My name is Subhash Patel.
INTERVIEWED BY Nikhil Jammalamadaka x 9

Harrow, England

New York City, New York



Why did you immigrate to the United States?
My family had been living in the United Kingdom for almost two decades. We used to live in Harrow, a large town in the London metropolitan area. I had been working as a data analyst supporting market research projects since 1983. However, my extended family was spread all over the world – a younger sister lived in Kenya, my younger brother was based in Long Island, and the rest of my family – my parents, older brother, and the other younger sister – lived in India.

We were a close–knit family and wanted to stay together. We also wanted the next generation to stay personally connected with each other. After a lot of discussion, we collectively decided to migrate to the U.S. as a joint family. We had all visited the U.S. several times over the years. I remember one particular instance in 1988, when I had come to New York City with my family and we drove to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World. We liked what we saw here and felt that the U.S. provided the right environment for our whole extended family.

My younger brother, who had long been a U.S. citizen, sponsored our immigration. Interestingly, all the families arrived in the U.S. within a few months of each other! And since we had all been to the U.S. before, it did not take us too long to get settled.

Who met you when you arrived and what did you do that first day?
We arrived in the U.S. in April 2001. My younger brother met us at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. He took us to his home in Holbrook, a hamlet in Suffolk County on Long Island. The rest of my extended family all arrived over the next few months.

While I do not think we did anything special on the first day, I do remember being focused on several administrative formalities in the first few months. We had to register for Social Security, open our bank accounts, apply for credit cards, get our driver’s licenses, and most importantly apply for employment and enroll our children in the local school system. I also had to go back to the U.K. to sell our house and wrap up my work commitments before finally returning to the U.S. for good in August.

What worked well for you in those initial days?
Since we had lived in the U.K. for 23 years prior to moving here, we found the lifestyle familiar. The initial transition was easy because we were staying with my brother, even while I was going back and forth between the U.K. and the U.S. Settling down was also smooth for us because I already had a job when I came to the U.S. My employer in the U.K. offered me a role supporting a client they had in New Jersey. Having a job made it easier to find an apartment, which then made it easy to enroll my kids in the local school. We were also able to spend a lot of time with my extended family – my brother, of course, but also my parents, sisters, and cousins – who all lived in the same area in those initial months. So, all in all, there were many things that worked well for us.

What did not work as well?
Our biggest challenge was not having a credit history in the U.S. Our credit history was all in the U.K., and without an established credit history in the U.S., we found it challenging to get a credit card, which further made it difficult to buy a car or lease an apartment!
I finally returned from the U.K. after selling our house in August of 2001, just a few weeks before the September 11 attacks. In fact, I remember we were driving my kids to their first day of school when we heard the reports on the radio. While we weren't personally affected, life in the U.S. was generally very challenging over the next few months.

Finally, the family/social gatherings in the U.S. did not turn out to be as convenient or frequent as we had envisaged. Life was busy and eventually everyone moved onto different parts of the U.S. for professional and personal reasons. So, our original vision for migrating to the U.S. did not get realized.

Looking back on your initial days, what advice would you give to new immigrants arriving in the United States today?
First, I would recommend doing a lot of research and making detailed plans. For instance, one needs to have a clear process for buying a car or leasing an apartment with a thin credit file. Additionally, one needs to be prepared to communicate primarily in English – spoken and written – especially if that is not something you were used to in India.

Second, finding a good job in this country is not easy – especially if the economy is going through a tough time. Ideally, you should have a job before you immigrate. Alternatively, at least have a well–thought strategy based on actual companies and job opportunities. Also, while you might need to make some compromises about the role or compensation when you start out, in the long run you should work in an area you are passionate about. As long as you have passion for your work, you will always do well in this country.

Finally, one needs to have a positive attitude, unwavering patience, and, most importantly, flexibility to adjust to the new environment. It is also very helpful to have pleasant and helpful interactions with everyone you meet, as this will help you assimilate faster into the local community.