Tanya Freedman hosts inspirational conversations with Filipino nurses who have made a new life in the United States - they reveal how they did it, and provide insider info you won’t find anywhere else. Here you’ll find all the knowledge and inspiration to live out your own American dream! If you’re thinking about making the step to living and working as a nurse in the USA, then why not enlist the help of one of the top medical staffing agencies?
Finding community, the cost of living and social security – pt 2
Part 2: In the first episode of Nursing in America, we hear about finding community, the cost of living and social security in the US.
Tanya, Gene, Paul
This is the second part of a two part episode. So make sure you go back and listen to part one.
First, of all, if you want to maybe talk us a little bit through the first few days when you arrived in the US, what was it like? Any stories to share with us any anecdotes in your first few days here? Because that's what we call the honeymoon period.
In my mind, I was still in the Philippines. I was thinking, 'yeah, I will be in the USA!' So I'm so excited. And I was thinking of a very nice view, like skyscraper buildings. But no, when I when I get here, I chose Michigan to be the, the the place where I'm going to be deployed because you know, in the Philippines, it is so hot. So I wanted to be in a cold day now. So when we arrived in Detroit, the buildings are not so so. So I was like, 'Oh, isn't this America?' We arrived in February 6 of 2006. And there was our lawyers and the staffing agencies and fetch us from the airport, me, my family, my husband, my kids. We came together here in the United States. So and the first thing we we did was after we had lunch with uswe went to the Social Security Office Administration to get our social security number. I think this time, when you come here in the United States, you don't need to go to the Social Security Administration office anymore.
There are two ways of getting the Social Security so you can get the Social Security by applying for it while you're in the process. So the 60 day, or you would have to go to the Social Security Office depends how you have done it when you're in the immigration process.
Okay, so that's our process only went to, when we when we arrived, we go directly to the Social Security office to get our social security number. And then after that, we went to our apartment, and which was pre arranged by our liaison officer. But then the apartment doesn't have anything, so we have to go to the furniture store to get our bed, our bed or mattress, everything. And the agency lent us $1,000 for the furniture. So we were deducted every every month for that. That's the money that I bought here when I came here in the United States is only $2,000. So I didn't have enough money when I when I came here. So the next day we went shopping for our food, groceries and stuff. And the next few days, we went to the hospital to have a medical exam, and some of the papers that we needed to sign. Also we opened a bank account. I remember the funny thing that we did was when we wanted to buy a desktop. Because you know when we arrive it's so lonely. We miss our family in the Philippines. So we buy a desktop in I think we went to Best Buy and the money they have, like the desktop cost is $283 and I have like all like $1 bills. I mean, my bills are all $1 so I bought our desktop that was that cost $283 with all $1 bills.
Wow. The shop the store must have been Wow, what's going on?
And you Paul? Tell us about your first few days. Tell us about the honeymoon.
Well, I came here to the United States and I stayed in San Francisco for a week, I informed my employer first, first and foremost, because I don't want to you know, they they're, they've been expecting me for like nine years. So I told them, Hey, can I go to San Francisco for a week before I go there. So I spent a week in San Francisco with my friend and toured the San Francisco area, because I feel like after I start working, I won't be able to travel for a while, you know, because of the adjustment phase. And then I flew into, to my city, it's a small city in the south, and it's predominantly Spanish people, 99% Spanish people. So that's one of the few hurdles that I had to overcome, because I have to learn Spanish and thank God, me poketo, habla espanol, Lolita. So I speak.
That's your principal.
After three years, yes. So. But um, there's so many things that were really hard at first, you cannot go around without this is not not like New York that you see in the movies, where, where there's some ways and cabs everywhere. I'm in a city where there's no public transportation. And if you do try to use a public transportation, you're gonna have to wait for an hour or two to get to the bus. And then you're going to have to walk miles under 90 110 degrees Fahrenheit during summer. So I didn't have a car, my agency arranged for a car service for me for a month until I could get a car. And that's one of the few things that I had to do. As soon as I got here, before, it was such a big resource. That time we were only 4000 people in live for that was 2007. And there were people mentioning about different credit unions. So I applied, I applied in all those credit unions within two weeks that I was here in the States. And I was able to get a car in three weeks without downpayment. And I had a really good deal with the APR. Another problem that I had was I didn't have a bank account, I didn't have social security. So the bank account, I went to Bank of America, because they're only requiring one ID. So that was my passport. The other banks would require two American IDs at that time, I didn't have American night exempted visa from from the US Embassy. So that was one thing. And another thing is a social security, I had to wait for it for two weeks. But what I did was I went to Social Security, the next day that I was in my city. And I asked them if I could have the number because the number is all I need not the card to be able to apply it to my job because my my employer will have to do background checks, get your bank information for your direct deposits. We do not pay cash here. When you when you work in the hospitals not like in the Philippines, he paid cash that goes to your bank after your bank account and your check. And then of course, the Social Security's needed for the employer background check so as to take care of that. And then of course, I had to wait for a week before the background check is finished so I could start working. The thing here is you don't get paid not until the second or third week. So if you're not working for a while, and you keep traveling, keep doing this things and like what Ma'am, Jean said you had to buy a lot of things. You're you're kind of losing money. So you want to start working as soon as you can. What I did is I brought I think I had $6,000 when I started and then I brought my Philippine credit card just in case. So it actually helped me in the first few months, especially with the groceries and stuff like that. But But if you're like me and you're single, you're really good to learn to be very independent. In terms of like setting up your life and establishing your life your apartment and buying groceries. As soon as I got my car in three weeks. I started driving around just to get to know my city very well, like were the banks are where the schools where the groceries very important for me were the parks, because those are the stuff that helped me the first few months and driving driving is another story. All right, I'm in a state with the fastest speed limit and we could have a 30 mile per hour speed limit on our street but drivers are just driving 6070 miles per hour on a small street. So it's crazy. It's not like the Philippines I drove in Manila and it was always you know, slow moving over there. Here it's like 100 kilometers per hour. You know, that's how they drive a rear. And it's it's another story, I guess we'll talk about it in another video. But yeah, it's about.
Yeah, there's so much to say and so much to share. But I think both of you have shared so many wonderful pieces of advice already. And, you know, the one thing that both of you have spoken about is coming here with enough money. And I can really relate because I came here 20 years ago, I had two little children. I came from South Africa, my husband was carjacked. In, in South Africa with a gun to his head, there was a lot of crime. So that was the reason why we came to America. But when we came here, we had very little money. And with the exchange rate, it made it even worse. So I can, I can identify that feeling of thinking that you're going to start working right away, and you're going to be earning right away, and you don't realize when you come to the US that that doesn't happen, because you've got to go through social security, you've got to go through background checks, you might have to have a medic, you will you will have to have a medical exam at the hospital. So you know, there's a lot of steps and a lot of things that you need to go through before you start earning a paycheck.
I hope you're enjoying the podcast so far. If you know a friend or colleague who would benefit from listening to this conversation, please let them know about the show. We want to help as many nurses as we can turn their dreams into a reality. If you're thinking about making the step to living and working as a nurse in the USA, we can help you head over to kinetics. usa.com to find out more. That's kinetics. usa.com,
you have any advice? Paula Jean, about how much and this is please just to be clear to everybody. This is just, you know, Paul, and jeans advice. So you know, please don't take that as like a that's, you know, gospel like what exactly? So any, any idea of what you you would suggest as kind of like a minimum? Because obviously, the more somebody can save and bring with them the beta. But do you have any advice or suggestions on that?
Right now, because you have to buy a car. And if you don't have a good credit score here, you have to make a down payment. So I guess, if you have a relative here, the the would cost sign up to get that car that would be very good. Um, maybe 500 or 1000 down payment for the car alone. That's, I think the least that they could they could give you and so probably $5,000 would be enough. I guess. This would be in my time. I only have 2000. I survived with the 2000. But it's different now. It's the year 2020. And everything is
right. No, it was 14 years ago, right? Yeah, yeah. So things have gotten more expensive. Paul, what are your thoughts on that?
I guess it would really depend on the family sys. With me, I'm single. So I thought that five and 6005 or 6000 was enough. The also one good thing about what happened to me was I can consider myself very lucky, you know, because I'm I was able to start on the job within two weeks here in the United States, the first week being in San Francisco touring and the second week waiting for the background check. But I've heard of nurses having to wait for a month or two. Because you know, like what Miss Daniels said, You don't just come here and start work right away. There's a lot of stuff to do wait for your Social Security, wait for your background check. Wait for your licensure verification. So employers will do a lot. In fact, in my new job, I had to wait three weeks for them to clear me. So I was just lucky to be able to start within two weeks. So that means that after the first month here in the United States, I already got my first paycheck. But I can't imagine for nurses who would have to wait one or two months to do some trainings or, you know, if they have deficiencies, the employers would not allow them to work right away. That would really pose a problem. So I would suggest you budget within the first three months as a safety net. For me. I was also lucky because my my first house I lived in I rented a room on a Filipino family. If you're single you can do that. It's called house hacking. You know, it's easier because you don't have to buy a lot of furniture Right away, and you don't have to buy a lot of stuff right away, in I had a huge room and it was super cheap, I was able to save a lot of money because of that. And I, I mean, they were cooking Filipino food. So I mean, I would take that in a heartbeat, because I don't know how to cook. But um, but that's it, it depends on your family size. If you're single, I guess two to 5000 would be enough for the first one or two months. Um, but if you're bigger family size, you have kids, that would be a different story. So account for furniture, so you had to buy equipment that you have to buy food, groceries, and everything that you need to establish your life here. So there are good resources online for cost of living comparison. And I forgot the website. But if I find it, I'll post in lavora. But they itemize like the grocery expenses and the gas expenses for each city in the United States. There's a lot of stuff in Google that you can find, that might help you decide on how much you can bring. In the first few months that you're here. You're here in the United States. And if you have credit cards in the Philippines, that can be a safety net as well that can help you to you know, fill in the gaps. If you don't have a lot of cash. here in the States, most of the time it's cashless, so credit cards, you can use them debit cards, that will really help you.
Probably if you're going to California, you might probably bring a bigger amount of money. Because if you go here, if you go in California, and you don't have a license in California yet, because you still have to file for that right? maybe six to six months, the least to get the license in California. So you might probably bring $10,000 Yeah, depends.
Okay, sorry, Paul, I think that's a good point that both of you are raising. And that is, often before you come to the US, you don't realize that every state and almost every city has got a different cost of living, and different taxes as well. Some states have federal and state tax, and some only have federal tax. So if you think of the cost of living, it's not like comparing apples and apples. It's really comparing apples and pears. So I think that's a really important point that you both brought up. And one other thing that I wanted to speak about his genius book about when you came here, you had a friend, Paul, you were talking about the lafora community, which has grown so unbelievably in the last, you know, in the last few years. But I think one thing that's really important that's coming through to me from both of you is that sense of helping each other and that sense of community what he spoke about, you know, staying with the Filipino family, can you talk a little bit about that and how that can help. Because that is something certainly for myself as an immigrant I found coming from South Africa is the other South Africans that I knew here were really our we were able to form a great buddy system. And that was enormously helpful. Can you talk a little bit about your experiences with that?
With my friend, I came up with a friend who I met in the Philippines, but we we live in a separate apartment because I have a family and she's single. So she has her own apartment. But then when we came here, my husband has an ample live in Florida and she helped us to be our co cosigner when when we bought the car and also I have a friend who helped me. She came to our apartment, we went grocery shopping, probably she spent like 200 300 presses. Ah, there was a free grocery for us. So yeah, we were so fortunate to have those friends who helped us during that time.
So, yeah, same with me. Communities important, especially if you're single. It was my when I moved here to the States, it was my first time migrating to somewhere to work. I travel a lot. When I was back in the Philippines. I travel a lot every now and then I'd be added to country for travels. But that is only temporary when I got here. In the first month I realized how homesickness can be so bad can affect your mental health. If you're really not strong and community, it's very important. I was lucky because where I live. There's a huge Filipino community close to me like I mean if I go outside my house, there's eight houses around that are owned by Filipinos and Every now and then we would have lunch and dinner together. And that helped me the first three months. And also with my job, the first thing that I did when I got deployed in the emergency department is look for Bill, because I can relate to them, and they can relate to me. And that really helped me, you know, get through things they know, I was new. So there were so many things that, you know, like when you say culture, shock, culture shock is real. I mean, I grew up in Manila, and I've been exposed to so many stuff. But when I got here, there's so many things that I call American waste that I was never prepared for. But the community helped me and that's really important. I got here by myself, my agency is such a small agency, and we don't get deployed like other agencies where you go together 10 of your 12 of you and the same hospital. No, I was by myself, and it took months before the next person got here. So when I was finally able to adjust, I have this mantra fade forward. So those nurses that got here after me, when they got here, I let them my car, I drove them around to groceries every week, I would do that for them. I'm not expecting for anything, but it's just me paying it forward. Because I know how hard it is to be away from your family and not have a community. So that's what I did to my friends. And that's what I'm doing and look forward to. It's like my community service. It's like my me, paying it forward to everybody. You know what I learned? I want to share it to everybody. So that's, that's what I do.
Yeah, and I love that pool. Because that's really what the lafora talk show is. It's paying it forward. It's really just sharing your experiences to help those that are coming next. And we hope that that will be passed on to the next group of nurses that will be coming to the US. But I think that you're so right, both of you. Culture shock is a real thing. You know, before I came to live in America, my sister lived in Los Angeles. And I used to say to her, I don't understand what is so different. You know, you you, you get up in the morning, you eat your breakfast, you go to work, you run your errands, you see to your family, you you know, you come home, you cook dinner, and you go to dinner, like what could be so different about coming to America that that would say that you would have culture shock. Oh, my gosh. I certainly learned the hard way that it's a real thing. And it's very common in the few months, and even up to about a year. After you've arrived in the US. It's very common. And I want everybody to hear this. You've heard it from Paul, you've heard it from Jean, it's very common to feel homesick, and to feel depressed, sad. And I'm not saying everybody's going to feel that way. But it's not uncommon for you to experience culture shock. And I think that's where community is just so important. So, so important, and just helping each other and paying it forward. Paul and Jean, any other advice? Any other words of wisdom to share at this time? Words of wisdom?
Good deal. If you dream of coming here to America, don't let Don't let it just be a dream. So strive. Strive, you strive so so hard that he he will make that dream into reality. pass your NCLEX pass your I ELLs, that's your step in coming here to America. So yeah, and just live a simple life when you come here. Don't believe love seriously. Just live simply. Yeah, so. So in that way, you can also help if you have the drive to help your family back home, then you still have money to help them to help them. pearls of wisdom Jean, really, really good advice. I've seen so many nurses over the years come to the US they've dream they've waited, they've worked hard to get here. And then they come here and they think this is you know, this is going to be the land of milk and honey which is the greatest country and the most wonderful opportunity. But they put enormous pressure on themselves by going out and spending too much and incurring too many expenses. I think that is a wonderful, wonderful advice, Jane. And I agree 100% get your NCLEX get your aisles. Now is the time now is the time. Thank you everybody for tuning in and happy nurses week. I've been there they say everybody Thank you. Bye bye.
If you enjoyed today's episode, then please help us by hitting the Follow button on your podcast player and leaving us a review. If you're thinking about making this step to living and working as a nurse in the USA, we can help you head over to kinetics. usa.com to find out more. That's kinetix usa.com. Tune in next time for more incredible conversations.