Student Stories

Who else wants to know about Lifestyle in USA

Guest Post by Anu (PhD Candidate at University of New Mexico)

The most striking feature of US is its lifestyle. The social culture and matters may sound to be interesting but also builds anxiety in students who visit US for the first time. Although experiences might vary from person to person and location where they reside in states, but I felt that the first year in US is the most difficult phase in my life in US. As I completed 3 years in States, I feel very comfortable in doing things independently.

Time constrains

The most important thing to learn while in US is to be punctual. Time is money. Often time is considered more important than money in States. It is necessary to be on time for official or personal meetings, official gatherings and private dinners.

Social culture

Saying Hi to unknown person on street and smiling back is taken as a gesture of politeness. Although this may vary from State to State but in New Mexico, people get offended if they don’t get a reply of their greetings.

Work culture in University

People are very hard working and work 5 days a week. Most students don’t work on weekends. However, if you decide to work on a weekend, it is inappropriate to call someone for seeking help for work on weekends unless it is urgent.

Writing emails

Normally, a student looking for funding in US writes more than 15 emails per day. Still, most students from India continue using Dear Sir/Madam instead of Hi (salutation – Full name) while addressing their emails. American culture likes personalization of emails rather than generalization. Avoid forwarding pre-designed emails while approaching a Professor for the first time via email.

Public culture

Always follow the cue while in public. Give preference to others first even if they are breaking the rules. For example, if you are driving and have the right of the way, while the other person speeds up to go first. Give him the way and wait. It is considered decent to keep the door open and the elevator on hold for the person following you.

Visiting people

It is indecent to drop by to visit someone without informing. Always call and fix a time to reach someone’s home. Also maintain the time committed for the meeting. In case of delays keep them updated.

Seeking help

People in US are very busy with their work and they take our precious time from their busy schedule to help you. Please acknowledge it by few words of gratitude. Americans get very delighted when offered Indian food. It is a very humble gesture to offer home cooked food in appreciation of their favor.

Religious culture

People with different religious beliefs reside peacefully in US. Please respect religious beliefs of everyone around you. Refrain from commenting anything conflicting to religious beliefs. It might be taken adversely. People know that beef and pork are not consumed by Indians as a part of religious belief. If you let them know politely about it in social gatherings, it is taken positively. Even alcohol consumption for socializing is not necessary.

Family culture

Majority of American students are financially independent. They do not depend on their parents for financial support. Large numbers of families are single parent families. The term biological parents, legal parents and step-parents are commonly used.  Avoid asking details about their family unless they begin such conversation.

Study culture

Professors are very diligent and teach the courses thoroughly, with rare exceptions evident in few universities. Cheating and copying for exams and assignments is considered immensely offensive. If caught, you might be asked to drop the course or convicted for plagiarism by being deported to India under severe cases.

Dealing with homesickness, stress and anxiety

Most students miss their family and feel homesick. Try calling home often. It is good to get involved in physical activities to overcome it. Stress and anxiety develops with unfortunate events and work pressure. Playing and meditating are best means to deal with it. There are a lot of fun-things organized by the University to help students relax. Try attending most of them.

Growing from being dependent to independent

Remember that for almost everything you will need help from someone for the initial couple of months. During this time, it is obvious for people to get annoyed and behave rudely with you. Try to be patient and not to reciprocate the rude behavior. As you become independent, you turn out to be the helper and the tradition continues…….

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  1. Well undergrads going to USA have one thing going for them, since they live in dorms with Americans, they usually come out the other side completely American after 4 years.

  2. hi, i have got an admit into IIT-Stuart chicago(MBA) for fall 2011. please let me know if any of you have got an admit to the same university and is looking for shared accommodation outside campus.

  3. Hey Anu, I am completely agree with you. I have completed my 10 months in US and as you stated difficult conditions I have recently going through them. And trust me as you say that not to reciprocate bad behavior is really important thing which really help me a lot here.
    I am really glad that you post such article which is actually important for all international students. I am sure it will give them outline of US lifestyle which will help them a lot.


      1. Hi,

        Thankyou for all your comments in appreciation.

        @Rakesh. Daily schedule is highly variable and flexible in US. Some people are morning people and work whole day while most students in CS/ECE Departments work at nights and sleep till late in the morning. Weekends, partying and social gatherings are common things to be a part of. Scheduling your day would be partly in your hands and partly on your employer, and would largely depend on the timings of your coursework. I hope this helps.


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