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Differences Between Life in the USA and India

From Bollywood to Hollywood: Contrasting Cultures of USA and India!

People often refer to India as the land of spirituality and America as the land of opportunity. But how true is it?

Do we believe that there are limited opportunities in India and fewer religious people in America? Probably not. But is one country stereotyped for one of the many features that form that country, a definite yes. It falls upon us (we too don’t know how it fell upon us, but it is on us. Shut up.), it falls upon us to inform you about the difference in life in America and India.

From culture to economies to society to healthcare, there are differences that every immigrant must be aware of when they decide to move to America.

Cultural Diversity

India has for a very long time been called the land of diversity; it is known as a country where unity exists in diversity.

This points toward the fact that there is no homogenous religion, culture or even language in India. The festivals celebrated also are heterogeneous.  

But when we look at American cultural diversity, we find that there are individuals belonging to various nationalities coexisting together.

These individuals form diversities in race, religion, and culture and together form the American culture. Unlike India, America has a dominant language which is English, and Christianity is the dominant religion.  

Religious Values

When we shift focus to religion, we realize that India is more religious and spiritual than Western America.

This results in religion and spirituality being entangled with culture and society which in turn affects the daily actions. There are various religions which coexist with each other harmoniously.

In America, the religious landscape is similar to India in the sense that there are diverse religions and pluralism while Christianity is the dominant religion. Both countries are secular and you can practice your religion without any fear in both of them.

Social Structures

India and America differ in their social structures. India is predominantly based on caste, class, and religion.

There is a hierarchy in these systems which has been addressed in the Indian constitution and hence is being refined. But there is a role for all these social systems that still exist in education, employment, and marriage.

In America, society is more about meritocracy. There is no caste or religion-based social system. The rights are provided equally to all citizens. However racial discrimination or racism is a problem that still tends to exist.

As an Indian immigrant, you might want to look at this factor after you move in. Remember your rights and do not hesitate to exercise them in case you face any racism.

Family Dynamics

Both nations are very different when it comes to family dynamics.

This is because of the social norms and the systems that influence everyday life. In India, the joint family system has been in ritual since the very beginning.

Although this trend has been changing with modernization. But small towns and villages still follow the joint family system.  Because of the proximity the familial bond and interdependence continue to exist in India. The joint family system might have become unpopular with time but the practice of respecting elders and collective decision making still stays intact.

In America, the family system for the time was known as being nuclear only. The fact that America stresses individualism, brings the situation where the kid who turns 18 tends to move out of their childhood homes. There is more focus on independence, autonomy, and personal fulfillment along with the importance of familial ties.

Because of the stress on independence, there are a lot of single-parent households. And since same-sex marriage is legal in many of the American states, there are same-sex families. Even though family dynamics are different in India and America, emotional support, companionship, and identity remain in both countries.

Education System

Education is of utmost importance in both the countries.

However, the education system and style of teaching differ significantly. Because of these differences, there arises a sharp difference in how individuals’ lives and socio-economic landscape are shaped.

In India, there is a strong focus on academic excellence and career success. The competitive nature of the education system while motivating students to perform their best also sometimes pressurizes them into an unhealthy obsession with marks. 

There are some examinations like UPSC, JEE, and NEET which are one of the world’s toughest to crack. The schools however also provide you with the chance to develop other skills like public speaking, debate, sports, etc.

When we turn to America, the country has private as well as public schools where an informal approach to education is more prevalent. While if you are academically bright you are prized, but you also get the opportunity to develop beyond that.

The higher education institutions are renowned for research and liberal arts. Just like in Indian schools, there is a focus on extracurricular activities to help students learn and excel in a changing world. Further, American schools do not follow much of a strict pattern in discipline such as phones are allowed and there is no uniform in a lot of public schools, which is in great contrast to Indian schools.

Work Culture

There is a difference in the work culture of India and America as both countries consider different aspects of work life when making policies for promotion and job security.

These differences influence employment opportunities, workplace dynamics, and standards of living. There is a focus on seniority, hierarchy, deference to authority, and collective orientation where group harmony and consensus blossom.

There is s clear line of authority and the decision-making power is at the top. However, employees at lower levels are also encouraged to share their fresh perspectives. There is an emphasis on longevity and job security on the side of the employees.

In the American professional sphere, an egalitarian environment prevails where seniors are not accorded special respect. It’s common to address seniors by their first names. Emphasis is placed on challenging ideas and meeting specific goals. The priority lies in resolving conflicts and discovering areas of agreement.

In American culture, individuals have the freedom to pursue diverse career paths. Employees are encouraged to take calculated risks to advance their professional goals. Progression in jobs or professions is influenced by factors such as performance, adaptability, and evolving market conditions. The capitalist nature of the American economy means that job security is influenced by privatization.

Economy

India and America have two of the world’s largest economies. But that doesn’t point to the fact that both economies are different from each other.

The Indian economy is more of a mixed economy as compared to America which is completely capitalistic. There are factors like cost of living, wage levels, employment opportunities, and taxation system which differ.

The cost of living in India is usually the same in metro cities, with it being lower in smaller towns and even lower in villages. 

In America, the cost of living differs even in metropolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco because of higher living expenses inclusive of groceries, transportation, and utilities. As an Indian immigrant, you need to research and curate a budget for the expenses.

Indian professionals are high in demand in America in fields like healthcare, technology, finance, education, and manufacturing. You must leverage your skills, education, and professional networks to explore different job opportunities. Further, you can take into account market trends and get an idea about the field you expert in and its job market.

Wage per hour or day differ as per factors like occupation, experience, education, and geographic location in America and even in India. There are competitive salaries in many of the industries while others may have lower salaries. 

So as an Indian immigrant if you are a working professional you might want to understand the wage level in America and compare it to your Indian wages and judge which package is more appropriate for you (only if you compared his red flags, Anjali, only if…sigh…).

The taxation system varies in India and America as both countries follow different economic systems. In America as an Indian immigrant, you must understand that taxes are levied as federal, state, and local on income, property, sales, and other transactions. 

You must follow upon the tax laws, regulations, filing requirements, deductions, credits, and tax rates.

Healthcare System

The Indian healthcare system is dissimilar to that of America. In India healthcare is a mix of public and private providers.

The public health institutions like AIIMS are known for their world-class facilities. 

However, there exists a disparity in access to healthcare in rural and urban areas. When you move on to the American healthcare system, you will realize it is majorly privatized. 

There is a focus on insurance-based coverage but the healthcare providers are private players. Although access is better in urban and rural areas, there is a disparity in terms of income and race. 

When as an Indian immigrant you move to America you need to research and explore all the healthcare options that might be available to you. This could also include employer-provided insurance plans, private insurance policies, and government programs like Medicaid. The healthcare cost in America will be more than that in India.

Other Differences

Apart from the above very technical differences, certain things in America are very different from India. and as an Indian immigrant, you need to be ready to adjust and adapt to these changes.

1. Domestic Help

One of the major changes is the absence of domestic help. It is not that you can’t get domestic help but they are so expensive that you rather do your own chores. In India, domestic labor is quite normal so as you move to America, be ready to be dependent on yourself only.  

2. Electricity

All the Indians have once at least experienced a power outage. But in America, electricity is not a luxury but rather a necessity, hence power cuts are not a term they are familiar with. This is one of the comforts you will be experiencing in America as compared to India.

3. Weather

The weather in America is quite different from India. The cold weather in America is extreme and hence you will have to take the help of heaters. Be prepared to bear the cold weather, because even then the capitalistic world of America doesn’t stop.

4. Transportation

Unlike India, where metro cities have good public transport, Americans aren’t very versed with public transport. They rather have their cars. As an Indian immigrant, you too would need to buy your car. You could purchase a used or second-hand car on EMI initially.

Conclusion

Life in America and India is as unique and as different as rainbows and flowers. Both are colorful and beautiful but both are dissimilar to each other. You need to decide whether you are ready to shift from the land of flowers to the land of rainbows. 

We promise the new country awaits with many more opportunities but that doesn’t mean you would have to leave your religion or culture behind in your home. 

As an Indian immigrant in India, you must prepare for life changes be it a simple calling curd as yogurt or as big as not seeing decorations on the street on Diwali or Eid. Your life in America will be different but it will be fulfilling as well.

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About The Author

Picture of Drishti Choudhary

Drishti Choudhary

Drishti is a bibliophile whose writing describes her views about everyday nuances. She writes to explore a diverse realm of thought. With a keen focus on feminism and politics, she champions equality in society.
Picture of Drishti Choudhary

Drishti Choudhary

Drishti is a bibliophile whose writing describes her views about everyday nuances. She writes to explore a diverse realm of thought. With a keen focus on feminism and politics, she champions equality in society.

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