8 Small but Surprising Truths Indians Realise When They First Travel to America

Americans have clearly not experienced the traffic snarls back home, and therefore have obviously no frame of reference


East is east, West is west, never the twain shall meet. Most of us, like myself – brazenly, and naively walk into the US with a mindless apathy to how different life is over there – only to be hit by a major reality check when you see only toilet paper to wipe your ass. Which is just the tip of the iceberg. Read on:

1. Dude, Where’s the Mug?

A friend once wisely advised me to carry a water mug when going to the US for the 1st time – i dismissed it then, only to sheepishly realise that there is no bidet, let alone our reliable hand spray type thingy to ahem – close the deal. Besides, Americans don’t store buckets or water mugs in their bathrooms, that’s just our cutesy little Indianness.

2. Wet Area, Dry Area, Eh?

Another thing about bathrooms in the US – what’s with the wet and dry area? When I bathe, I like to splash around like a happy seal, or a Mandakini. That’s the point of a ‘bath’room right? Wrong. Americans do not like water except in the showering area, as I was sternly instructed by my aunt – keep the shower curtain closed at all times, you don’t want to let any water out. Yes’m.

3. The Big Mac is Really Big

If you order a burger in the US, it’s not just a burger. It’s a burger – with a side of fries. And coleslaw. That’s pretty great, one must think – after all, free ka maal, right? Except you begin with the fries because oh God they are so freaking addictive, and at the end of it your half-eaten burger desolately stares at you from your plate. American food portions are amazingly huge, and when coming from a country where food wastage is both irreverent and frowned upon, you seriously regret ordering an adult meal. Tip: Always order a kiddie meal – you get carrot sticks and a juice box as side dishes, but hey – at least you have the satisfaction of finishing your kiddie burger!

4. Free Refills, Yeah!

This one is a benign shocker, given that you are aware of it. Once you purchase a cola drink, you can refill your cup as many times as you like – yes, for free. Not only that, if you keep your Starbucks receipt for coffee, you can go back and get free coffee refills too! Pretty cool, na?

5. Here Tip, There Tip – Everywhere Tip Tip

Okay this one just works against our core Indian fibre. Why pay extra for something you are already paying for? I realise how stingy that sounds, but think about it – tip the bellboy for showing you to your room, tip the waitress for bringing you water in a BUFFET, tip the cabdriver – ugh, so exhausting to figure out if you’re tipping too much or too less; besides you’re already converting dollars to INR simultaneously and you just tipped the cabdriver 3 dollars, that’s like Rs.180, that’s even more than my auto fare from Andheri to Bandra!!!

6. Where Traffic is Umm.. Not Really Traffic

For most of my trip, I heard friends complain about the traffic on the interstate – was I missing something? What traffic were they talking about, because I just didn’t see it. Americans have clearly not experienced the traffic snarls back home, and therefore have obviously no frame of reference…I don’t blame them. But if this is what they call traffic, I don’t mind being in one.

7. Internet Central

Almost everywhere you go, you get free wi-fi – the best part is they have open access- how charitable. This means no hacking into wi-fi or begging someone for passwords like the impoverished internet troll you are, back home. And to top it off, it’s 4G! Internet so fast that you feel like you have travelled forward in time and don’t want to go back to a place where the internet disappoints you among a thousand other things.

8. Are People Here Friendly, Or Am I Just Rude?

People in the US greet you almost everywhere you go – in shops, restaurants, on the road. Sure, it took me a while to get over my awkwardness and respond appropriately, after I had finished analysing and catastrophizing – ‘Ohmygod why is this random stranger talking to me, what does he want?’ Actions or gestures will be consistently accompanied by a flurry of thank yous or sorrys, and you feel obligated to return the gesture. Makes you wish we do it more often here in India – after all, niceness begets niceness.