Driving around Minneapolis upon return to the U.S. was one of the greatest cultures shocks after leaving Bangalore, India. I was used to a thirty fold increase in population in Bangalore, so the Minneapolis city drive initially seemed empty. There are many more interactions between humans during transportation in Bangalore. People (mostly men) are seen walking, talking, and standing on the streets and street markets. Auto rickshaws can be hailed within a few minutes. Traffic signals and lanes are novelties, so people acknowledge and warn people of their presence by obnoxious honking. After a while, the noise falls into the background, so the Minnesota Nice driving style was initially a bit eerie.
After two months of being back in the U.S., I only noticed a few "culture shock" moments. The change of population density and general interactions with strangers was the biggest change. In India, I grew fond of seeing the cricket practices and children's basketball games while walking to and from work. I liked to stop by the elaneeru (coconut drink) stand and talk with the owner about his family, when I planned to get married (remarkably common question), and about the Kannada (local language) words that I knew. There was a low percentage of white/American people in India, so it was odd to no longer expect strangers to stare at me or ask for a selfie after returning to Minnesota.
Food registered as the second main area of shock. Southern India's diet is focused on rice, chipati (flat bread), spices, and vegetables (tomato, carrot, onion, drumstick, capsicum), and fruit (seasonal). Food is made fresh for each meal, and it's uncommon to eat outside of the home. Ovens don't typically exist in the home, and most meals are prepared on the stove. Desserts reach a new level of sweet. Alternatively, the Minnesotan diet mostly consists of breads, noodles, vegetables, fruit (most fruits are available, fruits that are not in season are more expensive), meat, cheese, and salt/pepper. Food is sweeter, saltier, and 'faster' in Minnesota. Desserts are often baked. In general, I think the foods in Minnesota are 'heavier' because of the meats and cheese. Both Minneapolis and Bangalore have international food, but try to appeal to the local palettes.
Other areas that I'm still processing through include the heavy importance of 'insurance' in the U.S. culture. Yesterday, I could have paid a little bit extra to have my headphones under a three year warranty. In comparison, I brought a shirt back to a shop in India (no tag, several months past the purchase date), and they exchanged it for in store credit with minimal hesitation. At least 85% of the U.S. has health insurance (growing with the Affordable Care Act), while only 2% of Indian's have health insurance. I am also processing through what India and the U.S. think about faith, tolerance, women, community, work, health, and migrating populations. If any of these strike a chord with you, feel free to message me and I'd love to chat.
Generally, the transition from India to the U.S. was not too difficult for me. Before starting work, I was able to relax, meet with friends, create art, and reflect on my time in India. I largely attribute the smooth transition to the support and communication that I've had with friends and family in both India and the U.S. By discussing current issues and day to day life with people, my mental, emotional, and social health has been stable through the transition. So I want to say a big thank you to everyone who have been a friend throughout this year and during the return process. You've made life incredibly full, thanks for existing :)
Thanks for reading.