while, but I came to this realization that you cannot live a full life in your host country without learning parts of your new culture. You can still hold onto parts of your original culture, values and traditions while on this journey. As you progress, I want you to know that it’s not a betrayal of your parents or family if your new culture becomes more manifested in your life than some parts of your original identity as you take in elements of your host country’s culture. I say this with a lot of respect for your culture, being one who has been here, and has done it.

The other thing that I have realized, which is a major reason I put this book together is that:

The greatest source of suffering for most immigrants while in the US is lack of access to relevant and helpful information to help them improve the quality of their life. And for those with access to that information, their main undoing is failure to take advantage of it. Those two reasons explain the suffering of the majority of immigrants in the U.S.

This is why I tell my students: “The biggest reason for your lack of thriving in America is not other people or the systems no matter how complicated they might be, as many will have you believe; it is most likely you. Most likely, you are the one who fails to take responsibility to make good things happen to you, your family and your community.”

There are those who will not ask for help, even when the help is right there, when they desperately need it. If you ever need help, ask for it. Americans are big-hearted and are very likely to help someone in need. The initial period of adjustment is very tough, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You will make it through; we all did. But it’s much easier if you get some help along the way.

One thing I suggest you start early is: devote at least one hour daily, seven days weekly, three hundred and sixty-five days annually – including all Sundays and holidays – to study and train for a better job.

 If you are working for an industrial or agricultural corporation for example, ask to be allowed to help in repair shops, etc. during your off days – even for a few hours after working in the fields – without pay, just to learn and train. That expression of ambition and willingness to make an investment will catch the attention of the managers.

Also, don’t be lazy in improving your spoken English. Language is important. It’s ok to speak with an accent. However, it’s NOT ok not to speak English. Not speaking English will disadvantage you severely. You will have to learn it eventually, but you’ll dearly wish you had learnt it earlier. Get school going immigrant children teach you how to speak English, watch children’s TV with them, ask them to translate the dialogue. You can also join English language learner conversation groups or enroll for an English class to improve your English-speaking skills. You will be glad later if you do this now. I am sure you will reach out to thank me eventually for sharing this with you. 

We are far from being done talking about improving English-speaking skills. This subject has been close to my heart. We will revisit it again later in this book. I’m going to show you more opportunities that are available to help you develop your skills in this area. I also want you to learn from the experiences of other immigrants as I share their observations later on in this book.

I sincerely hope that what I share in this book will be relevant enough to make a difference in your life.