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Monday, 27 February 2012 22:12

Life in USA

Now that you are in US, you will quickly notice the differences in the overall social and cultural fabric of the country as compared to your home country. That is true. America has its own way of doing things. A newcomer (fresh off the boat, as they are called) will benefit by knowing these things in advance. We shall look at several aspects of U.S. life that are far different from the life in India. Having discussed these issues, we will move on to consider different approaches that can be followed to adjust to these changes.

  • US - Currency
  • Public Telephones
  • Making an International Call
  • Drug store/Pharmacy and medicines
  • Public library
  • Photo ID /Personal ID
  • Bank checks
  • Credit history?
  • Mail Service(Postal services)
  • Restrooms/Washroom
  • Camera film processing
  • Thrift Stores/ Goodwill stores/ Salvation Army Stores
  • Measurement Differences and Units

US - Currency

  • The currency of USA is the American dollar, and is written as $ or USD$.
  • Dollar bills are issued in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
  • One dollar is divided into 100 cents.
  • You will find coins of 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents, known as penny, nickel, dime and quarter, respectively.
  • US dollar is widely accepted, and you can exchange your country's currency for US Dollars at major airports, banks and private exchange companies.
  • Public Telephones

    • Public telephones in the US are a little different from the ones we have in our home country.
    • You won't find any privately operated STD/ISD booths; rather you will find public telephones normally referred as payphones, set up at prominent public locations all over USA.
    • Making a call from a public phone is easy with clear instructions written instruments on making local, long distance, and international calls.
    • Generally, payphones do not receive incoming calls and this is marked on the phones.
    • The number of the payphone is printed on the top left corner.
    • A US phone number always consists of 10 digits (123)-456-7890. The first three digits are called area code, and the remaining seven digits are the telephone number.
    • When you dial a number with same area code as your own you do not have to dial the area code. For example if you are calling from 415-xxx-xxxx to 415-yyy-yyyy you do not need to put the area code 415.
    • Any number with 800, 888, and 877 as area code is called a toll free
    • number. You do not have to pay anything for such numbers. For the convenience of the customers most of the companies/organizations have toll free customer support numbers.

    Making an International Call

    To make an international call you have to dial 011 + country code + area code + number. For example, to call Mumbai, India you need to dial 011-91-22 + the telephone number.

    Making Long-Distance call

    To make a long distance call (other than your area code) you need to start with 1 + area code + number. For example, making a call from San Jose CA to San Francisco (area code 415) will be dialed as 1+ 415 + number.

    Collect Call

    Collect-call is the facility where the receiver of the call will be charged anywhere in the U.S. This can be a useful service if you are broke and want to make a call to someone who is ready to pay for the call. There are specific service providers that provide this service. For example, for AT&T use numbers like 1-800-COLLECT or 1-800-CALLATT and follow the instructions on the phone.

    Drug store/Pharmacy and medicines

    General medicine is available in most of the super stores. Some of these super stores also have their pharmacy counter and services. Prescribed medicine can be obtained from your preferred pharmacy only. This is how it works. Ask your doctor to give you a prescription that can be filled in at your preferred pharmacy. You can then go to the pharmacy and pick up the prescription. If you have your medical insurance you need to pay the co-payment only for these prescribed medicines.You will not be charged the actual cost of the medicines. Some of the drug stores are CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.

    Public library

    Almost all the city/towns have a public library. For book lovers these libraries are a blessing and may appear like a big treasure house of books, CD, video tapes, and other sources of knowledge.

    • There are hundreds of books on all the subjects of interest.
    • These libraries also have computers to facilitate internet services such as surfing the web free of charge for a limited period.
    • Other libraries provide free wi-fi facility for laptop users.
    • Some libraries provide you with a registration code to access online resources. You will also be allowed to create a login or user id for accessing the library’s resources.
    • Many libraries are interconnected. If you are looking for a book that is not available in the library itself, someone will assist in looking for the same books in other libraries as well. However, this facility is not available in all the libraries.
    • You are allowed to put a ‘hold’ on books already checked out. You will get a notification by phone or email when the books are ready to be collected from the library.
    • Each patron is allowed to take a limited number of books and CDs. The library may charge late fee or renewal fee.
    • The membership of these library can be obtained free of charge by showing proof of residency or a valid photo id.

    Photo ID /Personal ID

    Your driving license is considered as your photo ID. You may be asked for your ID when you
    • open a bank account,
    • apply for loan,
    • apply for any membership like private video libraries,
    • get a mobile phone subscription, and,
    • sometimes at stores when you use your credit card to make a payment.

    Bank checks

    • Your name is printed and/or address is printed on the left top of the checks.
    • You may any design your own checks or choose from the available palette of designs.
    • Some banks and credit unions give few blank checks when you open an account. These checks will have your name and address printed as well.

    Credit history

    Every person with a valid SSN (Social security number) has a credit history. A credit report is like a report card of your financial transactions. A credit bureau creates your credit report using information from banks, merchants, and other creditors. It gets created and maintained automatically. You do not have to register for it .You can obtain your credit report for some fee; few names of such credit bureau are Equifax and Experian.

    Mail Service (Postal services)

    Postal services are commonly known as mail services and post is called mail. The general mail service for domestic purpose in the USA is known as a "First-Class Mail”. Any item that can be sent by mail must be marked as First-Class Mail. Each piece must weigh 13 ounces or less. The first class mail charges are 34 cents per stamp. Each additional ounce would cost you $0.21 A letter to be posted to India up to 1 oz. (one oz.) will cost you 80cents per stamp. Postage stamps can be purchased from any Super store, stamp vending machines, post office, and ATM machines. You can also order stamps online. Checkout more details about US postal rates and services.


    In the USA, toilets are referred to as restrooms or more colloquially as the “loo”. Almost all public places provide these facilities. You can use the restrooms free of cost. There may be very minimal charges (5 cents to 25 cents) if it's a paid service at some places. You can always go to any nearest shop or gas station and use the restrooms. While traveling by road you can see boards advertising rest rooms on the highway at regular intervals. That way you will notice that all the highways and freeways are well marked to avoid inconvenience.

    Camera film processing

    Americans are very fond of taking photographs and hence film processing is a big industry. Film processing services are available in most of departmental stores like Walgreens, CVS, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Normally, you will find a drop box kind of counter, where you will need to provide required information about the film processing like size, number of copies required in addition to your name, address and pickup details. Usually this is given in an envelope or you may ask the store manager for the information and s/he will assist you. Alternatively you can upload the photos from your computer to the store’s website and fill in the pickup details. Later you can pick up the printed photos and pay at the counter itself.

    Thrift Stores/ Goodwill stores/ Salvation Army Stores

    These stores are known by many names. They generally sell used items or second hand stuff. This is the place where you buy household items at a very low price. These stores are also a very good alternative to dispose your old and used household stuff. You can donate your used items. Interestingly, you will get a receipt for your donations that can be used in your tax filing to claim tax exemption against the value of donations.

    Measurement Differences and Units

    Weights:Weight is measured in ounces and pounds. 1 ounce = 28 grams,
    1 pound = 0.45 kg.
    Distances:The basic units of distance are inch, foot, yard and mile. 1 yard = 0.9 meter,
    1 mile = 1.6 km.
    Temperature:In the United States, temperature is measured in Fahrenheit degrees. 1 Celsius is 1.8 Fahrenheit.
    C= (5/9)*(T-32)
    F= (9/5)*C+32
    C=temperature in degrees Celsius
    F=temperature in degrees Fahrenheit


    1 Ounce (OZ) Fluid = 29.57 ml
    1 Gallon = 3.785 Liters

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 15:52
Facts about UK PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 27 February 2012 22:12

Facts about USA

Did you know that at most of the American airports, luggage carrier trolleys are not free of charge? It is likely you did not know this! You will have to pay a nominal charge of 25 cents to 1 dollar. There are many aspects of life in U.S. that are not available in any guide or rulebook. This article compiles a list of practical tips shared by contributors on path2usa.com. These tips are likely to be useful for people who have just moved to the country.

Public Transport

  • In public local transport buses, there is no ticket conductor. Also in some places you won't get any formal tickets for traveling, unless you want a day pass.
  • If you are traveling by bus, you need to make a stop request by pulling the bell string. In local public bus, you need to drop the fare into a cash-box by the driver's side. Do not give it to the driver. Dollar bills will go in the machine and coins into the drop box. Always carry the exact bus and train fare since there is no provision to get any change back.
  • In local trains/bus there are two types of travel tickets: o "day pass", which allows you to take as many trips as required during the day, or, o "one way ticket", which is good for a single ride. There is a standard fixed charge for single ride ticket, whether it's for the next stop or the last one.
  • You won't find any taxi/cab waiting in a queue on the road sides. You will have to call them up (at the numbers given in the yellow pages). You will easily find a cab at the Airports and Railway Stations.
  • Most of the Gas Stations (Petrol Pumps) are self serviced. You need to fill it up yourself and almost all gas stations accept credit cards.

Driving Tips

  • Some of the traffic signals are monitored by video cameras. Do not be surprised if you get a traffic violation ticket in your mail box!
  • You can be fined for driving above the posted speed limit. Make sure you know the speed limit and drive at the posted speed limit.
  • Your license can be seized if you are caught drunk while driving.
  • If a cop (police officer) asks you to stop while you are driving, just stop the car at the right side of the road, and wait inside. Never get out of the car. The cop may shoot you for self defense.
  • Never throw any kind of paper or any other waste out of your car windows. You will be fined for littering.
  • Unlike India one has to keep to the right hand side of the road. The driver's seat is on the left side of the car. You will practice left hand driving in U.S.
  • For crossing roads there will be buttons provided on the signal post, which have to be pressed to get the "Walk signal". You must not cross the road unless the walk sign is on.
  • You will be fined heavily, if you walk on the highways. It is for your own safety.
  • If you need to use the restroom you are suppose to take the closest exit, and use public rest rooms. Under no circumstances can you stop on the road.
  • In cars, kids under 12 years of age should always be seated at the back with a seat belt. Additional car seat must be used for infants and toddlers.
  • Try to avoid using car horns, unless required.


  • Normally, apartments provide basic kitchen appliances like cooking burners, oven, and refrigerator.
  • Most of the apartments are equipped with centralized heating system. Only some apartments are equipped with air conditioning systems.
  • You would find both "Hot" and "Cold" water supply at all places like you apartment, office and public rest rooms.

Eating out

  • At the restaurants, you won't get finger bowl. You can use paper napkins.
  • At the Indian restaurants, usually you can order "Thali" or "A La Carte". Both of them are served with some side dishes. Places with buffet are comparatively cheaper to Ala Carte. This is not an absolute rule and prices may vary.
  • At fast food joints and restaurants, you would be asked if the food is for "here" or "to go?. "Here" means that food will be served in the restaurant and "to go" means that food will be packed.
  • At most American restaurants, it is a custom to tip the server (not waiter). People tip a sum of 10% of the check (not bill).
  • At buffets, it is a custom to use a fresh plate for each next serving. Once you have finished eating, leave the plate on at the table itself and get a fresh plate for the next serving. The server will pick up the old plate.
  • At any Dine-in place, don't go and occupy any empty table yourself. Wait at the front desk and someone would assist you to get seated.
  • Are you a Vegetarian? Just be careful while ordering to specify "no meat" and do not use words like "without meat", "meat-less" as they don't understand these terms.
  • When you want a drink without ice, specify "No Ice" and not "Without Ice".
  • You would be fined heavily if caught shop lifting. Shoplifting is unlawful and shoplifters may be prosecuted.
  • In US, Beer and Wine is available in the super markets. At some stores you might also find hard drinks like, Whiskey and Rum.
  • Do not forget to carry your ID's having your age proof, if you are going to a bar.
  • Electric switches are operated in the opposite direction, i.e. upside-ON and downside-OFF. Generally, there are no ON-OFF signs next to every plug point. They are always ON. Just connect the plug whenever necessary.
  • Unlike India, in US the T.V. channels can't be tuned according to your wish. For e.g. ESPN will come on channel 39 for everybody, you cannot change it. However, this may change in your area and between different cable companies.
  • Never ever ask for a rubber when you need an eraser. Here a rubber means "condom" !!
  • The date is written as, MM/ DD/ YY i.e. Month/ Date/ Year.

What is say: What not to say!

  • When you are going to smoke, don't say, "I am going out for a fag". "Fag" in British English means "to smoke". In American English, it means a "Gay".
  • Don't say, "Phone was engaged", as here engaged means getting engaged. Instead say "There was a busy tone".
  • Don't say, "I'll ring you back." or "I'll call you later". Here ring is the engagement ring, rather say "I'll call you, or buzz you".
  • Don't call a black person a "Negro" or "Black", it is always polite to call them "African Americans". Also never call an "American Indian" as a "Red Indian", they get very offended.
  • Do not walk or sit with arms around the shoulders of someone of the same sex. You may be mistaken to be a "a Gay" or "a Lesbian".
  • There is no such thing as "eve teasing" in the USA. It is called "sexual harassment", and one can land in jail, if caught in such activities.
  • At work or elsewhere if you want to say Yes, just say "YES". Do not nod your head up and down. Moving your head side to side is very confusing, and it's mostly taken as NO.
  • Avoid talking in your native language in presence of people of other ethnicities in a social gathering. It is not courteous.
  • In supermarkets, if the cashier asks 'paper or plastic' he wants to ask you if you would you like to carry your stuff in paper bags or plastic bags.
  • During your conversation do not say, "I have a doubt", rather say "I have question/query".

Other useful Tips

  • Use water filters for drinking water, as there may be some lead content in it.
  • Here pink color shirt is normally taken as the sign of being a "Gay".
  • U.S. has 4 time zones. Depending on the zone, your time will differ from any other state. For example, there is a three hour difference in the state of California and New York.
  • All watches are reset twice every year (viz. April and October), in order to make the maximum use of the day light. This is called 'daylight savings'.
  • If you are unable to find public toilets at some place, locate the nearest fast food joint like Mc. Donald's, KFC etc. and use the restroom there.
  • Do not offer chewing gum, or a breath freshener to others. It gives them a message that they have a bad breath. Even if that was not your intention, you may send a wrong message and offend someone.
  • In a queue, maintain a reasonable distance from the person standing in front of you. If you stand too close to strangers, they feel you are invading their personal space....Watch Out!!!
  • Usually all ATMs will only give $20 bills and you may only withdraw in multiples of $20.
  • FREE is a buzz word here. You may get hundreds of ads with FREE in bigger fonts. Make sure that you read and understand all terms and conditions. Look for any hidden costs (generally referred to as 'catch') before accepting such offers. It is better to read the fine lines before making a decision.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 15:51
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