Welcome to America – the land of the free, the home of the brave, the land of opportunity! The land of enormous servings of food, the land of cheap booze! The land of endless opportunity to make your dreams come true! The land of the white picket fence, the 2.5 kids that the Mom drives around in her SUV. The land of the $5 coffee. The land of In-n-Out and White Castle! The land of Six Flags! The land of The Jones’!
We thought that crossing the border was going to be the tough part. We both spent many sleepless nights stressing out about how the person at the border determines our fate. Determines if they will grant John his working Visa or not. Determines if all of our hopes and plans would become our reality. The person at the border crossing determined if they would give us the ‘nay’ or ‘yay’ to cross into their country where John could begin his new job. Sure, we had all of the required paperwork from lawyers and did our due diligence to ensure that there was not a reasonable reason for that person to say ‘no’… but ultimately, it was up to the person at the border to make the decision of whether or not they allowed us entry into the land of the free.
Ironically, that was the easy part. It was pretty simple. We got our visas stamped into our passports and we were on our way! We thought we were golden, that life was going to be easy, breezy, beautiful! And although it is beautiful, it hasn’t exactly been easy nor too breezy. Stay gold, Ponyboy, Stay gold.
Below are a few of the struggles that we encountered, some of which we are still struggling with. As this post ended up being longer than expected, I’ve split it into two posts. Here is Part One of our Not So Warm Welcome:
Finding a new place to call home:
We decided to rent for the first year as there was too much unknown at the start of our journey. Long story short, our agent was absolutely terrible. He sent us a list of ten properties which we ranked from our favourite to ‘No way, Jose’. Essentially our agent showed us our top ranking, and our bottom four rankings. He had the most ridiculous reasons for only showing us one apartment out of our top five. He would ignore me completely and would only talk to John. He wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. Rude.
We flew into Chicago for three days and our agent had only spent 4 hours with us. Thanks, ya jerk. We ended up filling out an application for the only apartment that we liked that we were shown in the agent’s car. Yes, in a car. The agent pressured us to hurry up and tried to persuade us that the entire 5 page application did not have to be completed. He had somewhere to be and he made it very clear that we were not his priority. Once John had partially filled out the application, he kicked us out of the car and peeled out as I was still getting out of his car.
We didn’t end up getting the apartment we applied for (possible because of the poorly completed application) and ended up renting an apartment that we didn’t actually see in person.
Opening a bank account
We were warned that this is a common nightmare among Canadians living in the US, however we were optimistic that those horror stories were just that. Au contraire, mon frère.
We went to a bank whose headquarters are in the Canada and showed them all of our Canadian cards, our Canadian account numbers, etc. hoping that they could pull our history to see what awesome clients we are. They didn’t even try to pretend to care. We were told that we couldn’t open a bank account because of ‘X’ amount of excuses and reasons, for which we had counter arguments. I am stubborn and I was not leaving that Canadian bank until we got an account. All we wanted to do was give them money… how could they not want our money?
After almost five hours in the bank, we walked out with a bank account. The bank account could only be in John’s name and he would get a debit card in the mail in approximately two weeks. I was only the beneficiary and we could not have a joint account. Whatever, at least we finally had a place to house our money.
We were so excited when John’s debit card finally arrived in the mail, he called to activate it and the lady on the phone told him that his PIN for the card would arrive in the mail in 5 to 10 business days… Are. You. Kidding. Me!??! No, no they were not kidding me.
(And to all Canadians reading this, you must be thinking “why didn’t they just open up an American bank account through their Canadian bank account?” Well, we did. But it’s not the same. Others have also told me that their friends or family who frequent the US often were able to open bank accounts, but many don’t understand that living in the US is a completely different story.)
Obtaining a Credit Card
So, we opened a bank account. YAY!
But the bank wouldn’t give us a credit card. We showed them our Canadian credit cards with the same exact logo. It’s like we were showing them Monopoly money. They wouldn’t even let us apply for a credit card without housing a substantial amount of money with them. Well, for one, why would we want to house all our money with you when it was so hard to even open an account? And for two, we didn’t have that much money… it was a ridiculous amount. It’s as if some Executive randomly selected a number to be the minimum limit and then he added a zero to the number just for good measure.
We also were not allowed to even question mortgages. That is off the table unless you have a green card. Good thing we decided to rent. Luckily, we finally were able to get a credit card after being declined through several department stores and gas station cards. Who gets declined for a Target card!? I hit a new low when I opened the mail telling me that Target declined us. Ouch. All because we have no US credit history… but you can’t build credit without a credit card… but you can’t get a credit card without US credit… A vicious cycle I tell you.
And yes, we could have used our Canadian credit cards for everything in the US but we didn’t want to pay the extra 2.5% “conversion” premium on each purchase on top of the exchange rate.
Almost Losing The Beloved Credit Card
Yay! We have a credit card! John applied and had me as a co-applicant, as I am essentially an alien living here (more on that later). We received our credit cards in the mail, activated them, and went on a shopping spree! And then DOOMS DAY!
We find out that our account has been “randomly selected for an audit” (I question just how random that audit was). Through the audit we discover that they may take my credit card away… it was like preparing your first bite into a 28 day aged steak that you aged yourself, then let it marinade for 24 hours, grilled it to perfection, and as you slice through the meat and are bringing the fork up to your mouth for your first bite, Godzilla comes from nowhere and steals your entire steak right from under your nose.
Luckily, after some serious sweet talking, we were able to recover the steak.
We didn’t have utilities for two and a half weeks. The process here doesn’t even make sense. In Canada, you call the Utility company and they set you up with utilities. Easy as pie.
But in the US, you have to call the Utility Company who sends you on a goose chase to a Currency Exchange to have your identity verified, which once verified, you will be given a secret code that you call back the Utility Company with and they send someone to your place to turn on your gas “at the next available appointment” which could be one day, could be three weeks. We had to get our identity verified five separate times. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
Five. Yes, five times. Five separate trips to a currency exchange. Five separate secret codes that didn’t even work. And endless hours on the phone with the damn company trying to figure out how they are the only company in the entire city who offers such services in such a ridiculous process. But alas, I can now do laundry. It’s a good day.
Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh
Stop telephonin’ me (who doesn’t love Gaga & Bey?!)
So we go to most of the different phone companies in Chicago only to be turned away at the door. They won’t give us a cell phone because we do not have any US credit. Story of our lives at this point. After successfully spending five hours opening a bank account, we feel like we are on top of the world and go try getting a phone again.
So we go in, we do the “you have no US credit, we tell them we know that but we are from Canada and we just moved here, blah blah blah” tango. They try to tango us right out the front door, but our tango moves are getting good at this point. We are not going anywhere until we can call the Utilities company and tango with them on our US phones rather than being charged up the ying yang using the Canadian phones. Roaming charges are a beyotch. Anyway, after FOUR MORE HOURS at the phone place, we strut our stuff out the door with new phones in our pockets.
See Mom, my stubbornness does have some perks!
Please check out Part Two of this post, “Pt 2: The Not So Warm Welcome – Justin Bieber, We STILL Blame YOU”. Thank you for reading, my lovelies, and I’ve love to hear any and all comments. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog and/or “share”… I’ll appreciate that immensely!