As Others See Us

Some tips for Indians about to go to the United States, from The Hindu. (I wonder what I would say, if someone asked me for such advice. I probably wouldn't do as well as this.))
Beyond the Blue - II

Here are some dos and don'ts once you land in the U.S.


Please get used to saying, `Please' and `Thank you' frequently. Any request needs to be prefaced with a `please', and upon receiving it, a warm `thank you' is the absolute expectation. You come from a country where you have heard scores of times the words "Don't be so formal", making you believe that the closer the friendship, the lesser the formality. Perish this thought, instantaneously. You are going to a place where even a two-year-old cannot ask his mom for a glass of water, without being gently prompted, "Didn't you forget something?" Apologising comes in this list too. So start practising.

Americans are fussy about personal cleanliness. Body odour makes them shudder in disgust. Personal care products such as shampoos, deodorants, dental floss and mouthwash are multi billion dollar industries. Put these down on your shopping list and use them liberally and frequently.

Start thinking in pounds, quarts, gallons, inches, yards and miles. They really don't see the necessity to join the rest of the world, which uses the metric system. It is a similar story in respect of temperature too. It is Fahrenheit in the U.S. and not Centigrade!

Here are a few more quirks. This time it is words that you have always used that meant something, but don't make any sense or the wrong sense in the U.S. A lift is an elevator and you fill gas in your car, not petrol. Start thinking of a gas station, instead of a petrol pump. You rent an apartment and not a flat; you mail something, and not post it, using the right zip, not postal, code. There is no STD code (acronym for sexually transmitted diseases), only area code; your car has a hood and trunk and not a bonnet or a boot, or a dickey. Jelly is Jell-O and jam is jelly!

Don't be shocked if someone asks you, a college kid, about your school! If you are in your Master's programme you are in Grad school, otherwise you are an undergrad. There are no freshers, only freshmen; no boys and girls but young men and women! Don't ask for a rubber, what you want is an eraser. One takes a shower, but relaxes in a bath, and clothing is not generically referred to as "dress". Only women wear a dress, the rest of the items are mentioned by their specific names. And the list goes on; this is just a peek!

First come first serve

Make sure you always stand "in line". They strictly go by the concept of first come first serve, no matter who or what you are.

Do you remember the picture of Bill Clinton (during his Presidency) standing in line at a McDonalds hamburger joint, waiting his turn? As informal and friendly as they are, be prepared for direct, honest communication; absolutely no ambiguity here. If you are invited to someone's home for a meal, do take a small gift with you and offer to help with the clearing and cleaning of the dishes. Punctuality is a must. It is not fashionable to arrive late. Brush up your table manners and be silverware savvy.

You might find people there quite ignorant about their own part of the world. Don't be shocked. You are going to a country, where an impressive number of people wonder if they need a visa to go to New Mexico! If you are wondering about the same thing, find the time in your busy preparation schedule to look at the map of the U.S. of A! Happy journey!

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