Learning The American Way

I moved to New York a couple months back from New Delhi, India. Needless to say, India and America are polar opposites. So naturally, it took a while for me to figure out the ins and outs of the way America functions. However, my familiarity with American culture through watching sitcoms and my previous travels helped ease the cultural shock. 

One stark contrast between the two is the strong sense of individualism among Americans, particularly New Yorkers. They often prefer to maintain their personal space, seemingly unaffected by their surroundings, a trait that can evoke both frustration and gratitude. This trait proves advantageous during moments of solitude, allowing for you to burst out into tears in the middle of the street or on the subway- you know you will not be judged because people here simply do not care enough to be bothered by it.  Although, at times it can also be exasperating when seeking assistance, as cries for help are often overlooked before someone eventually offers to help. Over time, I have learned to avoid lingering glances at passersby, which is something every New Yorker would advise you to do if you ever plan on visiting the city. 

Another aspect that struck me about this place was the prevalence of consumerism. I’ve bought more items here that aren’t strictly necessary than I have throughout my entire life. Despite its drawbacks like any other city in the world, New York stands as an unparalleled hub of opportunity, where the very air buzzes with potential the moment you step foot in the city. It truly is a concrete jungle where dreams are made. 

Personally, my productivity has increased amidst the city’s energy. Of course there are mornings when my bed feels like a magnet pulling me in, but the instant I step outside the city’s fast pace carries me forward effortlessly. This has taught me a vital lesson, your room is not a jail, your mind is. 

The food scene took a while getting adjusted to, although it wasn’t as daunting as I expected it to be. New York’s diverse culinary landscapes offering cuisines from around the world definitely helped ease the transition, especially with the availability of Indian food, in spite of which the longing for home cooked meals remains. Nothing quite matches the comfort of a meal prepared with familiar spices and flavors- something impossible to replicate. 

Yet, while exploring restaurants and cuisines, I discovered places which cater to my taste buds. One standout experience was during a visit to my aunt’s home in New Jersey when we went to this Mexican restaurant. The food there left a mark on my palette I will never forget. 

Navigating the subway system proved to be a significant hurdle for me, one that I continue to struggle with. Mastering the intricacies of the subway system is considered a pivotal moment in a New Yorker’s life. Despite having lived here for a couple of months, I still find myself relying heavily on my phone for guidance as missed stops and wrong trains have become too familiar. 

Hopefully, with time I will grow to navigate the subway by myself. However, until then my reliance on my phone persists since seeking assistance from people around is extremely daunting. 

In the end the transition from moving away from home to navigating a city where familiarity is scant can be challenging. But it’s with these invaluable experiences that you grow as a person. Always remember to be open minded and embrace the journey ahead, for it’s the unknown where the most profound transitions take place. 

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By Kimaaya Khanduja

Kimaaya grew up in New Delhi, India and is currently studying at Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York, pursuing a degree in Product Design.

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