Post #2: Cultural Shock – Do you speak English?!

Yes, No, Please, Thank you, I am sorry! Let’s skip the bad words. Our vocabulary contained no more than five words or phrases. We settled in Brooklyn and spent the first month on getting social security cards and other legal documentation.
During the first month, you understand that you don’t understand anything but what is even more concerning no one understands you. Moreover, New York City is the microcosm of the world. It has Italian, Polish, Russian, Puerto Rican, Israeli, Chinese, Indian, and many other neighborhoods. Lights are everywhere; the city never sleeps, the epic night view of the Manhattan Skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge. How can we not mention the ethnic cuisine from all over the world? The honeymoon ended very quickly as it is time to work, learn English, and pay bills.
The typical immigrant story beings with, “my family came to U.S. with few dollars in their pocket.” Unfortunately, our story seems to match since we came into this country with almost nothing because of the Soviet Union forbidding any personal ownership of businesses since everything was owned by the government. Moreover, due to the economic crisis, the currency became worthless, and possession of U.S. dollars during the Soviet Union was punishable by law. So we had nothing but the need to make it in the new country.
Being the eldest sibling, Semion had to take the lead and dive in. He found a job as a bread delivery man for $3.50 per hour which he ended up being fired from due to refusing to steal bread from stores he was delivering to. He told his boss, “I immigrated from a lawless country to U.S. so I can live an honest life and I am not going to do what you are asking me.” Although he still remembers how happy he was when his boss gave him his first $35 for 10 hours of work in the United States on the side note, his boss paid with the ripped and oldest dollar bills he possibly could find in his pocket. By the way, he did not know he was fired from that job. His boss told him that he would call him when he needs him again. When Semion called him back, his boss told him, “lesson number one, in the United States, when someone tells you that they will call you that means you are fired.”
Then a family member suggested that he should get a barber’s license since he already knew how to cut hair from the age of 15. But to pay for the school, he had to find another job. So he walked from one block to another from one business door to another asking for a job. When managers asked him to complete an application, he did not know how to write in English, so he had to tell them that he will be back and go to another business to look for a job. Then he found this brand new Italian restaurant that hired him as the baker’s assistant. At that moment, he was so excited to find a job that he did not even ask about the wage. Unfortunately, the business failed after two weeks, so the owner offered to pay him with food because they had no money. Then he was hired by another bakery in which he learned how to make Italian cookies at which he stayed until he got his barber’s license in New York.
In our next post, we will write about our barbering experiences in New York.
For the previous post: Post #1: Blindfold No More!

The Semion Barbershop Team