I came to America because I got married and got admission to a masters’ program, and my husband was doing his residency in Detroit. It was my first international flight, and I remember standing in the immigration line and my suitcase broke, and all the contents spilled open. I was very embarrassed, and I asked someone for help, but she said with a smirk “welcome to America, you won’t find any help here.” I was very taken aback. I was upset to find that the pickle I had brought was trashed, and when I tried to explain to them that it was pickle, I realized that “pickle” in America meant something else, not the fruit condiment I was used to eating.
I then remember getting in the car, and thinking that it was such a big car, even though it was just a Honda Civic. I didn’t know how to roll down the windows, because they were automatic, and I didn’t know how automatic transmission worked. I remember noticing how wide the roads were and how orderly the traffic moved compared to India. I saw a run-down building on the way back from the airport, and realized that there was poverty in America too. We drove past an Indian grocery store, and we went inside to buy groceries and I was excited to see Indian groceries that I recognized in America. Then we went to Meijer, and my mind was blown by how many options there were, especially the cereal aisle.
When I got to the apartment, I was struck by the silence everywhere-- no people shouting or cars honking like back home. My husband had made some potato curry and rice, and I ate that for dinner. He had to work that night, so he showed me how to load the dishwasher, but I accidentally put the hand soap into the dishwasher, so I had to call maintenance when the soap started overflowing. My overall impression of the US was that everything was so big and it was so much quieter than compared to India.