Many Caribbean people hold relocating to North America as a lifelong dream. However, as I learned from my experiences in the good ol’ US of A, migrating to a foreign country is not as magical as cable television teaches us.
No matter how much you prepare, your move will include a few hiccups. I won’t be there to hold your hand or help you sneak that jar of pepper sauce pass customs but I will at least offer some useful advice.
This is a list of 12 things for West Indians to note as they move to America.
1. Remember the essentials.
With everything you need to organise before you migrate, it is easy to forget about what you will need when you finally get there. Namely, a laundromat – unless your house or apartment has a built in washer and dryer – grocery store, barber, hairdresser, gym, ATM and post office.
You will also probably fall ill, especially during allergy season or when there are sudden shifts in temperature. So, a good doctor is a must. Zocdoc is a useful tool for locating one nearby who will accommodate different insurance plans.
Of course, you need to figure out how to get to those places. Make Google Maps and Waze your trusty companions. For those of you depending on a bus or train system to get around, try Transit for live schedule updates and changes.
2. Plan for more than two seasons.
The Caribbean has a dry season and a wet season, and our “coldest” days are quite warm compared to most other regions. America, on the other hand, is very different.
For instance, if you live in Chicago, New York City or Atlanta, you will experience four seasons: Winter, spring, summer and autumn. Each period brings distinct weather patterns and changes in temperature.
Invest in a thick coat, a scarf, gloves, a hat, waterproof boots and thermals for winter. Furthermore, buy a light jacket for spring and autumn, and a window unit air conditioner for the summer.
Finally, check the weather and temperature before you leave the house by watching the local news or via an app like The Weather Channel.
3. Brace yourself, nature is everywhere.
Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, I got accustomed to the occasional small lizard, mosquito or spider in the house. I missed them dearly when I moved to New York City.
Figure out how to keep household pests at bay as best you can by eliminating their water and food supplies. Also, don’t hesitate to contact your landlord or an exterminator if things get beyond your control.
Note: Let house centipedes live. They feed on other bugs, including silverfish, bed bugs and roaches.