Two years and a month ago, I moved to Philadelphia from Pune, India. This was no small feat. Allow me to elaborate… my husband’s job needed him to move to America to set up and manage their American operations. We had been married for 6 years and we had a wonderful life in India. I had a great job, I’d travel every few weeks across the country ,to some of the biggest cities in India. I had a bunch of mad friends who practically lived in my house and I was lucky to have my folks, brother and in laws in the same town. Of course, my blog & business partner Sneaky Ninja was just a 100 miles away in my favorite city – Mumbai.
My husband and I had been yo-yoing with the move to America for months. Anyone who knows a thing about the American work visa process, should know that it takes a while for the embassy to come back to you with a decision. I’d be lying, if I said I wasn’t excited. I had visited the United States as a tourist and on business a several times over the years, but never really imagined living here. Honestly, a big part of me was also weary of leaving my comfort zone and my favorite humans. To summarize, we got our visas and I gave away 95% of everything we owned – mattresses, home appliances, clothes, shoes, home decor, books (the horror!), linen, you name it, it was in boxes labelled to be given away. Left behind 2 cars, a motorbike and a bicycle and packed a few shoes, whatever warm clothes we had, a few dishes, my favorite brass statue of Buddha (I had several) all in 7 suitcases and boarded a plane to start a new chapter in my life. Change, they say, is good. Two years in, and a few lessons later, I can share a few tips on what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Damn, it gets cold!
First things first, invest in outer wear! My choice of words is ‘invest’ because this will determine how you get through almost three quarters of the year! Unless you live in the north of India, you don’t really wear or own any outer wear. In America, you will have a coat closet which needs fall, spring and winter jackets! It’s a tad insane, I bet it’s similar in Europe too. I recommend a trench, a leather jacket, a down jacket and a woolen pea coat. I learned this the hard way! Unless you move to the South, all of America gets f-ing cold. When you move from a tropical country, you really don’t know what winter is. my two bits: don’t waste your time and money on fast fashion brands, instead pick a trusted brands like Columbia, Eddie Bauer, North Face, Canada Goose or Patagonia for a down jacket for windy, snowy, ball shriveling days. Get a woolen pea coat or a cashmere one if you can afford it. There is a plethora of designers at Macy’s, Nordstrom (or Rack), Century 21 or Bloomingdales to choose from. I find the stuff from the Japanese retailer Uniqlo affordable for the quality. Their heat tech inner wear is my secret to never shivering 😉
Live in a city!
If you have a choice and can afford it, live in a city or in a downtown-ish area! America is a huge country and it can get extremely lonely living here. The American dream is made of a humongous house, multi car garage and big backyards. The young Indian in you will hate all of it in a week. We need people, we need stores, we need accessibility. Hopping in the car and driving a few miles to buy milk is something that doesn’t come naturally to us. Don’t forget the bigger your house and backyard the more work you’re going to have to do! Gentle reminder that Gangu bai’s are not easily available in America 😀 So at least for the first few years, sacrifice on the space if you can and live in the city! Experience the people, the culture, the food and soak up the vibrancy of this incredible country.
Befriend the locals!
Despite popular belief, Americans are actually a nice, friendly and fun bunch. They may be frosty at first, I usually blame it on the weather :p but they don’t bite! (Ok, some might :D) Point is, get outside, sit at the bar and talk to the bartenders. Find out where they like to go, where they shop, where they eat and hang. Go to those places! Take Uber pool and chat with the drivers and the poolers. Tell them you are new and want to experience the city. Chances are you will get a big list of places, maybe a Facebook or Instagram follower and a chance to cultivate a friendship. When you come from where we are, it’s tough to trust people. Open up and learn to trust people a little. Of course, be alert & careful, there is no dearth of psychos in the world :p
Use the internet!
Do the opposite of what you were taught growing up. Go talk to strangers!!! Use the internet to find groups of like minded people. Instagram, Twitter and meet up groups are uh-maaazing and a boon, especially when you don’t know anyone. Look up the local ‘igers’ group, go join them on ‘photo walks’ to explore neighborhoods. Philadelphia has an amazing community of artists, I have met great people and made some real friends who I’ve met through the internet! I’m old enough to think it’s creepy, but then it’s not.
Figure out American Sport ASAP
Thanks to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordon, basket ball is the only well known American sport outside of America. So if you like, play and follow basket ball, you have one feather under your cap. However, you CANNOT survive in a social or professional environment in America without figuring out FOOTBALL! I am sorry, I had to do that in caps. Football in America is not what we grew up watching. European football and football that the world plays is called Soccer! Don’t forget that until the day you leave American soil!
American ‘football’ should have been called, ‘Yardsballs or foot-hand ball or something else’, I need a witty name for it. Point is, once you’ve figured it out, it’s pretty easy. Men, women and children alike OBSESS over both college and pro football. I feel like I am going down a rabbit hole, so I shall refrain to explain further. Use good ol Google to get the basics & then ask your new American friends to explain better. Once you have football out of the way, you can try to figure out baseball, ice hockey, rugby, lacrosse.. umm and motorcar racing like Indycar an Nascar. Then, go watch games at the local stadiums! They have something called Tail-Gating (again, just google), do it!!
Be an Indian Story Teller!
Last but definitely not the least, embrace where you come from and be proud of it. No matter what politicians say and what the media propagates, America truly is a cultural melting pot! Most people I have met are open about their non American roots. And, most people want to understand new cultures & share their own. Who doesn’t love a good story afterall? Brush up your knowledge on India and weave tales of spices, cuisines, languages and spirituality. Don’t forget, you are tough where you come from. You’ve dealt with traffic, nosy neighbors and men who hold pinkies as they hoot at you. Show America what you got and enjoy your time in this amazing nation!
About the shoot
Perks of being a social junkie, I have some cool friends who know how to use a camera! Here’s a shoot with my insta bud, Mark Hylton(@mark.hylton). Mark invited me to a private meet up with other super insta users on a boat! The Spirit of Philadelphia is such a fun experience. Whether you live in Philly or are visiting Philadelphia , you should make it on her. The boat is great idea for brunch, you see the skyline from the water & get some wind in your hair. If dancing is more your thing, the Spirit of Philadelphia has a dance floor and a mean DJ! They have an early Christmas party on 10th and 11th, perfect to kick off the holiday! Check their website for special events and promotions.
Wool Skirt – Uniqlo USA
Tee – Express
Scarf – gifted/Dubai Mall
Location – Spirit of Philadelphia