Business Insider: The Ten Most Surprising things about America, according to an Indian International student.
Aniruddh Chaturvedi came from Mumbai to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn., where he is majoring in computer science. This past summer he interned at a tech company in Silicon Valley.
Chaturvedi offered his latest thoughts on America in an email to Business Insider.
The most surprising things about America:
- Nobody talks about grades here.
- Everyone is highly private about their accomplishments and failures. Someone’s performance in any field is their performance alone. This is different compared to India where people flaunt their riches and share their accomplishments with everybody else.
- The retail experience is nowhere near as fun/nice as it is in India. Because labor is cheap in India, there is always someone who will act as a “personal shopper” to assist you with holding your clothes, giving suggestions, etc. In America, on the other hand, even if you go to a Nordstrom or Bloomingdales, there is almost nobody to help you out while you’re shopping. Shopping in America is more of a commodity / chore than it is a pleasurable activity . [This, and particularly the previous observation reveals that lucky Aniruddh has yet to visit Greenwich – Ed.]
- Before coming to America, I heard stories about how students at Johns Hopkins were so competitive with each other that they used to tear important pages from books in the library just so other students didn’t have access to it. In reality, I experienced the complete opposite. Students were highly collaborative, formed study groups, and studied / did assignments till everyone in the group “got it”. I think the reason for this is that the classes are / material is so hard that it makes sense to work collaboratively to the point that students learn from each other.
- Strong ethics — everyone has a lot of integrity. If someone cannot submit their completed assignment in time, they will turn in the assignment incomplete rather than asking for answers at the last minute. People take pride in their hard work and usually do not cheat. This is different from students from India and China as well as back home in India, where everyone collaborates to the extent that it can be categorized as cheating.
- Rich people are thin/ well maintained, poor people are fat. This stems from the fact that cheap food is fatty, rich people don’t eat cheap food — they tend to eat either home-cooked food which is expensive or eat at expensive / healthy places. Unfortunately, it is expensive to be healthy in America.
- Fat people are not respected much in society. Being fat often has the same connotations as being irresponsible towards your body. If you’re thin (and tall, but not as much), people will respect you a lot more and treat you better. You will also receive better customer service if you’re well maintained. This extends my previous point which mentioned that if you’re thin, you’re statistically likely to be rich. Reason why I know this is that I went down from being 210lbs to 148-150lbs. The way people started treating me when I was thin was generally way better than the way I was treated when I was fat. As a small example, the Starbucks baristas were much nicer to me and made me drinks with more care / love.
- Girls are not very promiscuous, contrary to most Hollywood films
- Almost every single person in America has access to basic food, clothing, water and sanitation. I haven’t been to states like Louisiana and cities like Detroit, but from what I can tell, nobody is scrambling for the basic necessities required for sustenance.
- Dearth of African Americans in technical fields. This probably stems from the fact that they aren’t given enough opportunity, broken families, etc. I’m pretty sure you can extend upon this if you’d like.
- It’s expensive to have brick houses in America, contrary to India where brick houses are the norm
- Emphasis on physical fitness / being outdoorsy — this is more of a California thing but I noticed families going on biking trips, boat trips, hiking, camping, barbecuing, etc. Americans take pride in the natural beauty of their surroundings and tend to make the most of it
- Americans waste a lot of food. It is very easy to buy in bulk because it’s so much cheaper and as a result a lot of wastage occurs.
- Obsession with coffee — Starbucks, Dunkin’ etc is crowded with office-goers and students every morning. I don’t understand why they can’t drink or make coffee before leaving for work. Such a waste of money! ($5/day * 5days / week * 52weeks/year)!
- Split families, not having married parents, etc is not seen differently than the contrary.
It’s interesting to see America from a foreigner’s perspective rather than, say, that of a whiny American college student whose world view has been shaped, molded and perverted by too many years in the Howard Zinn world of modern American eduction.