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Tips for Newcomers to The U.S From India

Newcomers to the U.S from India either on a short stay or a long stay either with family or alone, have lots of doubts cropping up in their mind. Indian women, in particular, married housewives (let's call them homemakers) who travel to the U.S for the first time spend sleepless nights few days before their travel date, wondering about the life in the U.S - a place with completely different culture, people and lifestyle. Many doubts keep haunting in their mind like 'where can we get Indian stuff'in the U.S, 'can we perform pooja and light up oil lamps at home in the U.S', so on and so forth.

In this write-up, I have provided information based on my personal experience and tips for the newcomers to the U.S from India. This would be helpful / useful to those married Indian women / housewives who will have a cultural shock in the beginning.

General Information / Tips

In the beginning, a majority of Indians will have a cultural shock. However they gradually accustom to the multi-ethnic / multi-cultural atmosphere in the U.S. There is a good population of Indians in the U.S, so Indian foods / groceries and hotels are easily available in almost all the major cities. In almost every place in the U.S, there is Patel brothers stores which is the best one-stop shop to get all the Indian stuff. Mostly every Thursday evenings there is a fresh supply of Indian vegetables to the green groceries, though these are available through out the week that are not so fresh. There are certain names of vegetables which are differently named in America.

For e.g coriander leaves (dhania patta / kottimira) are known as cilantro in the U.S. There are parsley leaves available in many groceries which exactly look like coriander leaves but have a different smell which some Indians might not like. So, buy cilantro if you want to buy coriander leaves and not parsley. Once during my initial days in the U.S in Chicago, IL, I mistook parsley for coriander leaves and bought it. I realized it only after getting back to home. I had to discard it as we didn't like the smell of those leaves.

So also brinjal is known as egg plant in the U.S. 'Bhindi' i.e lady's finger is known as 'okra'. Likewise, you need to pick up these words during your stay in the U.S.

In many of the important places in the U.S, there are good number of Hindu temples  where you can have an 'at home' feeling. You can find number of Indians visiting these temples during the weekends and on Hindu festival days. You can even enjoy delicious Indian food in the cafeterias / restaurants in these temples. So you can visit these temples during the weekends for a homely feeling.
  1. Cultural shock and homesick

    Indian housewives literally get bored with the initial cultural shock. Life is so different in the U.S than it is in India. Initially, you will find it difficult to pick up the typical American accent and find it difficult to communicate. You don't even get to know your neighbors, not even the one who stays your next door. If you are in the mid west or north east region, you don't find people walking on the streets the way you find in India, particularly during winters. You feel too lonely in winters which is severe with heavy snowfall and snow storms at times in these regions. Indian housewives with infants find it too boring. They just keep peeping out from the windows during winters only to find the deserted snow covered surroundings.

  2. Be careful after snowfall

    Beware if you go out and walk on the slippery icy roads, you may skid and have a 'thud' fall. Walk carefully on the icy walkways / roads / steps. If you have small babies, take utmost care of their health. Keep the heating system in moderate level. If you keep it too high with much of internal heating, there will be too dryness and you need to go for a humidifier. To avoid all these keep the internal heating at moderate levels.

  3. Loneliness and boredom

    Places in South and Western part of the U.S.A experience mild winter, so people in these places relatively find it better. But in the mid-west and North-eastern regions where the winters are extreme, you really get bored and don't know how to spend your time in winters. Initially, you find it too difficult to adjust to the new surroundings. No sofas, no beds, no tables, limited kitchen ware to cook, sleeping on the carpeted floors or on comforters. Really, it is a tough time in the beginning. You don't even understand how to spend your idle time and how to kill the boredom. You talk to your parents / siblings / friends / relatives in India only for some time as it will be night in India and they have to go to bed when it's daytime in the U.S. You just keep peeping through the blinds of the window to see the outside world. Once in a while, you just see a car moving on the street and again loneliness. It's really terrible. You may think that it's only you who is getting bored sitting at home. But this is same for most of the Indian housewives who move newly to the U.S. Those who are living in the U.S for some time / few years, they find it better as they stuff their homes with all sorts of material things. By the time, they will have 1 or 2 kids, they get few Indian friends in the same apartment community and they form their own circle / group. They learn driving, own a car and they will be busy dropping and picking their kids to and from the nearby play schools.

  4. Self-learning / self-help

    During winter, you feel lonely but come summer, you will be surprised to see lots of Indians moving around in the campus. They keep staring at one another with a hesitating smile on their face. You will be wondering, where these people were until then. Yes, like you, they too hibernate i.e remain indoors in winter and come out for walks, take their kids to play area etc in summer. One important thing to note. Do not expect much (help) from Indians staying in your apartments. Most of them do not freely mix up with the newcomers. Most of the Indian homemakers form their own circles and enjoy with their own groups. They don't like the newcomers to join them. However, there are few Indians who are very helpful and readily offer help to the newcomers. Unlike in India, both men and women, should adopt self help and learn doings things themselves. You will be surprised to see many Indian men doing things on their own even cooking and cleaning. The proverb 'necessity is the mother of invention' is apt here. All the flats in the apartments are furnished with ovens topped with either electric or gas stoves, refrigerator, dishwasher, cupboards, closets and hot / cold water in the bathrooms. So you don't find it difficult either for cooking or cleaning utensils.

  5. Shopping

    If you are go to the U.S on a long stay, then the best option is to purchase all the essentials in bulk from Costco or Sam's Club, but you need to have a Costco card or Sam's Club Card. You can get all the cleaning stuff like dish washing liquid or a box of cascade tablets, toilet cleaners like Lysol, laundry detergents like Tide and eatables like cereals (Quaker Oats or Honey Bunch of Oats with Almonds) in bulk in these merchandise stores. If you stay in the U.S for a short term, then the best store to make purchase of all essentials is a dollar store / dollar tree where you can get every item for one dollar. Of course, you have to compromise with the quality of these items when purchased from a dollar shop.

    The reason you need to dispose off everything before you travel back to India. Most of the Indians in the U.S are calculating types. They keep calculating each dollar they spend, convert each dollar spent into Indian rupees and get panicky or feel constraint on spending. After few years of stay in America, Indians do come out of such a mentality and start spending a lot and stuff their homes. It would be difficult for you to purchase even essentials, if you keep on converting each dollar you spend into Indian rupees. So stop doing that. The best stores for making any kind of purchase in the U.S is Walmart where you can get almost everything at low cost. Walmart is a favorite of Indians in the U.S. You can see lots of Indians moving around in Walmart. There are even other good stores like Meijer in most of the places in the Midwest, Kroger where you get good vegetables. Unlike in India, you can use the tap water directly for drinking. However, it is safe to go for small water filters. Brita is one of the extensively used water filter by the Indians. This is a small jug type one with a candle / filter stone for filtering. This is not the Eureka Forbes / Kent type one that you have in India.

  6. For safe driving

    For safe driving on the road, there is one important point to keep in mind. Any Indian who has driven a car on the Indian roads find it too easy to drive a car in the U.S. No heavy traffic on the roads and strict followers of traffic rules and too strict U.S traffic police. In the beginning, you need to be careful as Indians are used to left hand driving while it is reverse in the U.S. Initially, when you drive, you tend to go to left, so keep in mind that it is right hand driving in the U.S. One more important point to keep in mind. While driving keep yourself on the extreme right if you drive slow as most of the cars go with full speed on the express highways. Even the heavy vehicles / trucks on the expressways keep to the right. And always use a GPS (Global Positioning System) navigator when you go out in your car. Make sure that your GPS is updated with the latest maps. You can easily drive to the destination with a GPS in your car. Another important thing to following while driving with a baby. You can get the 'Baby on Board' stickers in stores like Toys R Us. Stick this at the rear side of your car for safety purpose.

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