Five things I did not know about the US when I got here on the H4 visa

 I think when we get a proposal from someone working in the US or your spouse (as in my case) moves to the US, there is quite a bit of excitement about visiting a new country, seeing Amriki things and traveling more. Plus there is the glamour of US – the land of all the Star World serials and Hollywood movies and the exotic locales of the Bollywood ones. So many of us also have aunts and uncles who live there and have been bringing us great stories about large houses, cool cars and fun gifts. I know now the glamour is a little less, now that there are so many great jobs and cars and gadgets and coffee chains in India, but its still there. Sometimes this is mixed with an apprehension – leaving my roots, leaving my family, leaving my job or profession.

And I am not sure if you realize – I certainly didnt till I filled in my visa application, that the H4 visa does not allow you to work.Perhaps you rationalize it, as I did by saying i will find a part time job on my H4 visa or I will study on the H4 visa or I will look for work on my H4 visa.  And even if you rationalize the work part, I dont  think you realize how different and sometimes isolating life in the US is. Here are somethings I did not know about the US and wish I had, so that I could have weighed options and mentally prepared for it:

  • There are usually no maids, or cooks, or drivers. I think this is a very non advertized part of American life. You have to do a lot on your own. Mind you, its not bad when you get used to it. But you do have to get used to it the hard way. People may say – well you have diswashers and washing machines. Yes, but you still have to wash most dishes before loading the dishwasher, certainly in apartments where the brand may not be as good. And there are several hand wash items you will have to handle or move to, like so many of us, buying only ‘machine washable things’. Just be prepared for this, and if you have a large house, and can afford it, get an occasional ‘cleaning service’ to help, specially with ‘grout’ and tile cleaning in the US.
  • You have to iron all your clothes yourself, unless you want to spend a bunch at the dry cleaners. Make most of your clothes such that they can do without ironing 🙂
  • Driving is a mush for mobility in many US cities. When  you are driving, the cars move really fast and you are often close to humongous 18 wheelers which look straight out of a Hindi Movie Action scene. I half expected the trucks trying in a concerted move to crush my car. It doesnt happen that way, and you will get used to it.
  • Once the hubby leaves for work, even if you know a friend or two, life is very lonely. Life here, though you may have a group of freinds you visit each weekend can be isolating.Some ideas to combat this: (more on this post)
    • Bring books, courses you want to read, things you can do.
    • And network and make friends so that your time is occupied.  Something, I didnt do, but if you know life is lonely, you can plan ahead, trying through networking sites or your family and friends to identify people in the city you are going to.
    • Try to take an apartment in an area where you can walk around and visit shops, or is close to a bus stop. Note that all cities dont have good public transport, and you may have to walk a while or the buses may not be as savory.
  • Getting a job may seem tough, but the toughest part is getting the H1B, specially with the limits in place. So prepare for a hiatus, and if you can beat it, great. Meanwhile, there are plenty of things you can do to build your career while here. 

There may be more that I have missed. What are your thoughts? What surprised you here? 

For more posts on the H4 visa life, click here or the links in the post.

Last 5 posts by Amrita Bakshi


  1. Seema P

    I also found it very surprising that everyone wants to do everything on the weekend – the week days are useless except for office which we dont have on h4

  2. Amrita

    Thank you, that is a good one.

Leave a Reply