Usually, before anyone comes to the U.S.A for the first time from
India he/she will start talking to people who have been here before and get information from them about what to expect,
what to do etc. Though this gives some idea it doesn't make one confident or better prepared and moreover how much can
one absorb at once.
So we felt the need for a small, informal document which anyone could carry along
with or read on the plane before he/she gets to the USA The objective of this document is to make you aware of things,
situations to expect and enlighten you with facts so you can be comfortable once you get there.
document will guide you during your stay in the US. You will be better prepared for the trip if you read this document
before going or just after reaching. It tries to give information on preparing for the trip, food, travel, stay and
culture in the US.
This is just out of our experience and should be considered as an advice rather than
final authoritative statements, which may be arguable. We want you to enjoy your trip to the US as much as possible. You
All the best!!
The carry baggage
is the biggest problem while coming to US. What to carry? How much to carry? Do I carry more woolen clothes 'cause its
cold out there? Well, we all think, it depends !!
Don't carry too many heavy utensils, cooker etc. You
can buy most of the utensils there. They are not costly and you don't have to carry much. You can carry some spices
with you if you want to, 'cause after going there you may start missing the Indian food taste.
Don't carry too
many warm clothes (unless you are going there in winter), or sports shoes etc. It would be better if you buy them after
going there. That way you can buy the latest style. But you should carry leather shoes from India, since leather items
are costly in the U.S. Rest, it all depends on you and your needs !!
are required to get down at an International stop, which might be for Security checkup or cleaning of the airplane. You
will be given a 'transit card` or say 'transit visa`. Normally the halt is for a couple of hours. Listen to the announcement
which is always made before the international halt. You will hear information about departure time, gate number etc.
After getting down at Intl. Airport, you can move around in the airport. But be at the gate within 45 minutes of your flight's
departure for the onward journey, 'cause they may require to check your tickets etc. Once you get in, you are all set
to take off for the final destination.
The first thing you need to go through
at the port-of-entry U.S. airport (international airport where you first land in the US), after landing is the immigration
and customs clearance. After which you may board a domestic flight to reach your final destination. Before getting down
at your port-of-entry final international halt, inside the plane, you will be given a form to fill up called I-94. SPECIFY
YOUR COMPANY?ONTACT NUMBER, ADDRESS AND OTHER OFFICIAL INFORMATION AS YOUR CONTACT NUMBER, ADDRESS WHERE YOU WILL STAY
On alighting from the plane you may ask people or signs will guide you to the immigration. Keep your
passport, H1-paper ( Blue form ) and the form you filled inside the plane, handy. At the counter you might be asked some
questions. TALK ABSOLUTELY TO THE POINT. DON`T TRY TO LIE. MAKE SURE THAT WHATEVER YOU SAY IS WRITTEN ON THE PAPER. You
will be given the counter foil of I-94 form. Keep that very carefully. And say to yourself "WELCOME TO USA".
Try to acquire some 25 cent coins (called "quarters"), which
you may need for getting a trolley cart for your baggage and also for making telephone calls etc. Thereafter move toward
the baggage claim carousel assigned to your flight, simply follow the signs directing you to the place. Collect your
luggage and look for signs directing you to customs clearance. At the customs clearance they may ask you to open your
bags for a security check/verification.
the Port-of-entry may not be your final destination in the U.S. and you have to proceed onwards, locate the counter for
the domestic airline you will be taking to your final destination. Above all don't hesitate or feel shy to ask for help
from airport support staff (at information desks) or police officers, if you need anything.
directing you to your domestic flight because you will need a boarding pass. If it is far away, take the Airport shuttle
(bus) service which is free. If you don't know where to get down, tell the driver in advance and he will drop you off
at the proper place. At the counter (podium) check-in your baggage and get your boarding pass issued and ready.
On arrival at the final destination, collect your baggage once again and look around for that someone who may be
there to receive you. If you don't find anyone or you already have specific instructions, follow those, otherwise call
up (telephone) the company co-ordinator whose tel. number you should be carrying. Therefore remember to keep phone numbers
handy. Get information from the company coordinator on the stay arrangements made for you. Finally, if no one comes
to pick you up, try to locate the information counter from where you will get all the information regarding how to call
for public transport/cab. Also the Public Transport section of this guide will help you in understanding the travel
facilities available in the U.S.
first thing you might do when you come to U.S.A. is call someone. So this is a good time to tell you about telephone usage.
Telephone calls within U.S. are considered "local" (within the area of the caller) or
"long distance" (outside
the area of the caller). Local calls within a short region are free unless made from a public pay phone which is a coin
operated machine. Long distance calls are charged at varying rates, depending on how you make the call (which long distance
carrier/company you use), for how long you speak and the time of the day. Note that the telephone companies in the U.S.
are private. Each local region is assigned an "area code". So the phone numbers are denoted as (area code)-123 4567.
where 123-4567 is your actual phone number. If you are calling a number within your "area" then you should dial only the
phone number. If the call is outside your area you need to dial 1-(area code)-123-4567, which is the long distance call.
Again, sometimes when the area code is the same as yours, you may still have to dial a "1" before the number without
e.g. 1--7digit phone number
To make an international call i.e. to India you need
011-91--. e.g. 011-91-22-1234567.
Here 011 indicates an international call. 91
is the country code for India. 22 is the "area code" for Bombay and 1234567 may be the actual phone number you want
Other important facilities provided are -
1. Yellow pages (Tel. directory)
Advertisements and Telephone numbers of businesses.
2. Emergency Telephone Number
There is one emergency
number that you can dial for any type of emergency which is 911 (Fire/Ambulance/Police).
3. Directory assistance
Local telephone numbers - 411
Long distance - 1-(Area Code)-555-1212
Toll Free number enquiry - 1-800-555-1212
4. Toll free
Most of the 1-800 or 1-888 numbers are toll free. You will not be charged for the
calls you make to such numbers. e.g. The toll free number for AT&T is 1-800-225-5288. This is a toll free number and you
can dial it from anywhere in the U.S. without having to pay for it, even from a public phone. Some telephone numbers
have alphabets in them such as 1-800-COLLECT. To dial this number, just press the digit on the telephone pad which has
the corresponding alphabet you want to dial on it, simple!.
Most people use answering machines which are
connected to their telephones, or some kind of voice mail system. It has a standard pre-recorded greeting which is played
when you call up and then after some beeps, it records your message. Initially you will feel like you were talking to a
dead person, but soon you realize the importance of owning an answering machine. We bet you'll buy one too!.
4.1. Using the PUBLIC "pay" phones
The important difference is, you need to insert the money first then dial
the number. To operate a pay phone you need 25 cents. This pays for one local call. If your call is not connected your
money is returned in the "coin return" slot.
Collect call - If you want the called party (person whom you
are calling) to pay for the call then you make a collect call. To make a collect call pick up the receiver and press
0. Let the operator know that you want to make a COLLECT call, the operator will connect you to the phone number you need.
But before that the operator will check with the other party if they want to collect (pay for) the call. An easier way
is to dial 1-800-COLLECT from any phone and just follow the recorded instructions.
There are four time zones in the US
1) Eastern TZ
Example : Massachusetts, New York, Florida etc.
2) Central TZ ( lags Eastern TZ by one hour )
: Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana etc.
3) Mountain TZ ( lags Eastern TZ by two hours )
Example : Colorado,
Utah, Wyoming etc.
4) Pacific TZ ( lags Eastern TZ by three hours )
Example : California, Oregon,
Day light saving :
As the name suggests, the time is set in such a
way that maximum day light could be used. e.g. During summer, the sun rises at around 4-5 o'clock. So the clock is set
forward by one hour. This forces all activities to start one hour earlier so that maximum day light is used till late in
The Clock is set back by one hour on the first Sunday of November
1 (Fall Season) at 2:00 am. Clock is once again set forward by one hour on the first Sunday of April at 2:00 am. (Spring
Season). The easiest way to remember this is FALL BACK, SPRING AHEAD. By the way, Arizona is the only state which is
not affected by day-light-saving. People there do not ever change the time in their clocks.
: 100 cents
Quarter: 25 cents
Dime : 10 cents
Nickel : 5 cents
Penny : 1 cent
Initially there is some confusion since the quarter is exactly of the same size and shape as the Indian 50 paise coin.
cities have some sort of public transportation not necessarily very good or frequent or well connected. Therefore most
people prefer to travel by their own cars. It is better that you own a car in the US so that you are independent. But
till you get to buy a car you can use the public transportation system or depend on your friends/colleagues for a ride.
Trains and Buses
In most cities, you may purchase Daily
Tickets from the conductor or the driver on the train and buses each day. For more information on routes, schedules and
fares, see the publications and maps published by the city's local authority. You can locate them in your telephone book.
In some areas you must telephone for a taxi and make an
appointment. You will not find them waiting in the street corners but you do find them waiting in a queue at the airport.
Taxis are listed in the yellow pages under the name "Taxi" or "Taxicabs".
When you call, tell the "dispatch"
operator where you are and where you want to go. The dispatch operator will tell you how long it will take for the taxi
to arrive at your starting point. He or she will ask for the telephone number, so they can call you if the taxi driver
cannot locate you. You should ask for the estimated cost of the ride.
When you enter the taxi, the meter
will read flat rate. This is the minimum charge. You will be charged the flat rate for each mile you travel.
Mind your language
For successful conversation, in the US, it is advisable that you
speak slowly and pronounce properly. Well, the first part you really need to practice otherwise what you will hear from
the person opposite is "pardon me", "come again", "I am sorry", "I didn't get you". e.g. The changes in pronunciation
are like 'schedule' pronounced as 'skedule', 'route' pronounced 'raut' etc. Also some words are totally substituted
like 'petrol' by 'gas'. Here is a table from Gary Nobel of HP SanDiego, which he created when he traveled in India. Thanks
to him. The dictionary is very remarkable.
The following is a simple dictionary for translating between
American English and Indian English. This dictionary should be useful for the new-comer to either the US or India. The
words are in no particular order. Suggestions for additions are gladly taken at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gary Nobel 8/20/92
Indian English American English Indian English American English
Food related Education Related
Cilantro Public school Private school (tuition charged)
Cold drink Soda pop Private school Public school (free)
Curd Yogurt School High school
Cafe ("kayf") Cafe ("kafay'") College School
Nes coffee Instant coffee University
Filter coffee Brewed coffee High school School/Junior High
Milk powder Cream Take a class Teach a class
French beans Snow peas Be a student Take a class
Hotel Restaurant 2nd standard 2nd grade
High marks Good grades
Garam masalla Curry Invigilator Proctor
Lady fingers Okra Canteen Cafeteria
Small pastries Lady fingers
Toffee Hard candy Clothes
Brinjal Eggplant Windcheater Windbreaker
Cookies/Wafers Vest Undershirt
Bun Biscuit Waistcoat Vest
(Potato) wafers (Potato) chips Half pant Shorts
Finger chips French fries Purse Wallet
Groundnuts Peanuts Swim trunks Swim suit
Swim costume Swim
Traffic signal Traffic light Other
Boot, dikky Trunk of a car Football
Bonnet Hood of a car American football(rugby?) Football
Petrol pump Gas station Solid Substantial
Petrol Gas Ltd. Inc
Diesel Fuel Transistor Radio
Pavement Sidewalk Two-in-One Boom box
Zebra Crossing Crosswalk Cooling glass Sunglasses
Take a lift Get a ride Toilet Restroom
Motorcycle Motorbike Guest house Motel
Cycle Bike Current Electricity
$20 Note $20 Bill
To post (a letter) To mail (a letter) Torch Flashlight
To submit To turn in Rubber Eraser
To be out of station To be out of town Snap Picture
A place to park Driveway Photograph Picture
A place to
drive Parkway Mixee (?sp) Mixer
Straight-away Right away Dustbin Trash can
Bunk school Skip class IBM-Compatible IBM-Clone
Passed out Graduated Inflammable Flammable
Fainted Passed out Mess Dorm cafeteria
Ring up (someone) Call up (someone) Hotel Restaurant
is engaged It's busy / I got a busy tone Restaurant bill Restaurant check
Push the accelerator Step on the gas
Give the car some race Speed up the car Talkies Movies
Get down (from a bus) Get off (of a bus)
Let's push off Let's go To fix To install
Let's make a move Let's go To repair To fix
Convince someone Talk someone into Pram Stroller
Black money Tax free, undeclared income
Standing from a constituency
Running for an election
Issue a book (from the library) Checkout a book (from the library)
How are you? How
are you doing?
How is everything? How is it going?
(Very Close Relations) (Intimate
Too good Cool
Anti Universe phenomenon
you come to the US you will notice the opposite everywhere. You will get the feeling "These guys are crazy" .....almost
everything you try to do will fail even if it is a small thing like switching ON the lamp !!!!"
just to make you get a hang of it. The cars are driven on the right hand side instead of left hand side of the road. So
you should look left first while crossing roads :-). You may have to insert the key upside down and rotate it in the
opposite direction to unlock. You will also notice that switches work in opposite direction i.e. UP is ON and DOWN is OFF
The date is written with the month first, then day, followed by the year.
As one of our American colleague
pointed out jokingly, "its logical, if you see that India is exactly opposite in location on the globe, to US!!!"
FOOD, I'm hungry
Ofcourse you must be hungry, when you arrive. God knows
what you ate on the plane. You don't remember the item's name nor its contents. It may be one of the weirdest things
you ever had for dinner or lunch. So you must be apprehensive about what you will get for lunch or dinner. The best thing
you can try is PIZZA, which is pronounced as "PiTza".
You get both Veg. and NonVeg Pizzas. But to be on
the safer side order a Veg. Pizza that way you won't be left hungry atleast. Order a small pizza if you are alone or
a medium size is enough for two or three (well it depends on your appetite actually). You can order pizza by phone and
it will be delivered at your doorstep in a few minutes. Refer to the yellow pages or consult the motel receptionist
you are staying in, for information.
For breakfast, have 'Continental breakfast' which is cheap and the best.
To be sure about Veg. items, always ask for items with "NO MEAT" rather than "WITHOUT MEAT". Besure to say "NO ICE"
if you prefer to have your drink without ice. And remember that a CHEESEBURGER is a misnomer. It contains meat besides
cheese, so be careful!
Here is a guide for Vegetarian Dishes:
Enchiladas, Bean Taco, Cheese Taco, Bean Tostadas, Mexican Pizza
Italian or Greek
sandwich, Sphagetti with tomato sauce, Lasagna (pronounced Laza-nya), Italian Pitza, Italian Pasta with tomato sauce, Falafal,
Veg. Gyro (pronounced Yero).
Vegetable omlete (with eggs)Vegetable lunch/dinner (salad,
potato smash, garlic sauce) Broccoli soup
American Restaurants (Sizzler, Olive Garden)
is salad bar & French fries
Mac cheese sandwich, Milk shakes, ice-cream sundaes
Veggie Lover's delight, Veggie pizza with a choice of toppings such as Jalapenos (pronounced
Hala-pin-yose and are green chilies), pineapple, tomato, onions etc.
Vege cheese whopper,
Office and the
start your first day, get a hang of how the work environment is at the client's place from any company person there or
read on for some typical environments you may find.
Project Leaders are very understanding and friendly.
And do not unduly pressurize you to perform. They will definitely give you some time to come up to speed on their work
There is a lot of individualistic approach. Every person's inputs are given a lot of importance.
Independent views are respected. Before discarding any of your ideas, they will give you a good enough reason for doing
For the smallest of decisions they will sometimes hold a meeting and get the entire team's inputs/comments/suggestions
before proceeding. One feels important when this is done. But sometimes it can get boring.
checks what you are saying, they take you for your word.
There are no suspicious feelings and managers don't
Managers will openly discuss about their meetings with "their" bosses, with the team.
There is no hide and seek as far as information/feedback is concerned.
People admit if they don't know
or have information about certain things. They don't pretend to be all knowing.
People are dedicated to
their area of work and develop expertise in it. But they do not talk about work related topics which are not in their area
of expertise, they immediately refer you to the right person.
People enjoy their work and leisure. They
plan their weekends well in advance. Very few people stay back late in the office or come and work during weekends.
Such things are not related to performance. As long as you do your work well and within time, nobody cares what else you
do and when.
Most companies allow you to compensate by working during the weekend if you take an 'off'
from work on a regular weekday.
The work hours in most companies are flexible. Come anytime and go anytime
but you do need to put in a minimum of 8 hrs/day or 40 hrs/week as contractors.
Regular time sheets "may"
have to be filled, in some companies.
and their Behavior
to know how Americans typically will be. Otherwise you will start feeling "These people are great dramatists... ". Here
are some tips:-
Americans are very friendly and helpful.
They don't make you feel like a foreigner.
(Though you feel !!!)
It is very easy to adjust with them. But they don't like people getting very inquisitive
or trying to get too personal in the initial phase of the aquaintance.
They dress casually and nobody bothers
which dress you wear etc.
They are fun loving creatures and enjoy their free time. Most of them like to
keep themselves physically fit by regular outings, hiking, exercise, biking, jogging etc. They love the outdoors and natural
surroundings. They look forward to weekends and plan their weekend activities in advance. This usually consists of some
They are frank about their opinions.
They respect individual views and allow
everyone to voice their own ideas on a subject.
They have a lot of patience. Especially when standing in
queues or while driving, nobody will try to jump before you in the queue. Most of them are very disciplined drivers.
However this differs from State to State.
If they happen to come in your way or you happen to come in their
way, you will promptly hear an "Excuse me" or "Excuse us".
They need a lot of feedback while talking. You
have to acknowledge/nod continuously. Otherwise they feel you are not interested in listening or are confused.
They gesture a lot and shoot some funny (at least so it seems initially) phrases at you. It is a matter of "getting
used to it".
They are "very" proud of their country. To them, the Universe is the United States. So never
ever make fun of or speak lightly about them or tell them that they do not have any social/cultural background. You will
make more American friends that way.
Most Americans think of India as a poor country of beggars, snake
charmers and swamis etc. This is due to the insufficient and improper media coverage given to India. Their TV only shows
the poor Indian
villages and cows on the streets.
Hope you will be able to prove that India
is a country of INTELLIGENT people like you and not just ELEPHANTS and SNAKE CHARMERS.
Initial package from Company:
NOTE: The first official thing you should do without being asked
to, is to apply for your Social Security Number - details are given in this doc.
After arriving in USA
one gets a package from company. This package consists of different types of forms. The most important one being the Medical
Insurance form. Don't be careless about this, make sure to fill and return it soon.
After receiving this
package one should sign all the forms and give/send it back to company as soon as possible. This package consist of following
Personal details :
In this form you need to fill up all your personal information
which is required for official purposes.
Passport details :
In this form you are expected to furnish
all your passport details.
One is supposed to fill up this form at the end of every
month. We get our salary in two parts. One is Salary or Allowance and the other part is the reimbursement of the expenses
incurred. Your coordinator will inform you about what amount you can claim etc.
Company Rules :
These memos inform you about certain company rules.
Medical insurance registration form : (MOST IMPORTANT
FORM) This form you are supposed to send to the medical insurance company. It needs routine personal information. In
two weeks of time you will receive your medical insurance card, which will cover most of your medical expenses in the US.
But be sure you understand what is covered under this scheme and what is not.
You are supposed to send
all these forms and memos ASAP. Couple of these forms require your Social Security number. If you have not yet received
your social security number then leave that place tentatively blank in your forms and you can inform your company about
it later, when you get one.
in Unites States, is required to be registered with US government by law. The way we have registration in India through
Ration Card it is Social Security here.
This number is very useful for the government as well as the for
the individual. Government can keep track of the individual from this particular number. You will need the SS number
for any official paper work or dealings e.g. while filling Tax forms or while opening a bank account or while getting
a membership in the public library. A person's entire credit history can be traced from this number.
soon as one arrives in US he/she is required to get Social Security number immediately. It is a very simple procedure.
Every town or a city has a Social Security office. You have to go there with your Passport. First thing
you need to do is collect the application form for new social security number. These forms are available in various languages.
Find one in English and fill it completely. It will ask you for your local postal address details besides other information.
The officer will check your application form and passport. After checking everything you will be informed when you will
be receiving your Social Security number, which will be by postal mail.
Generally within three to four
weeks time you will receive your social security number which appears printed on a small card, which you should carry/preserve
Getting Driver's License
Driver's license is one of the most
important document required in United States. Apart from driving needs it is required at almost all the places where you
need to show your ID. Mainly because this is the only valid Identity card which is required and approved at all the places.
Here in US most of the money transactions are done via checks or Credit-cards. Initially when you don't
have credit card, check is the only practical and recommended way of payment. Nobody keeps cash. People generally issue
checks even for a small amount of less than $5.00. Checks are as good as Cash and can be deposited at any ATM (Automatic
Teller Machine) center. These checks are accepted only with a valid PHOTO-ID at most places. Actually a Photo-id could
also be a simple identity card issued by the DMV (Dept. of motor vehicles), which is not a driver's license. At most places
Driver's license is the only valid PHOTO-ID. So after getting Social Security number, Driver's license is another very
important thing one should acquire as soon as possible.
Getting driver's license is not very difficult
here. Before appearing for a driving test behind the wheels one has to clear a written test conducted by DMV ( Department
of Motor Vehicles - similar to RTO in India ). Each state has their own laws for driving a vehicle. DMV issues a book on
the rules which are required to be followed very strictly. This book gives detailed information about all the laws and
is written in a very nice manner. It is very easy to follow all the rules as they are nicely explained and if necessary,
supported by good photographs.
After understanding the contents of this book you can appear for the written
exam. You can appear for the test on any working day. You can call up DMV and take an appointment with them or you can
even go directly.
They will check your Passport and will give you a question paper. Questions are objective
type and you have to choose the best answer for each question. Time is no limit for the exam. After you are done with it,
the person on the counter will immediately check your paper and will tell you your score. Upon passing this test
you will get temporary driving license which is valid for two months. DMV also issues an ID card. This is issued by
the state government. You can use this Id card as a Photo-Id till you get your driver's license. At some places you are
required to produce two Photo-Ids, that time it is very useful to have this photo-id.
During the period
of temporary license one can appear for the driving test. You can practice on a rented car or if you are not very confident
then you can even go for some driving lessons. For driving lessons you can go to driving school or to a private teacher.
Private teachers are little cheaper as compared to driving school. Once you are ready for the test, again you will have
to take an appointment with DMV for the driving test.
On the day of appointment you have to go there with
your learning license. The car in which you will give your driving test should have proper Insurance papers. Also check
all the controls, including signal lights and brake lights. If any of these is not in shape, you will not be allowed to
appear for the test. This test will be of 100 marks. After your test, driving inspector will immediately tell you your
result. Generally they explain to you your mistakes so that you can work on them and rectify. If you have passed you
will get your license immediately in most places. If you fail there is no minimum period required between the time you
appear again. So you can practice again and appear as soon as you can.
They are basically
of two types
Savings a/c (with interest)
Checking a/c (with NO interest)
Generally most people
open a Checking a/c at first.
To open an account you need a social security number, however since it takes
a week or more to get the social security number one can request the bank to verify the passport and open the a/c. Later
do remember to inform the bank once you receive your SS number.
Then there are concepts like
balance - which is either NO or YES
(It is better to open an a/c with NO MINIMUM BALANCE otherwise you have to
maintain the specified minimum amount always in the account).
overdraft facility - Again NO or YES
(This allows you some amount of overdraft. This might be beneficial in some cases, such as when the monthly salary is not
received on time and the house rent, phone bills etc. have to be paid.)
There are various kinds of check/cheque
books available that one can choose from, such as the kind of colored paper and printed background design on paper etc.
Usually a set of 200 checks bound together in books of 20 each is sufficient for 6 months. But it depends on how many checks
are issued by you and at what frequency. The first check book is given by the bank immediately on opening an account,
the other 200 checks are mailed to you at the given address.
The next thing is to ask for an ATM card.
This allows you to withdraw money 24 hrs. from any ATM machine of the bank or related ones.
charge money to issue an ATM card and the first set of check/cheque books. Something like $10.00 for the ATM card and another
$10.00 for the first 200 checks (10 books of 20 pages each). But most banks do not charge anything.
The whole procedure of opening an account takes about 10-15 minutes.
A few shops/gas stations etc. ask for
a valid photo-id when payment is made by check. This is just for verification. (A photo-id could be a US driver's license
or an actual ID-card which is issued by the local Dept. of Motor Vehicles office.
Small payments such as
$1.25 etc. too can be made by check and it is not absurd to do so. People carry very little or no cash on person. Most
of them make their payment by Credit card or check. But it is advisable to carry about $20.00 in cash at all times to
cover emergency needs. Of course you will have to always carry your check book around.
The following style
is used to write the amount in words on the check.
Say for e.g. the amount to be paid is $35.47 then you would write:
Amount in words $ : THIRTY FIVE & 47/100