Having lived in the U.S. for almost 16 years now has been an enlightening experience. The expectations vs reality phenomenon is really real. To break it down for you, I’ll list 5 things my family expected when we were coming to America and the actual reality that we faced.
- We all expected to have a better life in the U.S. In fact, the reason my parents made the decision to move was so that my brothers and I could have more opportunities. However, I can undeniably say that my first year in the U.S. was one of the worst years of my life. I would cry myself to sleep every night because I wanted to go back to Kenya. The home that we lived in while in Kenya was far bigger than the house we ended up in while living most of our years in the U.S. (It’s about the same now expect we had a huge backyard in Kenya due to building our house above our family farm). I can’t say that life in the U.S. is better (maybe a little easier because of a lot more technology).
- Many people outside of America think that it’s so easy to make money in the U.S. This perception is especially true in so called “third world countries” (I never liked this label but it sounds much better as compared to what Trump said about the S*** countries.” The truth is the unemployment rate in these countries, including Kenya, is very high and therefore, it’s not as easy to get a job. So yes there are more opportunities to make money but what they don’t tell is that the cost of living in the U.S. is high as well. Therefore, my parents who had great careers in Kenya, my dad as the principal of a high school and my mom as a teacher had to work 2 jobs when they came to America just to make ends meet.
- One of the opportunities my parents really wanted for my brothers and I is better education. I wouldn’t say that the education system in the U.S. is better because you get a better education based on your income and where you live (this rings true in Kenya as well). However, I will say there are way more scholarships and financial aid opportunities in the U.S. so it’s much easier for someone to get higher education here than in other countries. My parents were able to get both a bachelors and masters within 10 years of living here which greatly improved their job opportunities. In Kenya, more education doesn’t necessary guarantee more jobs due to corruption and few jobs.
- My parent’s greatest fear was that my brothers and I would lose our culture. I can’t say that this happened but we did lose some language skills in term of the tribal languages that we used to speak. We all still speak some Swahili so at least we have that. In terms of culture, we all still love Kenyan food, music, and keep up with the news. We also go back at least every 3 to 4 years so Kenya will always be a part of our lives.
- The last expectation is something that I’ll have to wait some years to find out. We all expect to retire in Kenya someday but it seems with every passing year we’re even more rooted in the U.S. In fact, we’ve become so used to the way of life in the U.S. that we sometimes get frustrated about how some things are run in Kenya. However, east or west, home is best (and in our hearts, Kenya will always be home).
I hope this breakdown helps those who want to come to America and are not sure what to expect or the Americans who wonder how others perceive their country. 🙂 ❤