After a lovely 2 month trip to the US its not just the jet lag that takes time to wear off – but also the US effect. Since my first visit to US in 1998 the discussion with friends and relatives always comes down to the Pros & Cons of US Vs India. It is true that there is a mad rush for the US Green card and an increasing number of students are heading to US Colleges spending a fortune. So why the debate – isn’t it a clear winner ? Lets look at some perspectives and views that came up while meeting friends and relatives.
Confident – Independent – Busy : That summarises the people I met and observed in the US. From school the education system grooms you to be independent. A building friend had moved to US 6 years back when her twins were in class 4. When they met the principal at school he assured them that the goal in Class 4 was to make the kids independent. And I could see the transformation in posture, communication, clarity of thought. Not just that – the kids cook their own meals, pack their own food to school, and are clear on where they want to go for college.
Skilled and Productive : The era of a generalist is gone. Everyone is trained to be a specialist and is good at what they do. This is what makes the person confident. People pursue a career they enjoy and stick to what they do. Almost everyone I met had been working at the same place for 20 + years.
The sword is always hanging : That is how my school friend described life in the US. You can never be in a zone of complacency. Life is always like running on the treadmill. This ensures you dont get rusty and musty. Layoffs are common and come unexpectedly. Its part of life. Many of my friends who had spend 15 years in the US followed by 15 years in India were happy to get back to the US in their 50’s. The quality of professional life is much better.
Dual Engine family : Life in the US -There can be no passengers. The whole family pulls the train. This is the land of DIY. The systems and processes are good but there is no help. From fixing the furniture to cooking, washing, cleaning, driving, plumbing, shovelling the snow from your driveway – Unlike India there are no servants at your command. It may sound scary to the average Indian – but its not hard work. US is not dusty and crowded like India so the house barely gets dirty. Life doesn’t rotate around food and most people cook once or twice a week – frozen food is the norm not the exception. The system works – everything is organised, that takes away the stress from day to day life.
Everything is available : The Indian stores in US are now mainstream. You can get everything you want – from vegetables, grocery, instant dosa dough…. you dont miss anything even in the remote corners of small town USA. If you dont have the time to visit an Indian store – Amazon delivers in 24 hrs a Prestige cooker or Masala Chai. Many US retail stores have started stocking Indian/Asian food.
Clean, organised, predictable : The best part of the US is the finishing touch – no cutting corners. The leftover food is packed in such nice containers you dont feel like throwing it away. The retail experience is wonderful, driving and parking cars is a pleasure. Driving 45 Miles in 45 minutes is almost always achievable. UBER is clean and wow. There is choice – from milk to orange juice to potatoes – you have a diverse variety for every palette.
The system works : Commitments are met and cheating is rare. You get a refund with no questions asked. We moved into a new apartment that was 25+ years old – it looked spanking new, everything worked perfectly. No calls to electrician or plumber. The Broadband gear was ordered online and arrived in 24 hrs and it was a 15 min job to get it connected and working. (In Bangalore its a 1/2 day job to get Broadband set up in our apartment with a Airtel rep and the building electrician struggling to figure out the cabling)
But its lonely …
Life is busy and you rarely get to meet people. In a beautiful apartment complex of 150+ houses you rarely get to see people. The kid below our house comes out at 4 PM every day with his ball – but he is alone. My morning walk for nearly 2 months I hardly saw people on the streets. The good thing is its also quiet and serene. The whole place is like an Ashram.
And its expensive …
The only thing I missed in my morning walk was a cup of chai and the Vada from the local Darshini. That is something you will not get. Coffee is 6 dollars and if you add a muffin + tips you are knocking at 15 dollars. The simplest of meals / person – Burger / Pizza / Chipotle Bowl … will be in the 15 dollar range. Fine dining in a mid range restaurant with starters and drinks can be 75 – 100 Dollars for two.
But not everything is expensive – a high end car in the US is cheaper than its equivalent in India and so is petrol. The system rewards you to plan – an Amtrak ticket to New York ( 110 miles) can vary between 21 USD – 150 USD depending on when you book it.
Most importantly the Zing is missing
You have everything but the energy is missing – at least in the 50 year olds. There is a sense of ” been there done that” – but the journey is not over as one needs to keep working till 65 to cover medical insurance. The blog below summarises the different stages of life in the US – and 50 + is not the happiest of phases. But then having lived all your adult life and with kids settled there you are not ready to come back.
“Is Settling In USA Worth It For Indians?”
Parents & Old age homes
In your old age you are on your own. Nobody has the time / resources to look after their parents like we do in India. Many Indians get their parents a green card and for many years they shuttle back and forth before finally settling down at “nana nani”in Coimbatore. The annual pilgrimage to India continues to meet your parents – at least for the first generation.
Where does India score ….
Is India shining a reality – a relative felt that India was making too much noise and not much had changed for the better in the last 25 years. Yes the roads are a mess and we still dont know to make footpaths and manage our garbage. Water / electricity / safety are all concerns but there are a few +ves
Digital economy – we are way ahead globally. Banking transactions on the App, Covid certificates online … very few countries can match India when it comes to the progress we have made on the Digital arena.
Healthcare – Costs are affordable and the facilities are good in the urban centres with the bigger hospitals. US medical costs can make you bankrupt – if your company doesn’t cover your insurance you may end up paying 500 – 750 dollars / month for insurance cover.
Affordable – At the higher end (Luxury cars / Villas) costs in India are comparable or more expensive than the US – but day to day expenses are a lot cheaper. Food, hotels , flight, clothes all cost a fraction of what they cost in USA.
So is there a winner ….
Well if you open the gates to the US a very large segment of India will rush in, I am not sure if the same can be said the other way round. Independent people, competent with skills, ready to learn and adapt …. these people will love the US way of life. Younger generation, professionals will definitely choose US over India. For the rest its a matter of choice …. or destiny
05 comments on “Is it the best of both worlds ? Indians settled in the US”
Thank you for sharing your assessment VAK. Very useful information and point of view! I could relate to most of the things mentioned here.
Crisp insights … good 👍
Hey Vak, nice first person account. However, would you move back?
I do see several people moving back voluntarily (even those who have become us citizens).
I do wish and pray that all, who wish to live the US way of life, but feel that they are stuck in India with the Indian way of life, find quick route and exit to the US. That way India will be left with happy Indians and others will also find their happiness elsewhere. I thank my destiny that I am born an Indian and my choice to die an Indian in the land of Buddha and Gita.
Nice blog! It covers many perspectives and that allows to see themselves in it. Given a choice and will to execute that choice, I will take a village (more precisely, an Agraharam life) in India. But not in a big city. Even Bangalore and Pune lost that serene life for a long time now.