My first visit to a foreign land was in Texas, US for 3 months in 2009. Truth be told, for a middle class man like me from a small town in Bihar samastipur, it was a dream come true moment.
The day I landed in America, I thought I have come to a heaven in terms of cleanliness, traffic, skyscrapers, orderliness, greenery, beautiful faces etc. As soon as I came out of Airport, I was walking cross a road but stopped when I saw a car at around 50 metrrs distance that was coming towards me. But to my dismay even car got stopped. When I saw inside the car, driver was signalling me smilingly to cross the road. And only when I crossed he moved his car. That was my first culture shock, since we are used to giving path first to vehicles otherwise we would be part of one of the pedestrian dying every three minutes in India in road accidents.
When I entered in my Hotel people were standing in queue. I thought what the heck is it a ration line like India. Anyway I crossed it to reach to the 15 th floor by a lift. But a guard stopped me politely saying please come in queue. And then I realised that people are in queue for getting in to lift.
Living standards in US is advanced. I remember the maid who used to come just one day a week for just one hour used to charge us around Rs 25000 for a month. She used to drive in Mercedes with her cleaning tools and one assistant. Can we even compare them with our maids living standards or for the matter even with most of us.
Being a vegetarian guy, culture shock was stocked even more shocking for me. The hotel in which I stayed hardly had any vegetarian items in their menu list. So, I used to eat only things like pizza, salad, bean burger for first few days. I remember after a week, one my colleague took me to Indian store, I bought many frozen India foods like Paranthas, curries, samosas etc. And when it got into my mouth, I felt as if I am in some sort of heaven, literally tears of happiness were rolling out of my eyes. There was hardly anything available for vegetarians there. i remember in one shop I asked for anything vegetarian, and his answer was what is vegetarian. There is no demarcation of vegetarian and non vegetarian in most of the places, it had happened manyatimes particularly during buffet that I ate vegetarian food in my mouth but it tasted like non-vegetarian :).
In the hotel, we had a free breakfast with too many options to choose from, but when I reach there my heart shattered into pieces like a glass bowl that was dropped on the floor, because the only vegetarian thing was bread and cheese.
Anyway, it’s not that every shock is a pleasant one there. I was surprised to see Beggars and unemployed asking for alms at street lights even there but of course even they were much civilized than our Beggars.
The best thing about culture is that there are many sides and attributes to it. There is no finite end to what can be learned. There is no banner that marks the finish line. That is what makes the world diverse and worth exploring. And if we can make this place a better place if we explore and understand each other better.
P.S. – I had thought of practicing for the speech 4 using above script. But I was hardly pressed for time during the week it was to be delivered, so I was thinking of dropping it but my club president Abhishek suggested me innovate approach of just remembering the bullet points without referring any script.
And hence I prepared for this project only in 2 hours by following these bullet points:
- My first visit
- Beautiful America
- Eating habits
- Living standards
- Free America
- Beggars and crime
And it worked :). I was able to clear my P4.
P.S. – Delivered this speech as my P4 (CC4) project at Toastmasters.