One may agree or not. For many Indians, America is a dream destination.
Ever since India witnessed a boom in IT industry in late 1990s and India’s growth trajectory found a new leap, there was an unprecedented increase in the wealth of several families. We need to thank our youngsters’ for their hard work and mobility, English communication skills, and quick learning in fields like software development and maintenance. But for this recent development in the Indian scene, our country might continue to stay as a developing nation for another century. The living standards, lifestyles and comforts of most Indians have gone up several folds in the last decade. Fresh engineering graduates draw salaries that their parents did not see even after several decades of working. We fly inland and abroad almost regularly and in many international airports one can find an Indian out of every four or five passengers. Yet, when youth discuss career, tourism, and money their eyes glitter when they talk about America. Excepting for those carrying a prejudice, America is still a dream to us even when economically it is down. I have seen families talking with lot of pride about their children working in US. I have always wondered why.
At the time of writing this I had completed seven visits to USA since 2000.I have had the opportunity to stay there for as long as six months a few times and feel America. During my travel I have visited many of their major cities.
I have tried to understand the psychology from a few important aspects: firstly material comforts and quality of life comforts, secondly quality of work life, thirdly entertainment and leisure time and finally liberty and freedom in day to day life.
Quality of life comforts:
In America, with dollars in their pockets, people seem to enjoy far superior purchasing power for their money. For someone who enjoys a fifty-thousand-dollars-annual income, which is quite normally the case with our many IT guys, they can own a 2000 square feet spacious fully air-conditioned house that costs only five-six-years of one’s salary.
Many things are big and most of us fancy big houses, big buildings, big backyards, big stores, big cars, big TVs and fridges, big roads, and what not. Power cut is unheard of. No need to worry about limited supply of potable water. Everyone is crazy about the far superior and latest electronic gadgets, faster 24x7 cable and internet connections, GPS, wireless internet routers at home, office and many public places like cafeteria, airport, and library.
Then they have the comfort of driving in a disciplined traffic. One drives at 65 miles per hour (roughly 100 kilometers) on their free way. Lane discipline, speed limits, pedestrian crossovers, traffic rules are strictly enforced and no exceptions are made. One does not need to fear the police. They are extremely polite even when they are giving you a ticket for traffic violation. The roads have clears signs everywhere. Vehicles do not compete with pedestrians on the road. Their roads are wide and many inside roads are virtually empty. Courtesy to pedestrians is the norm on the roads.
One can find recreation parks everywhere.
The air is clean and greenery is preserved in most places. Cities are fairly spread out and suburban towns and satellite cities are allowed to grow to ease congestion. You would rarely see people smoking in public places. You see neatness everywhere. People have a great culture about cleanliness and discipline.
Any information you need is available for asking on your I-phone. When you necessarily have to visit an office, be it government or private, you are treated with utmost courtesy.
The term ‘corruption’ or ‘bribing’ is virtually absent in day to day life. Tax evasion and unaccounted money is all non-existent at the common man level. They bill you for every purchase you make, they deduct tax on every penny you earn, and refund taxes, if any, in no time. Banking habits are widely prevalent, cash transactions are minimal and most payments go through credit cards. You can order anything over internet with the assurance of safe and accurate delivery.
Trains, buses and air services are punctual and travel is safe. I have seen America before and after Sep 2001. It is a remarkable performance by any government that they did not allow any attack since Sep 2001. They have zero tolerance towards security lapses and have highest concern for their nation’s safety and security.
In America, one does not have to slog over late evenings at work. During weekends you are completely free for yourself. (Indian owned companies operating here seem to be exception.) Leisure time is something they value a lot and won’t compromise. Many enjoy flexible working hours and in many places, it is encouraged even. It helps many working mothers to take care of their children. Many enjoy facility to work from home from time to time. Recently, one of our acquaintances fractured her legs and her husband who was working in another big city was allowed to go back home and work from there so that he could give moral and physical support to his wife and kids.
Boss and subordinate relationship is informal and everyone calling each other by name. Out-of-box thinking is encouraged. There is no bondage and loyalty between the worker and the boss and the organization. Everyone understands their responsibilities. Efficiency and one’s value of contribution to the organization seem to be criteria on which a worker is judged and retained. Deadlines are set and meant to be enforced. No-nonsense approach to work and interpersonal dealings relieves a worker from a lot of mental stress.
Shopping in any stores is a great fun and past-time for many. I have seen people carrying cart load of articles from malls like Walmart, Frys, IKEA, and Kohls, and J C Penny and the likes.
Malls are allowed to be built only in specified areas. They are very spacious and have vast car-parking spaces. They follow strict standards about cleanliness, courteous service, openness about their products and services, elegance in display, efficiency in delivery, customer-care and product returns.
Most big stores have decent policy for return of goods when not satisfied with the product purchased. I would like to recall a few real pleasant experiences.
In the first instance, a relative of mine presented me with a costly wristwatch couple of years ago. Recently, it stopped working. We took it to a watch repair shop who confirmed that the repair would be very costly. We then took it to the store who sold us the watch, hesitantly explained that the watch stopped working and that we were not sure of the date we bought it from them. The lady over the counter tallied some numbers on the back of the watch with the computer, told us that it was bought four years back, and took back the watch refunding the full value.
In yet another remarkable instance, a friend of ours ordered window blinds and curtains at a fabulous price for their new house from one of the leading stores. It was made to specific measurements and order and supplied two weeks later. However, when the curtains were fixed, our friends realized that they were very transparent not allowing any privacy. They were shocked and took up the matter with the store. On inspection, the store representative realized that the curtains were not suitable for residential houses. He promised to come back in a week’s time. The next week, the store took the decision to take back the entire material even though they were made to specific order and they may find it hard to find another buyer for the same measurements. They supplied new curtains of our friend’s choice in their place and refunded the entire difference less a small return fee.
Buying goods in leading stores in US is really a very satisfying experience.
In America, everything seems to be planned big and executed neatly. They plan ahead of time, taking into account the possible developments several decades from now. Some of the world’s greatest landmarks were built in modern America long back. The first underground subway rail line in New York was opened in 1904. Golden Gate Bridge across the San Francisco Bay was completed in 1937. America has most of the busy and largest airports in the world. They have built broad roads and they have five-lane traffic on either side of their freeways. They have built large electricity generation and water supply systems. Nature has blessed them with plenty of land, water, minerals and other resources and they use them well to their advantage. They plan and build infrastructure like roads, water and electricity connections, telephone lines, recreation parks, and pavements before they allow construction anywhere. Rural areas offer as much comfort as any major cities with less discomfort. Development is all round. Cities are spread apart.
Religious, Social and Spiritual Life:
One enjoys total and complete freedom about one’s personal life. One is free to pursue his own religion, social group and spiritual life. World’s most religions have some or other worshipping place in many cities in America. For Indians, you have temples, mosques, churches, for different sects and followings, ashrams, yoga and meditation centers and cultural associations. One’s social life is smooth. People gather regularly according to their beliefs, customs and practices, and their religion. Worshipping places are very neat and clean and offers holy environment. I have seen many families sincerely practicing their tradition and culture much more sincerely and rigorously here than back in India. Laws and discipline are respected and enforced for all with no exception made – not even people in high influential positions.
Entertainment and pursuit of hobbies:
You find the best of reading libraries in America. For someone who is a voracious reader, American libraries offer tremendous challenges in terms of their book collections. Libraries are very spacious and well connected electronically. Children in America seem to enjoy their visit to libraries.
There are no limits to opportunities for entertainment. There are theme parks and amusement parks, theatres, casinos, gyms, in-door and out-door sports, stadiums, museums, science and technology centers for children and what not. On most weekends, people rush to holidaying and picnic places. Shopping again is a great fun and entertainment here. And one can structure his entertainment according to his own budget and affordability.
In conclusion, America seems to have been the most generous country in the history of nations in allowing many nationalities to migrate. This policy has helped both – US in building their nation and the immigrant in their prosperity. For a law-abiding citizen, it is a hassle free life. Indians are respected and are growing in their number, wealth, status and are in a position to influence even American policies and programs. Americans seem to like Indian spiritual life very much. It is not to say that there are no issues or problems about living in America. There are several aspects about America that I detest too. Overall, I gain an impression that most Indians living in America would continue to live there for indefinite periods, unless otherwise pushed.