Posted by: globalorama | July 4, 2007

Coming to America

Not the movie, just my thoughts.For all those years of being in the U.S., I have met people from all world’s corners. While being an Arab, it was only natural that many of those I met were also Arabs. With many different reasons of immigrating to the west, and the U.S. in particular, a large portion of Arabs fails to achieve set goals for just as many reasons. I have decided to write on this topic due to recent news that a high-school friend of mine has gone through so many problems here in the states, which resulted in jail time and, at the moment, expecting deportation orders.

Coming to America shouldn’t be on the basis of stories we hear, it shouldn’t be due to movies we see, and it shouldn’t be as a response of an article we read. After all, there are ways of making life a lot better in our home country, as was portrayed in recent postings on this blog of successful Jordanians in Jordan…better enough to make immigrating the wrong choice.

After almost ten years in the U.S., I came to the conclusion that there are two goals dominating the rational of immigrating. These two goals could be pursued concurrently or subsequently, with the latter being preferred for best results. The goals are Education and Money.

Those who are still in Jordan, or have left during their adolescence, still remember stories of working in the States. They still remember or hear people talking about fulan who made a good amount of dollars and bought a house or two in Jordan or comes back every summer on a vacation to spend some of that money. The amount of money a person can make by working at a gas station, a restaurant, a grocery store, or as a cab driver (which are the dominating first jobs for young Arabs coming to the States) could be in the range of $6-$12 per hour. This figure, when translated into Dinars at current living costs in Jordan, is a lot of money. Even though living expenses in the U.S. are a lot higher than those of Jordan, the comparison never enters the calculations of a young, clueless Jordanian. Once they are here, they are hit with rent, bills, insurance and gas, and many other expenses that weren’t given any importance at the time of living at the parents’ house.

I am not saying that breaking even is the ultimate result. But, accumulating money in the U.S. has its ways. It is possible only if you pursue one of the two goals at a time.

Jobs for the willing are aplenty in the U.S. If one chooses the money route, then devotion must be directed at working as much as one can (as many hours) and save as much as could be saved, while minimizing splurges and following trends (to stay cool). In this situation, a person can accumulate in the vicinity of 20-30 thousand dollars a year. This money could be invested in Jordan or saved up to open up a business in the U.S., which, if run successfully, would be a way to double or triple initial investment within a few years. It isn’t that hard. Scores of grocery stores, coffee shops, liquor stores in the San Francisco bay area are owned by Arabs. But, at the same time, for the first few years, while accumulating that money, expect no life what so ever. Work and sleep would be the schedule.

The money option, minus the starting business part, is ideal for those on visiting visas (i.e. B1/B2), who are not sure about what way to become permanent residents or are overstaying and afraid to be deported at anytime.

The second option, education, is a better option in every way looked at in my personal opinion. Having experienced the first route myself, solidifying your education first should be of paramount priority to any other option. With education, no matter how little, the payoff is greater. Lets say starting a business is important to you. Educated people, most of the time, make better business decisions, are able to better negotiate prices, leases, and deal terms. Consequently, resulting in a far better outcome.

To be continued…


  1. heheh.. I am pursuing my education here, and man I am barely living with the amount of money I make off my assistantship.. hehehe.. well, i know i still haven’t got a life here in America because I am not ranked with those who get saleries from jobs..however, obtaining a higher educational degree never hurts😀 one day, it will modestly pay back.

  2. yeah, and true.. the shocking part about it all is that we never are fully aware of the responsibilities of paying bills, rent, utility services, health ensurance, taxes, … etc while living back home with our parents.. especially us girls– that would have been the last of my concerns in Jordan. but now, I am always alert about paying bills and following up with the rest of the payments on time..

  3. hmm confused :S
    Honestly speaking no matter how much money you make in the states of working those run of the mill Arab american scantly legal jobs, you will not be able to do jack shit with that money when u bring it to jordan since the prices here are insane. if you are hinting at buying a house in jordan it would be far far cheaper to get that in the states(am not saying in NY, SF, BHills, or any place along those lines) that it is to get it here😀

    Student visas and visiting visas holders are not allowed to work in the united states and any check on your social security number being tied in to a job will result in deportation.

    As for bill responsibilities and money management (which arabs are not so surprisingly crappy at) are the rites to adulthood, better stumble now than drown later. in essence it is not really all that complicated.
    I double what you said, education is premium. one problem though now for international students is that job market in the states is very strained and limited. there are fewer jobs , and it is damn near impossible to get an internship. So while education is excellent work experience is becoming harder and harder to come by.

  4. I have seen people who has been in the US for 25 years and have NOTHING, but I also had some friends who in 3 years owned 4 resturants..I have also seen a third kind which represents animals who got unleashed, they work 70 hours a week and spend their pay check in clubs and on one night stands..I have also heard about arabs who dealt with crack..I have met sooo many kinds. your success depends on what goals you have and how hard are you willing to work..

  5. secratea,
    yeah, working and going to school is tough. I am doing the same. one day we will look back and be proud of it.

    I love how you disagree with almost everything written on this blog. I don’t mind that, it is your right.
    if your goal is to make money, as I said above, saving 20-30k a year is very doable. median home price in the states is around 200k. with that much money you can buy a luxury apartment in Amman, or a ranch house in Salt for example.
    illegal work is abundant, or you won’t see 12 million of those workers here.
    most of the international students I know, Arabs and non-Arabs, are employed. in the States, talk of “I cannot find a job” is none sense.

    Yes, I met many of those “numer.” not just no money, they appear to have forgotten Arabic and never learned English either.

  6. you make it sound like i disagree for the sake of disagreeing which is not the case, and you can notice a pattern for my disagreements.
    It is just that my understanding of economics differs from yours thats all.
    saving 20-30k a year means you have a 6 figure income, now am not going to do the math but I doubt that even working 70hour weeks in service jobs will earn you more than 60K a year, which is cut by half almost due to taxes and deductibles. So unless you utilize every loop hole and grey area in the system (which just about every arab there does, which is why you find the majority to be in the service industry (gas stations, food, and you know what else liqueur) because they are easier to manipulate the records in.

    now that contradicts with pushing people towards an education (which the majority of 2nd and 3rd arab americans don’t) because honestly they don’t teach how to abuse the system at school, you learn it on the streets.

    “illegal work is abundant” makes it sound like a good opportunity, am sure plucking chicken or picking up crops is a perfectly health insured and well compensated job. ooh wait unless you work for arabs since they never mind another human to abuse since they are already in the red zone anyway.
    I’ll give you that students in grad schools are able to acquire jobs within campus walls, but other than that the process was revamped five years ago to close up and complicate the process for them to be able to earn paying jobs in the industry. unless it is one of the corporations that can shell up the litigation fees for a alien work visa and usually they cut up a huge chunk of the salary because of it. so saying no to sub-par opportunities is really no nonsense, undergrads on the other hand have all the doors shut down on them, employers will not even consider application when reading the word international.

    The US economy is a huge service economy, where the majority are employed in service jobs, or construction. the push for an industry based economy and a producing one has been reduced to rubbles in the previous 15 years. so saying that the US is a heaven on earth place for internationals is a misnomer so i will definitely disagree.

    BTW my point was totally not what you replied to, it was that a 200K home (am not sure where u got that median but it is far far less than that, prices are down an average of 20% across the states from just a year ago) in the United states will buy you a nice 2 bedroom apartment at best
    there is really not that many places in amman where you can find such a place in amman or even in Zay or ghor. The prices here are hugely inflated, so my point is that while the gap in costs before was huge between the two countries now it is far cheaper to live in certain cities in the states than it is to live in jordan.

    Did you study ur undergrad there too ? or just ur grad school ?
    Good luck😀

  7. when I said that one devotes all times to work I implied working for other Arabs and getting paid under the table. with no taxes to pay, no need for 6 figures. one can save up to 75% of income.
    and again, I am talking of personal experience. I never had to pluck chicken in the States. I have been going to school and working and it couldn’t be any further from the grim look you put on it. if there is will…it happens.

    for median home prices, the most recent report:

  8. But globalorama, it seems that you are encouraging working illegally and under the table, and not paying taxes. I personally don’t like that.

    First of all I don’t think it’s fare to the people who ARE paying taxes to carry the illigal peoples load . It is a drain on the countries resources and simply not fare and dishonest.

    Second I don’t think it’s the way for a person to live by being afraid of the danger of deportation at any moment and that is not a life sa7?

    I have to agree with Bambam on this one.

    This is why Arabs have a bad rap in the states and in Canada; they abuse the system like no other. Cheat on taxes, apply for welfare while they have money and scores of other things that are just bad and something not to be proud of…

    I just feel bad for the people who think that they will come to North America and make it big… it’s not true 85% of the time … and in the 15% most of them cheat and steal (by not paying taxes) to get to where they get.

    As you said there are “numar” out there that just should 3anjad be deported.

    What you are doing, education, is the best route, learn and then get a job legally. For an American grad the cahnces of getting a job are greater.

    By the way, home prices in Jordan are INSANE … unless you buy a khosheh

  9. OK. OK.
    I should have clarified this earlier. I am not encouraging anybody to do anything. what I am trying to say is that when you are in the U.S., you have two main options: either make money or get educated. period. I am going to elaborate on the education part and how it must be the ultimate goal in future posts. But, if you are already here and without papers, you better work your butt off and make worthwhile, other than that, get educated. So, please do not think that I am advocating illegal work or anything illegal. I agree, it is unfair to those who go through the lengthy legal channels.

  10. There is a third reason;
    Coming for a better life, for freedom, for human rights….where you are treated as human and your rights and resposibilties are maintained and assured…..

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