If you’re dreaming or planning on moving to the US at some point in life, you gotta read this. And if you’re in the US, you should still read this and correct me if I’m wrong. I quickly realized that the US of A was painted very differently to me because my only points of references were American movies and sitcoms. Little did I know life in US as an immigrant is as tough as it can get. Especially if you’re entire family is back in your home country and you are trying to get back on your foot in a new country. These are my top 10 observations as a new immigrant to the US-
Not every city is New York City
I stepped foot in the US at the JFK airport in New York. The smell of fresh coffee at Dunkins, a diverse crowd of people, no-one out there to help me as I rolled my 2 huge check-in bags outside the airport and over to the transit bus. It didn’t feel any different from Mumbai. The high rise buildings, people continuously walking on the side-walks, traffic that makes you honk and swear – ah, felt like I was home 🙂 And, then I take my flight to Tampa Bay, Florida. I’m in and out of the airport in 20 minutes flat. The drive home didn’t take more than 10 minutes. I saw no people, no high rise buildings, no shops open after 10 pm. Instead, I saw a whole lot of trees, widest of the skies and roads and sooooo much land that we could build tons of high rise buildings! I was welcomed to the ‘Sunshine State’.
Learning: Your imagination of how the US looks like may or may not be dream. Come here with a fresh slate 🙂
People will make eye contact, smile, and nod – even if they don’t know you.
If you happen to be anywhere except for LA and NYC, there’s a 97% chance that a complete stranger walking down the street will smile and nod at you as you cross paths. I was casually taking a walk by our apartments in the evening and obviously, I didn’t know anyone around because it was day 3 in Tampa Bay. I see this old dude walking towards me, smiles at me like he’s seen me before. I turn around to see if someone is behind me. And then he asks ‘How’re are you’ and casually walks away before I reply ‘I’m good thanks, what about you?’ *facepalm*
Learning: Most Americans are comfortable making eye contact and giving a friendly smile even if they don’t know you. And when they ask ‘How’re you’ they mean to say ‘hello’ and don’t expect a reply back.
Billboards for Lawyers
Have you seen those huge, ugly, cannot-miss Billboards of Lawyers who specialize in accident cases? Ever wondered why? I was frankly amused to see 3 different lawyers advertising as the best in Tampa Bay for accident cases. I realized much later that road accidents are so common in the US that the lawyers want you to call them while you’re on the road, as you wait for the cops to arrive, that is if you are safe enough to look up at the billboard and dial the number.
Learning: Have atleast a couple of Lawyer digits saved on your phone, god forbid you need one.
You might not know your next-door neighbors
I wouldn’t be lying if I said my sister and I literally spent half our childhood at our neighbor’s place. Living in apartments back in India, it’s totally cool to hang out at the neighbor’s house because they’re like family! Food is exchanged, clothes are borrowed and trust is 100%. To this day, I don’t think we got to know our next-door neighbors despite living in the appartments for a year.
Learning: Don’t expect your neighbors to bring you freshly baked muffins as a warm welcome gesture. And if they come say Hi, you’re blessed. We have the absolute best neighbors in our current house (yay!)
Frozen food is still fresh food
The only way to have home-cooked food every day is to cook in bulk and save batches in the freezer. At first, you’ll be excited to cook every day because oh well, Desi girl will miss Desi food and has to cook as mama taught her. But then life gets on to you and you start cooking in bulk or you’ll seldom cook everyday. And I have no shame in admitting that bulk cooking, meal preps, and frozen food isles have been lifesavers.
Learning: Frozen food stays good up to 6 months. Don’t believe everything that your mom or MIL says.
You have to fill gas in your car by yourself
In my entire life, I’d never seen a gas station aka petrol pump so damn empty. “Like who’s gonna fill the gas, dude?” I ask my husband. And he says “Your highness, commoners like us have to do it by ourselves” Girl, I was aghast! “What about the guys who’s job is to fill up our tank?” I asked. The husband was like “That’s your job now. Welcome to America ?”
Learning: Labor is not cheap in the US. Everyone and I mean everyone has to fill gas at the gas station by themselves without any help.
No jet sprays in toilets
If there’s one thing I miss more than my fam is a JET SPRAY.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
The water spray that makes sure your rear is squeaky clean after your potty business. Like seriously, the toilet paper can only do so much for you.
Learning: Flushable wet wipes are going to be your second best friends 🙂
Coldwater with ice
Growing up I was never got to drink cold water because my dad would claim that it slows your digestion. So I’m only used to room temperature water. In the US, Americans know only one way of drinking water – Coldwater poured into a tall glass filled with ice. You might think at first that maybe people are feeling really hot and want to cool down with ice-cold water. Nah.
Be it summer or winter, it don’t matter – Always cold water with ice.
Learning: Always ask for “water no ice” when you visit a restaurant or anywhere in the US for that matter
Now, this is purely an outsider’s perspective was who wasn’t raised in a country that encourages the system of tipping. When I wasn’t making money in the US, I was a penny pincher. I was that girl who would convert dollars to rupees and think if it’s worth the purchase. When I was asked to add a tip, out of habit and lack of knowledge I would click no tip. After receiving a couple of judging looks I realized I’m doing something wrong. I won’t be lying if I say I still struggle to tip generously.
Learning: In America, you are expected to tip upwards of 18 percent of your bill for any kind of service you seek.
No milk for your coffee
My first Diner experience was sure fun. I’d heard so much about IHOP that I was damn excited to try the breakfast specials. I tell the waitress that I’d love to have some hot coffee. She brings a big flask of black coffee and pours it in a cup and says enjoy. I take one look at it and then ask the husband “Umm, is she going to bring hot milk to add to it or did I not place the order correctly”? He laughed and passed me the creamer and sugar.
Learning: Most Americans love their coffee black. The concept of mixing hot milk in brewed coffee is not a common thing here. You’ll find good creamers tho (please dont get the powdered ones) or if nothing gives you solace, Bru instant coffee zindabad!
What things did you find new and amusing or interesting which was never the norm in your home country?
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