I recently moved from Mumbai to Jacksonville in Florida. And many have been asking me — How is life in America different? Here are a few very brief points. Florida/US in black, Mumbai/India in red.
1. You get hot water in all taps.
I never got hot water in all my taps in Mumbai except for the bathroom which had hot water only when the geyser was turned on.
2. A fiberglass electric stove. This is what happened to my stove after milk boiled over. Disaster and so, so tough to clean.
I loved my stove in Mumbai. It was a gas stove and it was nice because when milk or anything else would boil over, it would be so easy to clean. You can buy an electric stove in Mumbai too but the good old gas ‘choola’ fueled by a gas cylinder and ignited with a lighter is common in many homes.
3. You have to shower while standing in a bath tub without buckets. We couldn’t even find a bucket to buy easily. We finally found a bucket in the ‘paint’ section at The Home Depot, a home improvement store. The only other time we saw buckets being sold was at the local Indian store – Patel Brothers. Even the word ‘bath’ is not used here.
I never had a shower in Mumbai, although most homes have one. I took a bucket bath with a mug and earlier with a lota (a steel mug). I prefer bucket baths to showers because I think they allow you to use less water as compared to showers. I can go on and on in a shower while my bucket baths are usually limited to one large bucket. I also believe bucket baths help you to clean your body better… or perhaps it is just my mind resisting change.
– An interesting debate on Quora – On average, does bathing in shower take more water than bathing with a bucket or less?
– What a foreigner thought about Indian bucket baths: A guide to bucket baths in India.
4. Driving and filling gas yourself. In Jax, Florida, where I live, the bus service is very limited… hardly any buses ply and there are no taxi or train services. To visit the grocery store, library or even gym, driving to the place is necessary. You have to fill your own gas and the gas stations don’t really have people to assist you to do it. The exciting part was the driving theory test and how detailed the Florida Driving Manual was as compared to the driving theory test I gave in Mumbai. For the Mumbai test, I skimmed though a tiny booklet 5 minutes before the examination. For the Florida test, I studied for several weeks before the exam.
Since I was living in one of the most well-connected cities in the world, Mumbai, public transport was the best way to travel. I used BEST buses and local trains in Mumbai. They are frequent, easy to use and cheap on the pocket. When I did not want to wait for the bus or was too lazy to walk to the railway station, I would just hire a taxi or rickshaw. In Mumbai, the petrol pumps have personnel who help with filling the fuel. People do not even step out of their cars to get the job done.
5. Using a clothes dryer (tumble dryer) to dry clothes. It makes strange sounds while at work. Almost as if someone is playing around with fireworks.
We did not have dryers in India. We dried our clothes in the sunlight. And I used clothespins!
6. A central AC/heater that circulates air to the bathroom and kitchen too. Having an AC vent in the bathroom is a first for me.
In Mumbai, we had different ACs for different rooms and fans for the rest.
7. Two basins to wash the dishes – one with a kitchen sink grinder/crusher. The InSink Erator (that’s what it is called) is very convenient.
We used to have to use our fingers to remove food that clogged the sink. It felt rather disgusting.
8. There are rules for walking on footpaths that people usually follow. Walking to the right is the rule that isn’t written anywhere, it’s something everyone just follows.
Back home, there were NO rules. You could get pushed and shoved if you walked in the direction of big crowds.
9. A patio and grill. The patio is the place where we relax, grow plants and grill meat. Most patios are used to relax with lounging or rocking chairs.
Because I lived in a city, I didn’t have a patio but a balcony. We couldn’t grill on it though. And all we used it for was to dry clothes 🙂
10. A walk-in closet. And NO cupboards. Nothing that can be locked unless you buy a separate safe to store your money and jewellery.
We had many cupboards. Cupboards had keys and could be locked. Even inside the cupboard there were safes that could be locked.
11. No watchman. There is a patrol of guards that does rounds in the night though.
We had watchmen who would operate the gates and lock them at midnight. They wouldn’t patrol and instead sleep in their chairs cause they had day jobs elsewhere. This could be because they had families to support and the money they would make for being security guards was not enough. The sad part is that they have poor living conditions and are often seen squished into a small living quarter while on/off duty.
12. Carpet on the floor. Tough to clean cause you really can’t make out when it’s dirty and needs vacuuming.
We had floors made of tiles. Easier to clean, especially when someone spilt something.
13. A house that creaks. It makes sounds all the time. The houses here are made of wood. The skeletons are plain wood and look kinda fragile for someone who has seen brick homes being built all her life.
No sounds, except for cars honking loudly. I woke up to honking cars. Houses in India are made of brick and cement.
14. There are no stand alone public toilets. You have to use them at restaurants or coffee shops. Some of these places do not want outsiders/non-customers to use them so they secure them with lock and key or have a passcode protected door.
We had public toilets in India. Pay and use.
15. Garbage is collected only once a week. And recyclable garbage has to be collected in a separate recycle bin. So we have two bins and the bins have to be placed outside the house for collection. If you fail to take your bin back inside you are fined… 100 dollars.
We disposed our garbage everyday. For those who did not want to do it on their own, we had a kachrawala, who would go door-to-door and collect garbage. Also, we never segregated garbage.
16. Birds-Geese and ducks- everywhere, no stray dogs, cats or crows. Pictured below are Canadian geese. This couple comes visiting everyday.
We fed stray dogs and cats. Crows and pigeons could be seen everywhere. Pigeons were fed by many for religious reasons.
— mahafreed (@mahafreed) March 25, 2016
Bombay had Marine Drive. Waterbodies were rare because of lack of space. The ponds that exist (Bandra talao, Walkeshwar Banganga) are few of the open spaces the city has.
18. American portion sizes are HUGE. You do not get any healthy food for less that 7 dollars.
Indian portion sizes were smaller and cheaper!
19. Restaurants only serve chilled, ice water. And it is served with a straw.
In India, you get water (served at room temperature or chilled, mostly without ice) and never with a straw.
20. Too many weird ads related to medicines. They are weird cause they talk more about the side effects than the benefits of taking the medicine. The other common ads are by lawyers and law firms who want people to sue a big agency or company and get the money they deserve.
Our ads are mostly related to FMCG products.
21. The TV shows are funny and came as a culture shock to me. The ones I am talking about are: The Maury Show, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos. They have people with the ‘strangest of relationships’ come and wash their dirty linen in public. They are famous for doing free paternity tests to find out whether someone has been cheating. Some of it is rather unbelievable and looks staged to me. The audience jeers and cheers while the show guests fight it out on stage.
TV in India is mostly talent shows and soaps. The talents that are most promoted are singing and dancing. Other talents do not get too much prime TV space. Besides that, regressive serials showing women fighting each other for a man are common. Although now, the TV scene is changing with some women taking up protagonist roles. Cricket is the other popular thing people watch TV for… you’ll find queues of people standing on the footpath to watch a TV inside a store while a cricket match is on.
22. The shops are BIG. Big and so much fun. I can spend an entire day just walking around Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club. Some of the outlets are even open all through the night. They also have big niche shops that make shopping even more fun. For example, Staples for stationery and Home Depot that only sells stuff you need for the house… and it has everything. Most of it encourages DIY, which is WIN.
Bombay shops on an average are smaller.
23. Dog poop scooping is important. And it is made convenient.
What dog poop? There’s dog poop on sidewalks. Very rare to see someone scoop poop.
24. Residents donate to build public infrastructure including footpaths. Donors have their names etched on tiles they sponsor.
In India, citizens mostly sponsor park benches. I think something similar may not work considering the footpaths are dug up so often for all kinds of work.
25. Hardly anyone carries cash and even if they do it’s just change. Everyone uses a credit card for almost any transaction. One of the benefits of using a card is that you can maintain your credit history.
Side read: The benefits of doing that have been clearly explained on this website: Why do I need credit at all.
In India, I would carry cash everywhere. I never used a credit card for anything. Although my friends did use credit and debit cards. Many places including small shops do not accept credit cards so I did not really need one.
26. The DIY culture. There’s even a DIY channel. Even something as basic as cleaning the house or home improvement. The tools are out there and most of the fixes are done at home. Hiring a maid to cook or clean is an expensive proposition.
In India, I have friends who are absolutely dependent on their househelp. They cannot manage the kitchen or home without them. I realised that when they grumbled about their maids taking leave and the house falling apart because of that. Some have separate househelps for different tasks- for example, one to do the dishes, one to massage the child and take care of him/her, one to clean the house, one for the pets and a driver to drive the car.
27. People follow traffic rules. They do it, all the time… whether or not there is a cop watching them. Pedestrians are king. Walking is enjoyable cause the sidewalks are clean and smooth.
In Mumbai, you’ll rarely find cars waiting behind the zebra. Pedestrians come last and cars are the rulers. Footpaths are broken, dug, filled with dog poop, taken over by hawkers or non-existent.
28. Organic and superfoods are big. They are promoted well in stores and some people swear by them. Organic veggies, fruits and meats are expensive. Superfoods like quinoa, hemp seeds, açaí berries and chia seeds are easily available at grocery stores.
The craze for these food choices hasn’t reached its peak in India.
29. Mail has to be fetched from the mailbox and it mostly consists of coupons and advertisements. I spend 5 minutes everyday sifting and segregating spam from important letters. While I haven’t used any of the coupons yet, there are people who collect them and save a lot of money. In fact, I was watching a show on TLC called Extreme Couponing where they showcased one lady who shopped for groceries worth 300 dollars and paid only 10 dollars thanks to cuts from the coupons she had collected.
In India, mail is delivered to your doorstep and you hardly get any good deals or coupons. It’s a good thing paper isn’t being wasted though.
I intend to keep adding more points to this post.
My next post is going to be on the essential stuff Indian stores in the US sell. Stay subscribed :p