Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda arrive in Black Hawk, Nebraska at the same time, but their situations are different in a number of ways. First of all, compared to Antonia, Jim has come a relatively short distance. Jim has come to Nebraska from his childhood home in Virginia, half a continent away, while Antonia is an immigrant to the country, having come from Bohemia, a country in Europe, near Czechoslovakia, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Jim has no problem communicating with the people in his new environment, but because of the differences in their countries of origin, Antonia and her family are isloated in their new home by language. Antonia is the only one in her family who speaks even a little English, and her command of the language is elementary at best. Because the family does not understand the language spoken in the area, they are at the mercy of the only other person there who speaks Bohemian, an unscrupulous man named Krajiek. Krajiek takes full advantage of the Shimerdas, cheating them out of their money, and the Shimerdas can do nothing about it.
Perhaps one of the biggest difference between the circumstances surrounding Jim's and Antonia's arrivals in Nebraska is the nature of the environment into which they enter. Jim is welcomed into a friendly place; his grandparents love him, and their home is cozy, established, and welcoming. Antonia, in contrast, is placed in a hostile environment; Krajiek, the family's only contact, does not have their best interests at heart, and, in addition, Antonia's own mother is more concerned about her own problems than those of her children. The differences between Jim's and Antonia's situations is emphasized by the houses they initially move into - Jim's grandparents' home has three stories, along with furniture, amenities for a hot bath, and the smell of gingerbread being made in the kitchen, while Antonia's house is nothing more than a shack, a dugout built into the side of a hill, and her bed is sadly not unlike an animal's cave.