why study in america american lifestyle

American Lifestyle The Way I Saw as a Little Girl From India

I’m Anisha Kamble.

I’m from India and planning to do an MS from the USA.

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 look very different from Indians

how americans look

Here’s the average Indian for you: Around 5.5 feet tall, skin a variation of the color brown, black or dark brown eyes and hair, medium built.

I have seen many Americans, White, Black, Hispanic, Blondes, Brunettes, 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 at them.

I’m at 5’7″ and 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 Aww!

Never, ever say the word, Black

keep it clean. respect everyone.

The appropriate term is ‘African American’ (don’t ask me how/why).

If anyone hears you, you could get into a lot of trouble, as you should, because it’s considered to be a highly offensive term.

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.

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 to talk to the domestic help there the way Indians are used to talking.

Display of public affection

display 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 neighborhoods of New York City and banners of completely naked women in Las Vegas.

It’s best to have a sense of humor about these things rather than bad-mouth the American culture.

Tough life for vegetarians who don’t cook

vegetarian food in america

If you’re vegetarian, and you’re not a good cook, may 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.

Stuff’s Expensive

pizza menu

It’s quite difficult to find anything that costs less than a couple of dollars, and Indians by default tend to convert to rupees (as they have to sometimes) which make it seem even more expensive. But a lot of things come in much larger quantities there, especially food.

Drinks (soda like Coke, Pepsi, etc) are often unlimited.

You just pay for a glass, and you can refill it how many ever times you want. Indians have weak appetites, and you might find yourself struggling to finish a serving that may not even suffice for an American.

It’s a huge country, and not very many people.

america is huge

I, coming from a country and city where personal space and privacy are hard to come by, found it to be quite unnerving getting used to the lack of people.

I see more people here at midnight than I did there in the middle of the day (except in tourist destinations like LA, Vegas, Manhattan, Disney World!).

I swear to you, I saw more cars than people in New York City. It’s strangely deserted outside Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Being a computer science student (and a bit of a geek) I was jumping up and down in my seat when I passed through Silicon Valley, Palo Alto. Saw HQs of a lot of big companies, but didn’t see even a single person out on the roads, which I found quite depressing.

I mean, they obviously were all there indoors and all but it made me want not to make a career for myself there anymore, which may sound silly to you but I personally just cannot live with such few people around. That’s why all the schools I’ve applied to are located in the metros. But hey, if you like peace and quiet, you’ll probably like the sound of all this!

Food stays fresh, longer

Depending on which part of the country you stay in and what the season is, food stays fresh for much longer.

In India, you open a pack of wafers, and they’re all soft in 24 hours.

In the US, I carried around an open bag of popcorn for close to a week, and it stayed crunchy the whole time.

You don’t have to bother with things like Tupperware; the original packaging works just as well. Of course, I haven’t lived there that long also, but it seems to be true!

Everything is clean

The air is clean.

The water is clean.

The food is clean.

The loos are clean.

The roads are almost devoid of trash.

As a result, you fall sick less often.

You don’t have to live in this fear of being careful of what you eat and drink as much as you have to in India, because the chances of getting an upset stomach are much lesser. This is good because health care costs a LOT in the US.

Goodbye Water Mugs 

toilet paper rolls

Using toilet paper instead of water feels very weird and unclean initially, but eventually, you’ll probably learn to like it better.

 

And oh, used papers get chucked in the pot, not the bin.

Even their pots flush in a different way than ours!

Weather Varies greatly

new york snow

I had always been under the impression that the weather never really heats up much over there.

However, I experienced temperatures of 43C at Washington D.C. and 40C at Niagara Falls (Canadian border almost!).

Granted, it was summer, and there was a heat wave going on but still!

Then at San Francisco, it’s cold and foggy all year long.

Go a few hundred miles south and you have LA which is neither too hot nor too cold no matter what time of year it is. Kind of like the Mumbai of USA. Absurd! Though it is a huge country, so I guess it makes sense.

That’s about it. I could probably think of some other things, but I guess this is more than enough.

Lastly, I’d just like to suggest that if you guys get time for sight-seeing then Niagara Falls, Disney World at Orlando and Las Vegas are the places to visit, you’ll remember them for life!

Drink from the Tap

drink water from the tap

You get drinking water right out of the taps.

It feels strange filling your water bottle where you brush your teeth when in India we filter our water ten times before drinking it.

Water is supposedly tasteless, but American water sure doesn’t taste the same as Indian water.

 


International students chose to Study in the USA for a variety of reasons.

Anisha has given a vivid description of what it means to be living, studying and working in America.

Your decision to study in the USA comes as a package with a bunch of options. You can’t pick and chose the options.

In addition to the education, things described here are your part of your life.

You get to experience them as a whole for both good and the bad.  And millions of students have opted to take this journey.

What’s your American Experience? Please add in the comments.

56 Comments

  1. Revathi Reddy on September 28, 2015 at 8:56 AM

    Hi Anisha!
    Kudos to this wonderful article. This article enhanced my knowledge levels. Before reading this article, I had very little knowledge about American culture. But after reading the article, I get to know about how the American lifestyle would be. This is really an educating article about American lifestyle and their culture and the things that are discussed in the article should be remembered by the Indians who are travelling to the USA for the first time.

  2. Punnu246 on January 8, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    True .. True … True ..

  3. deepa on November 26, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    Im in US for the past few months…n whatever you shared and observed is 101% true….felt as u hav read our mind….

  4. Shobana Gunasekaran on June 6, 2014 at 7:13 AM

    Great article. 🙂 Thanks a lot 🙂

  5. chandraishwor on June 6, 2014 at 5:31 AM

    I had also visited different cities of USA last year and find the same what you write here when we see openly. We don’t know the struggle part of job seeker and adjustment of culture in US. So I advice to read a book” Lost in America ” written by Dr saroj Joshi

  6. Ashish Arora on August 23, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    Wooo…love this post….where was it hiding? Good job!!! I could see so much similar here in Australia!!!

  7. Bharati on April 25, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Hi ALL,
    Why does Robert mentioned CUNY-City College in his post…Its not clear. I have got admit from CUNY- City college…Shd I really go for it

  8. Wakjob on April 15, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    What you call luxuries in USA, we merely call “civilization”.

  9. Pranav Kelkar on March 8, 2012 at 11:29 PM

    Masach lihilays Anisha.
    Keep writing.
    😀

  10. Rakesh Singh on February 2, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    @anisha kamble

    i really like your post . can u tell me more about american and indian lifestyle. are you on fb ?

    • Anisha Kamble on February 5, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      Sure, you can find me at facebook.com/anishakamble, but only for exchanging messages, I don’t add people I don’t know to my friend list 🙂

  11. Rakesh Singh on February 2, 2012 at 1:51 AM

    what are the chances of getting a job after completing your masters

    • munna on February 8, 2012 at 7:02 AM

      IT people are getting jobs as they are used to hiring indians. remember there is no campus interview in US like India so even if you got great grades in your MS, you may not find any job at all.Other then IT, it is very very difficult to find any job.

      • Rushika on May 22, 2012 at 1:43 PM

        *munna – Not totally true. Depends on the university you’re from. Many of the top 20 universities have campus placements with many jobs outside the IT sector.

        • Rakesh singh on May 25, 2012 at 2:34 AM

          plz name some of the corresponding univ names and theorganizations in which they have been placed

  12. manju on January 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    hey thanks for such a nice article about us life style….
    can we visit usa before going to MS ? will that effect on our visa process ?

    • Anisha Kamble on February 25, 2012 at 1:56 PM

      You can. In fact if you have a tourist visa, it’ll be an advantage when you go to apply for student visa (so I’ve heard).

  13. Robert Hernandez on January 29, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    Hi. I am agree with almost all expresed in the article. But you have to be careful with all the races, not just the Blacks. You have to respect all of them: Hispanics, Jews, Chinese, Koreans, etc. I am from Ecuador, and I even have to express very carefully to Mexicans or Salvadorians (specially in restaurants and the subway/train in NYC), even though we are people from LatinAmerica. Watch out the way you talk to others! Regards to the City College CUNY fellas!!!

    • HSB on January 29, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      Well said.

  14. Chintan on January 28, 2012 at 9:58 PM

    Anisha Kamble & HSB Thanks a lot for this post . It helped me a lot to know about USA lifestyle.

  15. Tarun on January 28, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    Hi

    Thank you very much for your article . Can you post some more information about using toilet papers ?? ( :D) . I have applied for my PhD and having nightmare since then thinking of it . What I try to mean , hmmm… I mean those places contains a lot of body’s filamentous biomaterial (Hair) (:P) , how you can clean it with paper ?? the stuff are going to stick to them isn’t it ?? Or we need to shave them ???

    please dont think this is an inappropriate post , this a practical problem for indian student with lots of doubt , uncertainty and fear !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • HSB on January 28, 2012 at 10:07 PM

      Infact 1 year back I created a post on How to Use Toilet Papers and its still in draft. Now, I should publish it.

      Filamentous bio-material ….someone is really getting ready for PhD.

    • Subham on January 28, 2012 at 10:15 PM

      dont worry…even it was a bit weird for me in the beginning….it was petrified of the same filamentous biomaterial thing…but be assured..even water is never full proof in cleaning them…u’l get used to it…it’s very dirty when u think of it in the beginning…but dont worry..its only a small problem..

    • Prakash on June 28, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      haha, man grow up, no one teaches these things to adults, u r not tollder, r u?, evryone learns themselves, ask relevant questions. dont know how u got admitted for PHD with this shitty attitude and dumbness. U will surely be thrown out of US.

  16. munna on January 28, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    student life experience can be very much different:- 1) once your class finishes, your american classmates will become complete strangers. 2) homework sharing is frowned upon. 3) health care/medical insurance is horribly expensive. forget about having eye tests and getting new pair of glasses or visiting dentist which can cost a lot.4) no transportation. u have to rely on other people to give u a ride to go to walmart for even bread/milk. so either u become dependent on other people or you become broke if you decide to spend thousands of dollars to buy car.5) If your university is somewhere in south, u will meet many missionaries who will pass on bible to you or ask to attend there church. 6) furniture can be had for free, people move frequently and often throw mattress, chairs, sofa near dumpsters.7) electronics, utensils, clothes are ceaper here in USA then india. 8) bring a pressure cooker from india 9) most important start planning well how to get job after your masters. remember it is very very difficult to get a job nowadays so plan well in ahead. good luck

    • Subham on January 29, 2012 at 7:50 PM

      about the ride..i disagree..most universities have their own bus services to commute them around the campus and weekend services to the nearest malls.

      • munna on February 8, 2012 at 7:17 AM

        universities have bus service within campus but not to gorcoery stores which are far far away from universities in many cases. weekend service to malls, well walmart is never in malls, malls means stores like JC Penny, Sears, Dillards for clothes etc. Now imagine you want to buy bread or milk on tuesday, will you wait till sunday for some bus service????

    • Rakesh Singh on February 1, 2012 at 11:31 PM

      @munna

      i really like your comments on student life. can u tell me about other aspects like classes in a day,type of assignments given and the type of tests being set up

      • munna on February 8, 2012 at 7:15 AM

        If you are going for Masters in Engineering, your classes will be full of Indian students. Instead of books, here professors rely on power point presentations and lot of homework/assignments are given. Grading is easy. more focus is given on semester end projects and presentations. It is easy to pass MS. Tests are okay, not too difficult nor very easy.short answer/problem type.

    • Prakash on June 28, 2012 at 4:39 PM

      Boss u seem to be a relally intelligent and articulate guy, I have admits from penn state and Georgia tech, I need some suggestions. how can i call/contact you?

  17. Aravind on January 28, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Wow that was Phenomenal to know the facts of America for an INDIAN guy…….one more request is can someone create an panoramic view of GERMAN LIVING to an INDIAN guy……..u ll be definitely an audacity…….Waiting >>>>>>>

  18. Manoj on January 28, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Excellent article. Every single line in this is true and I am personally experiencing it for the past 1 month. Good job dude.

  19. Pouda on January 28, 2012 at 1:37 AM

    Nice Post! I have always asked myself what should I expect in America and should not be shocked at how people behave and just take a deep breath and relax!

  20. sabyasachi sanyal on January 28, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    I appreciate all comments posted for comparison to Indian style.
    But you can enjoy the test of staying in USA either in the capacity of
    citizenship/green card holder or temporary stay in student visa.
    But after completion of academic life as a student ,your real struggle
    will start in job searching with OPD for staying in USA to enjoy so called
    luxary of life with good climate and culture. If you can get a job which has
    become impossible for Indian in present recession in USA then you will
    have to come back to India and search for a job and you will have to start
    your life from where you left from India. Do not move with high hope to
    USA,if you have average academic career and it will bring frustration
    in life.

  21. shrinath savoor on January 28, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    The only point I don’t agree with is about vegetarianism. There are a lot of Americans who are vegans, an even more extreme form of vegetarianism, in which even dairy products are off the list. In almost all restaurants, one can fine vegetarian food, especially in big cities. Most Italian food joints also have vegetarian options for pasta. my daughter who is a pure vegetarian never had a problem with eating out.

    • Anisha Kamble on January 28, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      Yeah, since the McDonald’s incident happened with me (in 2007), I’ve noticed that a lot of Americans have converted to vegetarianism. When I visited the country last year I definitely saw a lot more veg dining options. But personally speaking, I certainly don’t think I could live without Indian, homemade veg dishes because American veg dishes just don’t taste the same.

  22. Avinash Singh on January 27, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    A good read indeed. On a lighter note, carrying a bag of pop-corns for a week. Come on Anisha, seriously !

    • Anisha Kamble on January 28, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      Hahaha yeah man. In my defense, it was a really big bag 😛

  23. New-in-us on January 27, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Its been a few weeks for me in the US and I concur with most of the things mentioned here. Very informative post. Thanks Anesha.

  24. Arash on January 27, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    Thanks for the post 😉 It is helpful .

  25. vish on January 27, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    I agree that food is expensive in US, but I will have to add that many things are cheaper:

    Electronics are definitely cheaper
    I generally find clothes cheaper in the US than India

    The key is to shop things (clothes/electronics) the right way and when there is the right deal. In the last year, I bought a few Arizona Jeans T shirts from JC Penney from clearance at $2.50 each and between me and my friends we bought 10 and we had a coupon for 10$ off 25$ so we got 10 great T shirts for 15$.

    • vish on January 27, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      I agree that food is expensive in US, but I will have to add that many things are cheaper:

      Electronics are definitely cheaper
      I generally find clothes cheaper in the US than India

      The key is to shop things (clothes/electronics) the right way and when there is the right deal. In the last year, I bought a few Arizona Jeans T shirts from JC Penney from clearance at $2.50 each and between me and my friends we bought 10 and we had a coupon for 10$ off 25$ so we got 10 great T shirts for 15$.

      This said, I think its a pretty good writeup.

      • Anisha Kamble on January 27, 2012 at 3:54 PM

        Well you can always find cheaper stuff in India, be it electronics or clothes (though $2.50 is amazing, kudos on making such a sweet deal :D), but I think the main point is that you’ll get better quality stuff there. Even shirts you buy from Walmart will last a fairly long period of time (I have a couple :P), whereas if you go and buy the same from, say, a Big Bazaar (India’s Walmart equivalent), it definitely won’t last as long.

      • vinod on March 22, 2012 at 5:38 AM

        You can always buy stuff during “thanks giving” for the year. I bought around 10 shirts of banana republic for 15$ each..and you cannot get that quality in India for that price

  26. P on January 27, 2012 at 1:33 AM

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It will be definitely useful to others. 😀

  27. Raj on January 26, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Good informative post..

    Thanks Anisha !

  28. sam on January 26, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    *2. it should rectified the actual term is African American and not Black of negro. I hope HSB rectifies it in interest of everyone.

    • Anisha Kamble on January 27, 2012 at 1:11 PM

      Yeah HSB has written a note there 🙂

    • TRuth on June 28, 2012 at 4:47 PM

      Black is OK and acceptable, even more widely used. Only ‘negro’ is offensive.

  29. Jan on January 26, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    I enjoyed reading this post! But there are a few things I would like to clarify, with no offense to the post-er (see what I did there? 😀 )

    PDA is not acceptable in many parts of the country. I, for one, grew up in North Carolina and now live in Atlanta. These places are part of the ‘Bible belt’ of conservative and religious people. You don’t really find anyone even holding hands on the road, and I would advice against doing that.

    Also, just as a heads-up, you need to be aware of what is happening around you. If you are hanging out with a bunch of other Indians and all yelling in hindi at a southern diner, then dont be surprised if you’re racially discriminated against. If that happens, just take it all in good spirit!

    • sam on January 27, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      thats true. southerners have never grown up. still they are REAL conservatives and same old tradition and practices, very religious and finally still very republicans.
      also to mention there are different accents and southerners accents are deep. also people differ dramatically one can easily identify them. i was on a trip to TN once all the way to there there is a church or a cross every mile. also they carry loaded weapons can be easily seen in some states, so be careful what u talk and where u talk when in a group with indians. you are in trouble if they take it as offensive.

      • Anisha Kamble on January 27, 2012 at 1:12 PM

        Hmm interesting stuff. And scary! haha.

      • Rakesh Singh on February 26, 2012 at 1:41 AM

        @ Sam good info

  30. Subham on January 26, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Hey great piece…I live in NY and agree to every aspect of the article…the expensive thing u get used to after a couple of months, though. Also, the US people are very private, and don’t expect to make friends with Americans in a new class right away, the way we do in India. I have been here for over a semester, and my classmates are still like “Hi Byee” ones…one thing that again might depress u in the beginning, but u again get used to it.

    • AruniRC on January 28, 2012 at 9:31 PM

      good point in that. as Indians we are so very accustomed to becoming close buddies in a matter of hours. the point is, personal space and privacy is given an awesome amount of importance in most western societies.
      though i’ve noticed that latin american and europeans on an average basis are more free (this info is mainly from club exchange students/professionals we had hosted). we would get chatting on soccer, Pele and a german gentleman went on about the evils of neo-nazis for an hour.

      it is not safe to assume that the same level of “instant buddy” is applicable in the US. also never EVER ask about how much one is earning from campus job etc, or whether one got scholarship, or one’s grades — things that are asked right after knowing someone’s hometown in our country. i’d been warned off from doing these gaffes by my schoolmates who went earlier for bachelors. just spreading the advice.
      thanks.

    • Rakesh Singh on February 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      @anisha kamble it is a useful info by you

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