It was December 2001. My mom and I had landed in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. As soon as I got out of the terminal, I remember the smell of coffee and pizza, much different from the smell of street-side samosas, panipuris, and biryani in Hyderabad. The crowd seemed very orderly, and there weren’t any pushing and shoving. We went out, and we were welcomed by a sudden gust of extremely cold air, as well as a snowstorm, both of which I had never seen/experienced before. Another difference which I saw was that there were no rickshaws. As soon as my dad, who moved to the US earlier that year due to a job transfer, picked us up from the airport, he took us on the highway. Even here, the drivers were much calmer and more organized than drivers in India. Even though I was 4 years old, the differences were stark that I concluded that America was much neater and organized than India. Wherever I had gone in India, there was always a rough crowd, and often there were threats to life. Here, it was orderly and friendly. What was unusual was that even though America had just suffered from a terrible tragedy, everyone was welcoming and there were no insults toward us. By the time we reached our apartment in Farmington Hills, the differences were so overwhelming that I vomited in the car. Twice. A few days after we arrived in Farmington Hills, I had my first American shopping experience. In India, I was used to the hustle, bustle, and shouting that went on in Hindi, Telugu, and Urdu. Here, it was quite calm. People just looked for what they wanted, took up little, if any, conversation, paid for their goods, and left. All in all, my first days in America were somewhat crazy and confusing, as I had to get used to many of the irregularities, from the cold weather to the shopping experience.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.