Is this your first time in the United States? Make sure you are doing the right thing!

Are you a student, visiting scholar, or a working professional who just arrived US (or any other developed country) for the first time?

Congratulations, you finally made it to the United States of America.  Of course, the US is one of the best countries in the world to live in. A lot of people around the globe dream to study,  work and settle here for obvious reasons. But this is just the beginning. You are about to get introduced to a new culture.  You are about to enjoy the marriage between anxiety and excitement.  Based on 3 years of my experience in the US, I have summed up few pieces of advice for Internationals for easier acclimatization in this wonderful country of opportunities called, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. These dos and don’ts are also applicable to a foreigner in any other country.

  1. Do not talk bad about your country. When you arrive here, you will notice a lot of differences in the infrastructure, the way people behave and dress. If you find that US has a better infrastructure that your country then appreciate the US for that without insulting your own country in front of foreigners. It is OK to have a discussion when you are sitting in a group from your own country that’s the place to be a critic for the betterment of your own culture. Not in front of people from other countries. Remember ! A culture is a result of many decades of human practices that are dictated by the geographical location, economy, upbringing, literacy rate and human values. You can not change it overnight by insulting your own country in a foreign land. Rather learn and spread awareness.
  2. Smile to a stranger. Some countries are very conservative, where smiling to a stranger means that you are either creepy or you need some favor. In the US or even in Europe, strangers might smile at you out of their goodness. Just reflect it back the same way. Neither the pretty girl who smiled at you while jogging on the road is attracted to you, nor the guy who smiled at you need anything from you. So do not act creepy. Take it the way it is no less or more. Next time smile at every person you see on your way. Some might not give you the same smile back but most of them will.
  3. Do not feel inferior. The way you spend money or dress up or eat might have been completely different in the country you belong to. If you find people more sophisticated than you then there is no need to feel inferior about it. Rather learn from them and grab all good habits and behavior that you can. At the same time share your good habits with them. Trust me, this gradient can bring the best in everyone.
  4. Be a little flexible and show empathy. It would be much easier for you to acclimatize if you will accept that you are in a different country and the way things happen here is a bit different from your native land. In India, we tend to have a big group of friends, share food before we eat or discuss family problems very often. In the US, if the natives do not indulge in over talking then do not consider them rude, they just need their personal space.  If someone does not offer you their food, don’t feel bad about it, their idea is to not offer you’re their left over. Basically, do not compare them with respect to the standards of your native land. Understand their angle before making a judgment.
  5. Do not talk about your country all the time. Yes, you are proud of your country. Everyone is and everyone should. But when you are a part of a conversation, try to listen to them rather than jumping into the conversation and say, “Oh really! But in my country, they do it differently ..“ or in another case, “Oh yeah yeah, that’s how they do it in my country also”.  Its great to be proud of your country but its also important to be a good listener. Don’t keep talking about your country and culture all the time unless it is required in the conversation.
  6. Do not cook right before meeting people. In some countries, very strong spices are heavily used in cooking, particularly is North Asian and South Asian Countries. Spices smell can be really intimidating for some people. This can sometimes give an impression that you do not take shower when that actual reason is that you used strong spices in your cooking. Be careful ! if you cook at home, either avoid going out right after you cook or take a shower before leaving the house or at the least change the clothes. Always wear deodorant, cologne or perfume. Smell like a professional, not like the food. Haha!!
  7. Do not just hang out with people from your own country. Americans are great people in general. If you did not find a good one, it’s just your bad luck. Do not hang out only with people from your own country, this will halt your learning process. When it comes to choosing a roommate, do not always live with people from your own country. Rather go for American roommates, you will learn about their culture much fasterWatch American TV shows and Movies or sports. This will help you to understand and pick up their accent much faster in addition to making you aware of people behavior and expectations. Basically get out of your comfort zone.
  8. Indulge in new hobbies and recreation. When you are new here, you might be left with a lot of free time. Reason? Simple you don’t have a social circle. This can make you homesick.  Do not waste your time on youtube and facebook or over watching TV. Instead go to the gym, play pool, read good books, learn to play some musical instrument, write blogs, join Toastmasters (or any another public speaking group). In short, add value to your life rather than wasting time on useless pursuits or feeling homesick.
  9. Give tip at the restaurants. I know it’s not the kind of advice that is pocket-friendly. Tipping is not a part of a lot of cultures. In the US, it is very common though. I understand that for a lot of international students, it not possible to tip a lot of money. In worst case tip just $1 but a tip. A lot of restaurant staff income is based heavily on the tip that you give. So tip if you can afford.

What do you think? Please add any advice that you might have to help newcomers better acclimatize in a foreign country.