From India to America ~ Life in USA for Newly Migrated Indians by Shipra Raju

The skyscrapers, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Walmart, Safeway, Walgreens, the freeways, cleanliness, the US standard time (which basically follows nine time zones)…and the list can go on. We love everything American. We want to be called US returned, even though we had gone to visit family as a tourist. What is it about the US of A that attracts millions of people from around the globe? Now with the Trump administration this seems doubtful…

Life in the US may seem glamorous, fun, everything organized and clean, with amenities to support one’s daily life’s chores. Who wants a maid when there are machines to do your work, and you don’t have to worry about rain because the drier will dry your clothes. Well, the life is good here.

But, do we belong here? Are we really happy here?  For someone who’s trying to settle in this country, the answer may be a mixed, yes…no…It is not easy understanding the life in the US. For someone coming from the third world country, the developed USA is a cultural shock in all ways possible. Whether it is education system, medical facility, the use of garbage disposal, public display of love, or the want of one’s space, privacy, single parents, divorces, US can be a shock.. Indians, no matter how forward and modern in their ideas, can get a shockwave when they land in the US.

For one, even though we learn to speak English in school, our pronunciations and vocabulary are different from American sounds and words. We say asthma, they say azman (they spell it asthma), we say biscuit, they say cookies and mind you, biscuits in US are a kind of small cake like bread; jelly is jello. The confusion doesn’t stop here; you go to Starbucks (well, now we won’t be fooled because we have Starbucks in India) and tall means small, grande is medium, venti is large.

Education system and medicine facility are more confusing than you can imagine. Even a kindergartner graduates and there is a big deal about it. For Indians it is no big deal because graduation happens only after you complete your 3-years bachelors. So, this is the other hurdle that we Indians have to cross. If you are a bachelor in any faculty from India (3-year program), your degree will be considered equivalent to Associates in the US. Remember, if you are planning to come to the US for studies or as a spouse and wish to work or study here, do a 4-year study in the same field from India. Example you have a bachelors (3-year) in English literature, you must also do a one-year program (PG diploma or a one year certificate course from a recognized university) in the same subject to be considered equivalent to the 4-year bachelors program in the US. Education is another chapter which needs more space and time to discuss.

Medicine in the US and India are way apart. First it is extremely expensive, so you better have insurance, else you will go bankrupt just paying the doctor’s exorbitant bills. Second, you cannot get a blood work (blood test) done without doctor’s order. Third, there is your primary care physician who you go to for physical exams and when you are sick; there in urgent care, where you go when you cannot wait to be seen by your physician who is booked for two months; last, you go to emergency, if you are so sick that the urgent care won’t help.

As an immigrant from India, you will hear people ask you, “isn’t India a very poor country? How do you guys use water to clean your shit, uh…?” and so on. People are unware about the goodness of India; the development India has made and the vast richness we have. People from India living in the US are stuck, because they want to be a part of the American culture but still want to keep their Indianess alive. I don’t miss any opportunity to share information about India with my students (I am a teacher in the US), peers, children’s teachers, their friends’ parents. I love to talk about India. And trust me, Americans love to learn about different cultures and places. So, don’t be shy or embarrassed to talk and show off your culture, language, food, festivals. Be a part of their festivities but also make them a part of yours. Learn from them but also teach them the value system we have. Live in America but be an Indian.

by Shipra Raju

Newsletter Subscribe