Guest Post by Anisha Kamble.
I’m from India and planning to do an MS from USA in 2012. I’ve been lucky enough to have been to the US a couple of times in the last few years.
I decided to compile a list of things that I happened to see/experience while I was there which may be new or different to the average Indian going there for the first time.
I’ve spent around 3-4 weeks in the US, which is not very long, so forgive me if some of my views seem uninformed or immature; I don’t mean to offend anyone.
I don’t know how useful this is going to be. Maybe it’ll help you mentally prepare yourself a bit? Maybe you’ll find it easier to adapt? I don’t know. If nothing else, I hope this list at least serves the purpose of entertaining you.
In no real order of importance, here are my little scraps of information about American life:
- Americans can look very different from Indians.
- Never ever, ever say the word ‘Negro’
- Thank you, have a nice day
- Domestic help is a luxury
- Public affection
- Stuff’s expensive there.
- Tough life for vegetarians who don’t cook
- Food stays fresh much longer
- Everything is cleaner
- Goodbye water mugs and hand showers
- Potable water right out of the taps
- huge country, and there’s not very many people
- Weather varies greatly across the country.
Americans can look very different from Indians.
Here’s the average Indian for you: Around 5.5 feet tall, skin a variation of the colour brown, black or dark brown eyes and hair, medium built. I have seen many Americans, white, black, Hispanic, blondes, brunettes, redheads who are MORBIDLY obese or well over 6 feet tall or sometimes BOTH.
I know it’s not polite to stare but I could never help but go O_O at them. At 5’7″ I’m often complimented for being tall, but I felt quite small over there. Then there are American babies and toddlers, beautiful little angels they are, again couldn’t help but go O_O and awwwww.
Never ever, ever say the word ‘Negro’ (or Black)
The appropriate term is ‘Black’ (don’t ask me how/why). If anyone hears you, you could really get into a lot of trouble, as you should, because it’s considered to be a highly offensive term.
Note from HSB – Right term is African American.
Thank you, have a nice day
Get used to hearing ‘Thank you, have a nice day ’ and saying it back.
Most Americans are very polite and casual. Everyone is treated the same regardless of what their background or profession is. If you’re used to ill-treating certain classes of people in India, you’re in for a major reality check.
Domestic help is a luxury.
It is almost considered a necessity in a lot of urban Indian homes. Over there, however, only the upper class folks can afford to hire maids or cooks or drivers. So get used to doing things on your own, and learn to do them happily.
Also, god forbid you talk to the domestic help there the way Indians are used to talking to their ‘bai’s etc.
Display of public affection.
Coming from the land of “moral police” it’s quite surprising to see that people in America will openly hold hands/hug/kiss each other in public.
When you first experience this it can be pretty awkward (more so if you’re with your parents!). I’ve seen sex shops in perfectly nice neighbourhoods of New York City and banners of completely naked women in Las Vegas. It’s best to have a sense of humour about these things rather than bad-mouth the American culture.
Tough life for vegetarians who don’t cook
If you’re vegetarian and you’re not a good cook, god be with you.
Once my dad walked into a McDonald’s and asked if they had any vegetarian stuff. He was met with a blank, confused expression. Eventually we realized it was silly to have even asked, and my dad ended up having to munch on french fries, and we picked up a cheese pizza on the way home.