My friend and I spent a few months in the US last year. Everything started in June 2016, when my mom learned that she had a friend in Irvine, California who was willing to let us stay a few months at her flat. I was supposed to go there alone after passing my state exams, but my friend, who was studying for the state exams with me, forgot that the master’s programme entrance exams are before the state exams, so she missed them. I suggested she come with me, and she agreed.
We landed in California really exhausted after about fifty hours without sleep. The police did not let us get off the plane, because an old man did not have a visa and had to take the next plane back to Europe and fly right back home. Finally, after two more hours on the plane, we were able to leave the airport and wait outside for our friend. It was about 2 pm; she was supposed to come at 6 pm, as she had to work a long day. We walked around the airport because we knew that if we had stopped, we would fall asleep in a second. Everybody was great when we arrived, but nobody could not understand that we were jetlagged and had to try really hard to stay awake and talk to everybody about the Czech Republic. They felt nostalgic because they hadn’t visited their country for decades.
The first shock came on our second day in the US, when our friend told us that we could not stay at her flat. We did not have a place to stay, but we had to buy a vacuum cleaner for our work. A few hours later we rented a car so that we could drive to our customers’ houses. At the end of our second day there, we owned a vacuum cleaner and we had a car, but we had no accommodation and hardly any money. The next day, our friend persuaded some of her Czech friends living there to take us in. It turned out that we could stay with them for $700/month for a room. We agreed to move in the next day.
A few days later, we started work at a company called Fresh and Clean. We had hardly any money because of the expenses at the beginning, so we had to live a low-cost life. We worked from 7 am to 6 pm every day, really hard. We managed to earn enough money in a month to afford more than rice with an onion for dinner. Our first weeks were really hard. Our daily routine was like this: get up, work, have a shower, have dinner, eat an ice cream, sleep, repeat.
We had to wear long sleeves and pants to work because when we didn’t, some women accused us of wanting to seduce their husbands. It was about 35 degrees at that time of year, so it was a little bit challenging. We were surprised by how things worked in the households we were cleaning for. The houses we cleaned were usually huge, with about five bathrooms and bedrooms. The women were usually at home criticizing our work and doing basically nothing but watching TV and getting their nails or hair done. We could not understand the mentality, or the questions they asked us. One woman of about 35 years old was watching some programme called Disney Channel on the TV, I think, when she asked where we were from. We told her that we were from the Czech Republic, the middle of Europe. She googled the Czech Republic while we were not looking and read something about Prague. Then she told us that she knew Prague and that it was a new city, right? We told her that it wasn’t, and then the situation got really ugly. She followed us and made us clean her entire house again.
After one month in the US, we had earned enough money to start traveling on the weekends. It was great. We lived one hour from Los Angeles, so we visited it often. We enjoyed the Autry Museum of the American West in particular. I had never seen such a large and well-equipped museum. We went to some canyons as well, but only to the few closest to us, as I was the only one driving.
In conclusion, it was a great experience. We know now that we are capable of looking after ourselves in every situation in a foreign country. I suppose we appreciate our families and lives more than we did before. Also, we shattered some myths about the US and appreciate the Czech Republic more as well. I always wanted to live abroad, but now I agree with the old saying “East or West, home is best!”