Whether you've come to the United States as a means of escaping war, poverty, or a criminal past, you want to make a better life for yourself and family, no matter what. That's not always how it all plays out though, particularly as you face the challenges of living life as an immigrant. Keep up your belief in the American dream, though, and try not to let yourself be drawn down any path that might lead you anywhere else, such as in trouble that's hard to escape from.
Here are five important ways to adapt, stay on the straight and narrow, and even turn things around, if you make a few mistakes along the way.
Make An Effort To Learn The Language
While the argument of adapting to a new country is debated by different sides of the political spectrum—some say you should be able to adhere to your native tongue and others insist assimilation is a must—it is very helpful for you to be able to converse with those around you, particularly those who might be up to something illegal. You need to know what the police are instructing, for example, when they are patrolling an area or requesting that people leave.
It's also useful to understand a neighbor who might be arguing a simple point with you, such as not wanting your dog or kids in their yard, or to understand a store clerk who simply wants to help you find something in a particular department. Knowing English can keep or get you out of trouble in a number of situations; thus, beyond whether or not it's politically correct for you to learn it, it behooves you to do so.
Choose Your Friends Very Carefully
Even if you have no conscious intent to commit a crime or delve into a criminal scene, like drug dealing or selling stolen goods, if the people you choose to hang out with do, you're likely to be considered a criminal yourself. Although in technical, legal terms, you can't be found guilty on association alone, you could be arrested simply for being with two people dealing drugs or receiving stolen property. The local police may come to see you as a troublemaker and as such, someone who should be watched or suspected of being up to something regularly.
On the other hand, by sticking with people that avoid crime and the trouble that comes with it, you should be seen and judged for who you are and be able to lead a relatively normal life. No matter how tempted you might be to hang out with "cool" people or those who seem to have power and money, doing so will earn you a negative reputation and could cost you your freedom or even immigration status.
Volunteer In Your Community
Although you're under no obligation to give of your time or talents to the country, volunteering for a community organization could be an incredible way to form connections, including possible employment connections and positive role models and friends. If you have an existing criminal record, volunteering will show a judge or probation officer that you're making a real effort to improve your life. The community connections you can establish through volunteering will boost your self-esteem and keep you busy with productive activities, rather than leaving you lost in boredom or lured into potentially illicit pastimes.
If you find yourself in legal trouble, ask your counsel or the judge if you are eligible for community programs, and don't just use them to avoid the responsibility of your actions, but to truly change the course of your life. These programs are often specifically designed to help addicts recover and former criminals rehabilitate their ways into more positive and rewarding directions.
Dedicate Yourself To A Worthy Hobby
While the United States offers a number of undeniable advantages as a new home, you may also experience some negatives as you forge a new life here. For example, depression, loneliness, economic challenges, and even hostility from natives may set you back in your quest to become who you want to be. Try becoming absorbed in a hobby, perhaps something brought over from your country, such as a cooking specialty, creating unique clothing, or other trademarks of your culture that not only give you a productive way to spend your time, but might give you a way to earn extra money, legally.
A scarf or vase made the way it's done in your native country could easily be seen as a coveted object in the US, earning you respect, cash, and a place in the new neighborhood of awe. Play on your natural talents and abilities and bring something of yourself to the equation that helps you stand out with pride and dignity, as opposed to trying to climb the ranks in a local gang or resenting those around you for any dilemma you find yourself in. You probably have a lot more to offer your community than you realize.
Find An Attorney Who Speaks Your Language
If you already have a criminal record or are in the process of trying to avoid having one, you need an attorney you can really talk to. Although most lawyers can provide translators and the courts are obligated to avail you to someone who speaks your native language during proceedings, it's in your best interest to be able to speak freely and to understand thoroughly everything you're facing.
You want a lawyer who can represent you completely, not just one who can tell you what the charges you're facing mean in English. Find one you can tell your story to and express your desire to avoid problems and adapt to local laws and customs. Such an attorney should be able to help you clear your name and direct you toward wiser choices, such as helpful community resources where you might find a job or otherwise prove your intent to be a respectable citizen. To learn more about immigration attorneys, contact a law firm like Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices.
It's not always easy to be an immigrant, no matter how many opportunities abound in your new country. Your success or failure is directly dependent on how you conduct and dedicate yourself and to how quickly you can turn a potentially bad situation into something you can be proud of.