What should every Indian know about the USA?



Sashi Gavani, Have lived equal number of years in USA & India

Every Indian who comes to the USA needs to know a few lingo changes. There are some words that if used in USA will evoke laughter and might cause you some embarrassment. Here is my list:


1.Dicky Vs Trunk: Yes that thing at the back of your car in which you carry your junk is called a ‘trunk’ in the US and calling it a ‘dicky’ might instantly make you the focus of the conversation.

2.Rubber Vs Eraser: Yes that thing at the back of your pencil is called an ‘eraser’. ‘Rubber’ actually means condom so you don’t want to ever ask a child for a rubber!

3.Bath Vs Shower: Both words are used in the US but has different meanings. Most indians are used to saying ‘I am going for a bath’ when they are actually going to shower. In US ‘Bath’ means to soak in a tub/jacuzzi and bathe there, whereas a ‘shower’ is where you stand and let the over head jets do their job.

4.Stepney Vs Spare: If you have a flat tire and ask for a Stepney, you will surely get the ‘Whattttt???’ That extra tire is called a spare tyre (notice the spelling difference too)!

1.Dicky 和Trunk:没错,在美国,汽车后部装东西的地方被称为“Trunk”,你若说“Dicky”可能会立即让自己成为众人的焦点。



4.Stepney和Spare:如果你的车胎瘪了,跟别人说想要Stepney,别人肯定会说“啥?”。那个备胎应该是spare tyre(注意拼写上的区别)!”

Here are a few more quick ones (some words might be colloquial so might apply to a small sect of Indians) :


Indian way - American way


钱包Purse - Wallet

衬裙Petticoat - Slip

无袖套裙Pinafore - Jumper

试衣间Trial room - Fitting room

连裤袜Tights - Pantyhose

运动鞋Keds - Sneakers

一年级1st standard - 1st grade

餐厅Canteen - Cafeteria

监考人Invigilator - Proctor

9年级/大学一年级9th standard/1st year college - Freshman highschool/college

10年级/大学二年级10th standard/2nd year college - Sophomore highschool/college

11年级/大学三年级11th standard/3rd year college - Junior highschool/college

12年级/大学四年级12th standard/4th year college - Senior highschool/college

成绩Marks - Grades

饼干Biscuit - Cookie(if sweet甜饼干) cracker(if salty咸饼干)

茄子Brinjal - Eggplant

秋葵Ladies finger - Okra

苏打水Cold drink - Soda

酸奶Curds - Yogurt

滴滤咖啡Filter coffee - Brewed coffee

果冻Jam - Jelly

酒店Hotel - Restaurant for eating餐馆, Hotel for lodging酒店

汽水Soda - Club soda

足球Football - Soccer

托儿所Creche - Daycare

简历Curriculum vitae or bio data - Resume

日记Diary - Journal

垃圾桶Dustbin - Trashcan

公寓Flat - Apartment

爆胎Punctured tyre - Flat

布告牌Hoarding - Billboard

暴徒Gang - Mob

墨镜Goggles - Sunglasses

电梯Lift - Elevator

警察Policeman - Cop

排队Queue - Line

眼镜Spectacles - Glasses

卫生间Toilet - Restroom

灯笼椒Capsicum - Bell pepper

Edited to add new stuff from readers


一楼Ground floor - First floor

人行道Footpath - Sidewalk

汽油Petrol - Gas

固定电话Landline - Home phone

账单Bill (at a restaurant餐厅) - Check

香菜Coriander - Cilantro

辣椒Chilies - Pepper


Susan Maneck, I have a PhD in South Asian and Middle East history and was married to an Indian

1.If you want someone to put something down somewhere you say, ‘put it there’ not ‘keep it there.’ If you say ‘keep it’ an American will not let go of it.

2.Biscuits are called cookies in America. An American biscuit is yeasty and not that sweet.

3.When you arrive at an American airport and need someone to help you with your bags, you look for someone called a Sky Cap. Do not, on pain of death, call him a coolie. When my husband arrived he looked at me in bewilderment and said, “You didn’t tell me the coolies looked like pilots.” [For the benefit of Americans, a coolie in India is a baggage carrier. Indians do not consider it a racist term.]

4.It is not considered immodest in America for a woman to wear shorts or in other ways show her legs. A bare belly, as in a Sari would be considered a bit more risque.

1.如果你想让某人把某样东西放在某个地方,你可以说,“put it there”而不是“keep it there”。如果你说“keep it”,美国人就不会放手了。


3.当你到达美国机场,需要有人帮你提行李时,你就找个Sky Cap来帮忙。千万别叫他“小工”,否则你会死得很难看的。我丈夫来美国的时候,困惑地看着我说:“你没有跟我说过小工看起来像飞行员。[我得跟美国人解释一下,小工在印度就是行李搬运工。印度人不认为这是种族主义词汇。]


译文来源:三泰虎  http://www.santaihu.com/48334.html 译者:Joyceliu

5.The ideal time for dinner is 6:00. If we have to wait until 8 we are likely starving to death.

6.“No spice” means green peppers as well as red peppers.

7.Khalsa Sikhs beware. Americans assume anyone with a turban is a Muslim.

8.Talk slowly, especially when you are in the South. You may speak English and they may speak English but that doesn’t mean you’ll understand each another.

9.If it takes more than 30 minutes to cook a meal, that’s too long.

10.Men can change diapers.








Vijay Kumar

While numerous answers can be found about terminologies, practices, culture and suggestions, here are a few life hacks that will get your through most situations.


1.Americans have a natural sympathy for someone who are new to their place. Use the term, “Sorry, I am new to this place” as often as possible. This can actually get you out of trouble in unimaginable ways. I have even got fines waived from my university and housing by merely making this excuse. Some of my friends fake an Indian accent and use this excuse to get around situations, despite the fact that they were all born in the US.

2.Americans will do anything you want them to, as long as you make them feel great about being Americans. Note the terms “being American” is bold. Making them feel great about any other of their identities will not work because American identity is often unspoken but stronger than other identities. 

Here is a simple example. If you want to borrow someone’s pickup truck and somewhat feel that there is only a 50% chance that he will say yes, try telling him how great America is and how America is a land of justice, righteousness and progress. Now the chances of him lending you his truck will go up by about 80%. Do note however that praising him for his political affiliation, his ancestry, religion or opinions will not work as effectively as his nationality (American). 

Note: this will only work if you are seen a as foreigner.





3.Being polite can take you a long way. While Hollywood might portray the ideal American hero as a brash, reckless, big-guy-big-gun-wielding cavalier, someone like that in real life would often be looked upon as a douchebag. Be polite, talk softly, be graceful and courteous in your mannerisms and that will take you a long long way.

4.Americans will never punish you for not knowing something. Unless you are a lawyer in a courtroom, you will not be penalized, punished, persecuted or laughed upon for not knowing a piece of fact. If you ask someone in India, “Who is the PM..?” and if they are unable to answer, people often follow it by laughing and saying condescending remarks like “Arrey! Tujhe yeh bhi nahin malum, ha ha ha”. In America it is perfectly fine to say, “I do not know who is the president of the United States and frankly speaking I see no way how knowing the president’s name helps me in my life goals and objectives”. So, if someone asks you something, saying “I dont know” is a far better and acceptable response than “Hmmm..maybe, I think I forgot, but I know I read about it today only”.



5.As an extension of point 4, it is perfectly fine to say, “I do not understand this, can you please explain it to me”. Nobody will assume that you are an idiot for not understand it in the first go. Intent and effort are given very high priority over knowledge and talent.

6.Magic word, “Please”. Speak every sentence with please. A sentence without please is considered rude. If you say, “Please, pass me the salt”, it means “give me salt”. If you say “Pass me the salt”, it means, “hey bloody, give me that fucking salt shit-face”.


6.记住这个有魔力的词“请”。每句话都带上“请”。说话不带“请”,会被认为是粗鲁的。如果你说“Please, pass me the salt”,意思是“请把盐递给我”。如果你说“Pass me the salt”,意思则是“嘿,该死的,把盐给老子拿过我”。


Varun Shivashankar, I am happy when my plant bears fruit :)

Some useful information which surely would help:


1.Hospitals are freaking costly. A simple treatment requiring 1 day admit might cost you around $50k and I kid you not. Always make sure to have good travel/heath insurance covering at least $100k and you would never know when your ~$300 saves your lifetime savings. This could be more relevant if any of your parents/relatives visiting you for your graduation or any trip.

2.Always stop at the stop sign board even if you are on bicycle. Fine could be as high as ~$250 for not stopping on bicycle. Cycler can share the pedestrian path if no specific bike lane is available.

3.Most of Phones bought in India work in US also . Verify that your phone is supporting the frequency band that carriers are using in the US and GSM/CDMA. Frequency bands info for T-Mobile: T-Mobile US, and for AT&T : AT&T Mobility

4.If you are visiting any National parks, Make sure to download offline maps in google of the area you are visiting and it will come a long way to help you. Network coverage(any network vendor for that matter) is almost nil in most of the national parks unless it's a "big" city



3.大多数在印度购买的手机也能在美国使用。验证您的手机是否支持美国运营商使用的频段和GSM/CDMA。T-Mobile的频带信息:T-Mobile US, AT&T的频带信息:AT&T Mobility


5.Indian driving license is valid in US and you could use it to rent any car as long as it is valid. You can drive in the USA against your Indian driving license for a year, as long as the license valid and in English. If, for any reason, it is not, you need to carry an International DrivingPermit. Never drive a car without taking a proper insurance and consequences of bad incident could be financially worse.

6.You need SSN(Social Security Number) to start working officially in US and you need to apply for SSN after you get a job(even on campus job is qualified). Also along with SSN you need a valid Employment Authorization Document(EAD) if you have already graduated from school




Kiran KS, Love the nitty gritty details of India as a civilization

Generally speaking:

In India it is OK to ask someone’s salary, but it is not OK to ask which party they voted for. In many situations, bragging about your salary (or your family member’s salary) is considered as a status symbol. In US it is the opposite. People are open about their political leaning (many even register and you can check it online) but asking about salary is not considered polite.

In India co ption is at all levels, but most evident at street level. The cops, the go nment clerks, the agents are all termed corrupt by common people. But in US co ption is not that evident at day-to-day business level. It happens at higher level at politico-corporate level. So you will have to tune your attitude towards a different society.




America is not what you see in Baywatch. The *perfect* dream of a 23 year old Indian urban man would be to migrate to US and be greeted with a bikini clad blonde :) Life is hard in USA till you settle down. Usually it takes 5–10 years to settle down. For starters you will have to learn to make your own tea or coffee. Then your own rice or chapati. Then most importantly, wash those greasy cookers while ensuring that the precious safety valves or whistles won’t get damaged. America is not what the FoBs (fresh off boats) usually post in their “pilgrimage” to Niagara or Las Vegas. Also.. did I tell you that ogling at a stranger is considered highly offensive in US?

Smell: This is one area you might want to pay special attention. Indians had 5000+ years of daily water bath ritual history, while the European origin people were not that “clean” historically. But now things are different. Americans are highly conscious of hygiene. US folks consider body odor, particularly arm pit, mouth or hair smell as highly offensive. I am not saying all Indians smell, but considering the general hairy features, Indians should pay special attention towards body hygiene. Invest liberally in deodorants and perfumes. And.. get used to that *not so clean* tissue paper even though many of you considered water cleaning as superior.




Tarun Simha, Living in the northwest of America since some time


I was made to believe in India that Americans are so considerate about others lives that they make sure to give way to Ambulances and Fire engines.

Well they are indeed a lot more considerate than an average Indian but this consideration is backed by huge penalties if you do not give way to these emergency vehicles.

The Emergency vehicles when in emergency mode(they have these horns, beacons going crazy) can run through any movable area, there is no restriction for them with regards to restricted ways, one ways, wrong lane etc. If they see a clear, short and best path they will move through that route. And all the vehicles on the roads etc would have to give them way, if you do not give them way they switch on their cameras and take pictures of these unhelpful vehicles and one can be fined in excess of 250$.

Implement these kind of penalties in India and imagine how many lives we can save.





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