Looking at the United States as an Indian, two months in.
What a wonderful note. I learned much about both India and you -- what I learned about you is all good.
Very interesting stuff! Many of the things you list under indoors are mostly because you are in an apartment complex. In a different complex it might be different and in a home it could be a mixture of things.
The carpets in the apartment are because its cheaper to replace carpet that is damaged or warn than other types of floors. In the area of the country you are in, tile floors are not very common except in entry ways, patios, or mud rooms that get dirty easily. But in other areas like Florida or Arizona, tile floors are more common.
Same with the curtains. Curtains are more expensive to replace or fix than blinds and they go out of style faster than simple blinds.
Bathroom taps come in many different options and most are what you are describing with one handle. Also, not all houses have bath tubs. My house has three showers and no bathtubs. I wish we had one!
"Names are re-used to an uncomfortable extent here". There are 71 streets in Atlanta that use some variant of Peach in the name!
The biggest culture shock for me was how willing people are to answer your emails/help in general. In Russia, you can't ever meet somebody important without an introduction. In America, you can just, like... Email people? CEOs, scientists, whatever. If you're doing something interesting to them, they'll very frequently reply/meet with you/help in some way.
My friends tell me you can't buy a single cigarette ! You have to buy the whole pack ..can't imagine in india :D
American coffee is quite bad. We are not a coffee culture, we are a work obsessed culture that teaches sleep is weakness. Energy drinks and soda are insanely common too. Historically, tea is associated with colonial rule, so Americans moved to coffee. Sadly things are slow even with the hipster coffee movement growing. Starbucks "dark roast" coffee taints the culture, as many people think burnt coffee is fancy thanks to Starbucks. European light roasts, and so forth, are catching on agonizingly slowly.
Men not wearing shirts. Not many Americans will realize but groups of men on the East Coast actually fought legal battles to be allowed to go shirtless. It's not than women were ever disallowed any more than men per se, it's that men fought and won that right then normalized it. In some areas (Austin, TX) women have won the same right and it is now legal for women to go topless in public as well.
I really enjoyed your observations, Siddheshji. Thank you for sharing. As someone that grew up in the US and has visited India several times, I thought it might be interesting to hear what differences I noticed when going over there.
Right away I noticed that almost exclusively, men were driving vehicles and women were passengers. There were some exceptions to this, especially in the big cities (Mumbia). Women also are rarely seen wearing jeans over there, again except for in the big cities. I thought it was amazing to see the women working hard while dressed in beautiful saris. It was almost difficult to understand how their clothes could be so clean considering the work they were doing!
Here, you see a lot of people wearing black. I didn't realize it until I went to India and noticed how little black clothing is worn. It makes sense given the heat and intensity of sunlight though.
I was apparently the only caucasian that many people had ever seen in person, as there were several people that wanted pictures of me and selfies with me. Even the cab driver took a photo in the car. In the US no one is going to take your photo because you are foreign. The taxi drivers were also watching videos on their phones while driving. Like Tic Tok or YouTube videos of asanine stuff. It was a little scary to be honest.
People were burning fires everywhere, and smoke filled the air until I got far from the cities. It was noxious and burned my eyes because many of the fires included trash such as plastic bottles. But people would huddle over a little trash fire like the smell wasn't noticable and as though they could breathe fine. Yet, after being there even for just a few hours, I found black evidence of the air contamination when I blew my nose. That brings me to my next observation, which is that the tissue paper (toilet paper) stank. It must not have been made quite the same way. The toilet paper rolls are also tiny, like maybe 20% of a roll here. I never saw a ceramic toilet tank in India; they were all made of plastic. Conversely, I have never seen a plastic toilet tank in the US.
In every sink and drain there were pellets of camphor. It filled the restroom with a strong odor, but we were warned not to remove them or we might get a nasty insect surprise. I had never seen that or heard of it being done before.
People in India pile onto vehicles in ways that are not only questionable but downright dangerous. I saw people operating motorcycles with a small child on their lap, and sometimes four adults riding one motorcycle. And people walk right into traffic and along busy roads without even looking at the vehicles approaching them from behind; completely trusting that they won't be hit. It didn't always work out, as I saw someone get hit. I also saw a dog get hit and a motorcycle, so the free for all approach apparently results in more accidents.
Wild dogs were all over the place. They were often fighting each other over territory or scraps. Outnumbering the stray dogs were cows outside of the big city. In the US, everyone keeps their cows fenced in, but in India they just wander wherever they want. We had to stop often to let cows cross the street in front of the car, and they would pick through the trash on the sides of the road looking for scraps.
There was a lot of trash on the ground and in the water. I was very glad to return more recently to see that new laws limiting plastics were starting to have an effect and the amount of trash has decreased.
I thought I liked spicy food, but Indians take it to another level! An Indian friend of mine consumed six raw hot peppers with her meal, whereas even one bite of those little green peppers would be too much for most people, even if it were cooked into the entire dish.
Spirituality pervades Indian culture to the extent that many names are based on some spiritual quality or saint. Imagine shopping at the "Jesus Mall" or eating at the "Holy Trinity Diner".
There was poverty to a degree that I had never seen before. I couldn't believe what some people called "home". Many structures were simply tarps over sticks in the gound. The most baffling shelter was a tarp stretched between two road signs on opposing lanes of the highway. There were cars constantly racing (or crawling in bad traffic) just a couple of feet away from them all day and all night long.
Drivers there honk for any and every reason. There was usually a cacophony of horns in the cities, being used for a miriad of reasons, whereas in the US horns are mostly used to express displeasure with the way others are driving.
The windows there often have bars on them, but no screens. Buildings are much more open to the environment there compared to the rather sealed structures here. I never saw a central air conditioning system in India. They seemingly only used small units similar to our window units but different.
The beds. Oh the beds. I thought I knew what a firm mattress was, but I quickly learned that Indians seem to prefer sleeping on what feels like a piece of carboard over concrete. The pillows were similarly hard and about 2 inches thick. I brought my own pillow and memory foam pad with me after my first visit.
I'm sure I'll think of many more things to add after posting, but these things should represent the majority of what I noticed.
For more secure payments, use a credit card over a debit card. They don't have more security features for making payments, but do have better fraud protection after the fact. See https://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/never-use-debit-card-pay/
European here. The "so big" part. Same thing occurred to me when I first got there at age 18 (a long time back). It's one of the reasons I liked Old Town Alexandria so much. Being that much older the scale of the place is more like a European city. Not an important observation of course, just one that coincides with one of yours.
I hate to break it to you, but many of your takes are innaccurate and apparently based solely on living near a university campus.
1. Hardwood flooring is very common in houses, just not cheaper apartment buildings and low-cost housing.
2. Gas stoves are very popular. Probably more popular than electric ones.
3. There are indeed a lot of obese people, they do tend to be older than college aged.
4. Window dressings vary - vertical blinds are a common default thing in apartment complexes, but people do have curtains in their own homes.
It's mostly the "Indoors" section that's the problem, really. Otherwise, pretty fair.
Many of the aspects you list may better describe Washington, DC, than the U.S. in general. For example, not many cities or regions (esp. outside of the South) other than D.C. have Spanish-speaking enclaves, and I doubt any other metropole prioritizes, to the same extent, states' and cities' names in its toponymic functions -- D.C., notably, after all, names its diagonal avenues after states. Also, residents of the National Capital Region are, on average, better educated and more affluent than other Americans, and fitness and reading correlate with those demographic characteristics. (I've witnessed firsthand the chasmic differences in eating and exercise habits between greater-DC residents and heartland Americans.)
Couple things not mentioned by others:
DC and neighboring Arlington are very highly ranked in terms of fitness. You will see much more obesity in the suburbs, rural areas, and other cities.
Toilet jets are rare but gaining in popularity.
Curtains, carpets, gas stoves, single-handle faucets, ceiling fans, and bathtubs are highly variable based on age of the home, geographic region, personal preference, socio-economic level. For example ceiling fans are much more common in the South, and I was born and raised in the US and only had a gas stove for a couple years. I am aware of many homes that have a mix of wood, carpet, linoleum, and sometimes fancy cement or tile floors, but as the other commenter said it's very cheap to pull up and replace carpet between renters in an apartment, like a screen protector for your floor.
Bathing in a tub (as opposed to a standing shower) is also seen as either a relaxing activity for adults or as safer for young children, the elderly, or anyone who may slip in a shower. Bucket bathing is nearly unheard of.
Payments are much less secure, for sure. However most banks have aggressive fraud detection these days, and disputing fraudulent charges is usually pretty easy unless the thief was unusually clever and made purchases that look like your normal purchases. You get your money back most of the time, so unless you have a bad or slow bank or a small safety net it's not too concerning. That being said, it is a huge hidden cost built into the system that we all pay, that money you get back comes from somewhere.
"ID" (both letter capitalized) is an acronym for "identity document." No one would ever say "student identity document," however.
It is also now used as an abbreviation for the verb "identify," as in "He IDed the guy who stole his wallet." The all-caps here makes no sense from a spelling or grammar point of view but that is how we do it. This may be the only abbreviation treated like this.
You, sir, are the Tocqueville for our age. If you have not yet read Democracy in America, get a copy right away. It will help you understand what you are seeing, and give you more ideas about what to look for.
Couldn’t agree more!
This was really interesting and fun to read. I will look forward to what you add in the future. It makes me look around at all the things I'm used to and wonder how they got to be that way instead of just blindly accepting it all.
As an American living in Singapore for the past 5 years, this was a pleasure to read. A good reminder of what to expect when I go back. You are spot on in that everything is 20% bigger than it really needs to be. There *really* should be drains outside the bathtub in all bathrooms and kitchens-it's so much easier to wash the floors. The main reason you're seeing so many fit people is because you're on a college campus-American obesity is very real because most people drive, and too few walk.