Alright, so let's start again, Bruno. So the question again, what do you remember from your first few days in the United States when you arrived?
Well, the first thing that hit me when I arrived in the US was how easily things were available. I did not have to struggle much to get what I needed. And when I say what I needed was, for example, I was able to rent an apartment, and it already had all the amenities, it had a cooker, it had a refrigerator, it had a microwave built in. And these things were a little more difficult to get in India, and they were a little less affordable. And that's what hit me first, I didn't have to go out searching for a cylinder of gas, it was all available in the house. So that’s what struck me as unique in the first place. It was so totally different from the environment that I came from. That, and it also eased my living in the US, made my life a bit better because I didn't have to worry about these things a lot. I could concentrate on what I was here for, and that was my job.
Did someone meet you when you first arrived?
No, I was not met by anyone when I first arrived, but I was given detailed instructions by my company on where I was going to live. They were going to put me up in a motel called Red Roof Inn, they gave me the directions to the motel. It was prepaid, so I didn't have to worry about that. So I had detailed instructions from the company that I worked for, and the name of the company is Intel. So they made my life much easier by providing all the information that I needed.
And then what made you emigrate to the United States?
The main reason for immigration to the United States was, I was a computer programmer, and there were lots of opportunities in the U.S., and I wanted to make the most of them, and also to provide for a better life for my family.
And then what was your first impression of the place? You arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, what was your first impression?
My first impression of the place was how beautiful the country was. I lived in Connecticut, so it's a beautiful state. And it was totally different from India, things were neat and tidy and well-looked after. So that kind of struck me as different from the environment I came from in India.
Were there some things that surprised you?
Yeah, the surprise was mainly good because, as I said before, I did not have to worry too much about the small things like you know, gas, electricity, refrigerator, a cooking range and all, that was all provided, so that's something different from what I would have faced in India.
I don't know if you can recall, what did you do on your very first day?
My very first day, I slept a lot because of the jetlag. I don't remember, I think I arrived on a weekend, so I decided to just kind of relax. And then I happened to, my wife had given me the contact number of a college friend of hers from Bombay [Mumbai]. My wife was not aware where she lived in the United States, so I just called her and took a chance, and coincidentally it happened that she lived just 15 miles from the motel that I was in. So half an hour after I made that call to her, her husband came to the motel and picked me up. So within that evening, I spent and had a lovely dinner with them, so that's what I remember most.
That's so cool. Okay, how did you feel during your first few days in the United States when you started working? What was going through your mind?
Fortunately for me, I worked in a very nice environment. My first job was with Cigna, the healthcare company, and I worked and I was posted in their Bloomfield, Connecticut campus, which is 600 acres of state-of-the-art. And it was built for a kind of computer environment. They had a fantastic cafeteria, they had exercise, they had gyms, they had showering facilities after you use the gym. They had, in the 600 acres of land that they had, they had walking trails, they had exercise machines, exercise equipment along the walking trail. So it was lovely.
Wow, that's so cool. Okay, what were some of the biggest cultural differences and similarities that you notice between the United States and India during the first few days?
The first thing that really hit me when I came to the US was we had a kind of team celebration, and they brought, and this, I will remember, throughout my life, they brought in muffins. The muffins were the size of cakes in India, and I was expected to eat that muffin all by myself, something that I would have shared with six other people back in India. So that's what hit me the most, the portions were so large compared to what I was used to in India. So everything was oversized, I found that out in the US, so that's what hit me, the cultural difference.
Anything, any similarities that you could see in those first few days between the US and India?
The similarities were, back in India, people are always going out of the way to help each other. And I found that in Farmington, the town that I lived in Connecticut, people were basically the same. My neighbors reached out to me to ask me if I need any help. Yeah, so it was very welcoming. I did not feel any difference, and my ability to speak English also must have helped because I was able to communicate what I needed. And having been an avid reader of American novels and American literature, I was able to assimilate faster into the community in Connecticut, and I had absolutely no problems. The locals, my neighbors, Myola and Hubert, they went out of the way to make my life easy, so I had no problems.
So then that brings into the next question, did you face any challenges or barriers in your first days?
I don't remember anything. I don't remember any challenge because everything was, easy for me to get, my first challenge was getting a driver's license because I had driven in the Middle East where I had lived for a long time, and fortunately, in the Middle East we drove on the right side of the road just like the Americans do, unlike what we do in India, so I was used to driving on the right side of the road. And that made my life so much easier. Getting a driver's license was much easier than getting one in the Middle East. Myola drove me to the DMV, and I went for a test drive. And within about two hours of arriving in the DMV, I got my license. It helped that I was able to drive on the right side of the road, and basically all the traffic signs and everything are the same as they are in the Middle East, so that was good. That was the only tough thing that I had to face, getting my driver's license. But it was an easier challenge than what I had in the Middle East.
Since you said that you had read a lot about American culture and American books, were there any presumptions that you had made about the American culture that were sort of challenged during your first few days?
Not really because I lived very close to Bombay [Mumbai], and even before the thought of migrating to the US had occurred to me, I was a member of the USIS, the United States Information Service. They have a very large library in Bombay, membership is free unlike the British Council where I think they charge a fee. But in the USIS I was able to get a free membership, and I could borrow books and return them. So I read a lot of the American way of life while I was in India, so I was accustomed to, you know, their road system, all their highway names, and so I did not have much difficulty assimilating. But thanks to the USIS, I was to get a lot of books on the USA, read them, and it helped.
And then, here's my final question. So what advice would you give to other newly arrived immigrants in the United States?
The advice that I would give newly arrived immigrants in the States is join the mainstream. Okay, we come from India where we can have different cultural backgrounds, religion, cuisine, vegetarian, non-vegetarian. So keeping in mind the restriction that we have as, for example, if you're a vegetarian, you don't try to become a non-veg just because you are in the US because there are choices. So, apart from that, my first advice to immigrants is try to join the mainstream, don't try to be different. Learn the language if you are not well-versed with it, and see how you can mold yourself into a good citizen in the US, and try to assimilate as fast as possible. That's my advice to any immigrant that comes in. Because, generally I found that the Americans are a very welcoming people. They will go out of their way to help you. There are exceptions to the rule, but generally you will find people very friendly, helpful, so it helps. So try assimilating, that's my advice to any immigrant. And another thing, follow the rules. My advice is follow the rules because it will keep you away from trouble, and that's the only thing that, it will keep you away from trouble, and it's something that you should do as a good citizen. So follow the rules. That's my advice.
Right. Okay, thank you for sharing your thoughts, Bruno.
Thank you, Andrea, for having given me the opportunity.