Adjusting to American Way of Life
Being on Time is Very Important
Unlike in Nepal, people in the US are very particular about keeping the appointment. You should also make a habit of
being punctual. When someone expects you at a certain time, say for example at 10:00 am, you are expected to be there
right at 10:00 am (not 5 minutes before or 5 minutes after the stated time). This is also true for showing up for a job, or a
seminar or a meeting or a party or anywhere you go. If for some reason, you could not show up on time then you must call
(telephone) the other party quickly and say that you are running late. It is usually better to call and reschedule the
appointment than showing up late for an appointment.
Call before Visiting Someone’s Home
Uninvited guests are not always welcome. You may have experience about it even in Nepal. People will always
appreciate if you call them ahead of time and let them know that you are going to visit them. Do not put yourself in an
awkward situation by visiting someone at a bad time or when they are very busy. By the way, calling someone late at
night (after 10 or 10:30 p.m.) is not recommended unless in case of an emergency.
Please do NOT Let Your Personal Habits Bother Others
You may not feel comfortable talking about personal habits. However, your personal habits and your personal hygiene
can bother others at certain circumstances in the US. For example, people in the US do not physically push each other
around while standing in a line or in a crowded place. They usually keep a safe distance (of about 1 foot) between them
and the person nearest to them even when standing on a crowded line. They expect the same behavior from you. Must
there be a bodily touch in some circumstances, it should be very brief and unintentional and you should say “Excuse me”
immediately to the other person you touched. Even in Nepal, people do not want to sit next to someone who is sweating
heavily and whose body smells noticeably bad due to perspiration. Americans are also very concerned about other’s body
odor. In fact, deodorant’s use in the US is very common and you are advised to purchase and learn how to use these
deodorants. Please be advised that deodorants are substances that mask the bad odor from one’s body e.g. arm pits.
Some people also use antiperspirant that works by blocking sweating mechanism. Learning the use of these small but
important items and using them regularly can save you from potential embarrassments while in the US.
Learn To Clean After Yourself
It simply means that if you make a mesh you have to clean it up yourself. Unlike in many homes in Nepal you should
clean your dishes yourself after you are done eating. If you go to a fast-food restaurant you are expected to dispose off
your used napkins, forks and papers in a trash can after you are done eating. Similarly, if you are done eating in friend’s
or a relative’s house you are expected to take your flatware and silver ware to the kitchen-sink and should offer to do the
dishes (wash and rinse) and/or place them in the dish-washer. If you need to rinse your mouth after eating a meal, you
should do so in the bathroom. Using kitchensink for rinsing your mouth and spitting in the kitchensink itself is improper as
the kitchen-sink is often used to thaw frozen food before cooking.
Respect Individual Differences
When you meet someone, never make remarks about his/her personal attributes. For example, saying you have put on a
lot of weight, or you look so thin, or you look very tired, or your face has a lot of acne, etc. is totally impolite. It only
disturbs that person. You should rather try to have a positive attitude about things. Arguing about other’s religious belief is
not tolerated. Similarly, making remarks specific to any race, ethnicity is not tolerated. Most Americans cherish diversity
and respect individual differences and do not like remarks made on personal characters mentioned above.
Respect Other’s Privacy
America is a free country as long as you obey the law. Please do not interfere with other’s right and privacy. Do not be
nosy. Many people like to be left alone. If you hear "Back off" or "It is none of your business”, you went too far. Be
considerate of others. American people do not like you asking their personal matters such as their age, salary, taxes,
health-related and other confidential matters. It was very different in Nepal. Physical contact and pushing people around
while standing on a line or even in the crowd is not appreciated or proper in the US. Always allow enough space (at least
one foot) between you and other person even in the crowd.
Learn to Say Hello and Smile
It is a good practice to say Hello or Hi to people you see or meet. Many people expect
that from you especially in smaller groups and less crowded places. If you did not
know the person or if you are very busy, at least give a little smile and acknowledge your presence in the vicinity. You do
not need to know someone to say “Hello” or "Hi". Alternatively, if someone says Hi to you, it does not necessarily mean
that he/she knows you.
Commonly people shake each other’s hand when they meet or greet someone. You should do the same regardless of the
gender of the person.
Learn to Say "Please" and "Thank you"
In Nepalese conversations, we do not say "thank you" and "please" as often as we should. Most Americans use these
words very frequently to make their conversation polite and to appreciate the favor they receive. You are expected to do
the same while in the US. For example, instead of saying "May I have a cup of tea?" you should say "May I have a cup of
tea, please?" – and once you get a favor, in this case a cup of tea, you should say "Thank you". You need to learn the
habit of saying “Excuse me!” and “Pardon me” if you think you needed to be excused for doing something. Saying that you
are “sorry” soon after realizing a mistake is very appropriate. Please learn to use these words and/or phrases frequently.
Soon, you will get used to this style of conversation. Please remember, how you say things to someone can be as
important as what you told him/her.
Make Friends - Share Troubles and Happiness
We have experienced that overcoming a difficulty is much easier if you share your troubles with others. You may be able
to come up with good strategy to handle the situation from others' advice. We have also experienced that most Nepalese
need other Nepalese friends to hang out and interact. Many of us like to eat “Daal-bhat” and “Khasi ko masu” and discuss
on matters like "How to develop Nepal" or share a Nepalese pastime. There are several Nepalese associations and
groups around the US, which could help you. ANMA is one of them. Become a member of the association and attend the
meetings. If nothing else gained, you are likely to meet your classmate, or a relative or a neighbor from Nepal. Nepalese
communities around the US celebrate Nepalese festivals. Stay in touch with other Nepalese and associations.
If You Need Help, Ask For It!
If we have not emphasized this point enough earlier in this brochure, we want to do so again that if you need help, you
have to ask for it in the US. It was almost true even in Nepal ("Jas Lai
Teerkha Lagchha, Uhi Khola Dhaunchha"). Others will not know what is in your mind and what type of help you need. You
must express yourself and ask for help. Many of your Nepalese and American friends will be glad to help if you made a
request and if they have time and resources to do so. Again, do not get offended by negative answer, try someone else. If
you get help, do not forget to appreciate the help and extend thank to the provider. It is customary to do so in the USA. If
you make some mistakes, seek immediate pardon. "Please excuse me" and "I am sorry" and "Thank you" make perfect
sense when said from person to person.
Wait For Your Turn to Speak
During a conversation or a gathering, please wait for your turn to speak. Let the person who is talking finish what he/she is
saying. If you are in a group and you wanted to say something, it is better to raise you hand wait for your turn to speak.
When you are calling someone by the telephone, please ask politely who that person is on the other side of the telephone
and introduce yourself too. If you want to use someone’s telephone, make sure to ask for a permission of the owner
before using it.
If You Become a Victim - Seek Help!
If you become a victim of rape, incest, physical offense and even discrimination there are places where you can report.
Contact a police office nearest you and report immediately. They should counsel you on the procedure you should follow
based on the nature of offense. Do not allow the burden of that event bother you for life and the offender go unpunished.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
If you came to the US as a student you can enroll in some English classes. Even if you think you do not need it, taking
English classes will help you in the long-run. If the cost of tuition is a concern then you should take English classes in a
community college. It costs you less. Many communities also offer Adult Education classes for the spouses and
dependents for free or for a nominal fee. Find out if LVA (Literacy Volunteers of America) could help you with English
learning. For school-aged children, many schools have ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to help them. Do
not be overly concerned if your child did not speak English right away. Soon, you may have to become concerned that
your child lost his/her Nepalese language and only spoke English language. Making your child speak Nepali language at
home may be very important for your child as well as for yourself. Those of us who did not teach them the Nepalese
language during their childhood very much regret it now.
Investing in Your Career – Gives Good Return
The work force in the US is extremely competitive. Not all of the skills and trainings acquired in Nepal are recognized or
are useful in getting a good job in the US. This is particularly true if you came to the US as an immigrant from Nepal (e.g.
through family migration or through diversity visa program). Enrolling in the college courses to start a new career or to
supplement your education and experience could be a wise investment into your future. Careful planning and hard work
during first few years in the US can determine how well you will be doing later on. If you came to the US as an immigrant,
and you have already established your residency in a particular state, you can apply to a college or university as a
“instate” student which allows you to pay less tuition than the “international” or “out-of-state” students. Also, there are
various fellowships and loans available for legal migrants to attend colleges and universities. More information on this
topic could be found in the “Handling an Economic Hardship” section of this brochure.
Enjoy the Flexibility of American Education System
There are numerous colleges and universities in the US to choose from. If you came to the US as a student, we believe
that you must attend the college that issued you an I-20 for at least one semester. After that period is over an international
student could find some other college, or university that has programs that he/she likes. As long as you do this legally,
and after consultation with the international advisors of both colleges you should have no problem. You should be able to
change the academic advisors and change your major to the field you like without much trouble. Talk to your college
officials about your interests.
Parents are responsible to control and discipline their child
How parents handle their young children in the US is very different from how you (and ourselves included) did while in
Nepal when it comes to teaching them responsibility, controlling them, and disciplining them. Many of us who have lived in
the US for many years also do not do this task the American way. For example, in many Nepalese gatherings in the US,
regardless of whether the event takes place in a personal home or in a Meeting Hall or a Community Center, children are
often found unattended and running around while the parents themselves are busy socializing themselves. Above
situation creates difficulty to the family who is hosting the event or to the people who run such meeting facilities. Also,
leaving children without proper supervision is not recommended and certainly not appreciated by American workers or
your neighbors. Hence, we recommend everyone to be considerate of others and do the right thing for the well being of
your children. Hence, if you are visiting someone’s home or attending an event and you have a young child with you, it is
your responsibility to control and discipline your child properly.
It is important for you to have medical insurance while in the US. Your academic institution and/or employer may have a
contract with specific insurance providers. Ask your program coordinator at the time of course registration or while signing
your employment papers. If you do not have medical insurance and you needed medical treatment, it can be very
expensive in the US. For a new student from Nepal, besides tuition and housing costs, two other expensive items include
medical costs, and costs for purchasing of textbooks. Many universities require that you buy health insurance for yourself
and your accompanying spouse and children while registering for your college/university courses. If you are a permanent
resident in the US, and your income is low or you do not have a job, try finding a community health clinic or a state-run
medical facility. They usually charge you based on your income/ability to pay. In many states, there are programs to cover
healthcare needs of your children. Your child's school may be able to provide you with such information. We do have
some ANMA members who are physicians. Try to know them in annual meetings. They may give you some (Free?)
medical advice over the phone if you call them during their personal time.
Don’t Drink and Drive
It is an offense as well as a nuisance to the public and hazardous to many if you drove an automobile under the influence
of drugs or alcohol. If you must drink alcohol, always make a designated driver who does not drink. If you drink, do so on
moderation. If you cannot control yourself seek help from others. If you pass out, you are endangering yourself by creating
other possible problems. You will regret it after you wake up. Remember that you are personally responsible for your own
protection and safety. Like in Nepal drug use and possession is not acceptable to a majority of people in the US. Your
friends and relatives may not feel good trying to help you if you are charged with drug possession or distribution. Selling
tobacco and alcohol to minors (below age 21 yr) is illegal in many states. Many offices and business do not allow smoking
in their facility. Be considerate of others and read the signs around you before you light a cigarette. Littering (throwing
objects e.g. papers, food or waste etc.) from a moving vehicle or while driving in the US roads is illegal. Please be aware
of it ahead of time to save yourself from severe fine and/or penalty. It is also unsafe for other drivers and vehicles.
Buying a Car is an Important Decision
Unless you are visiting the US for a short duration, we recommend you to buy a personal automobile. In places where
public transportation is not available, having a personal automobile becomes extremely important. You should seek
advice and help from your sponsor or your friends or your advisor before making such an important decision.
Read Your Rental Lease before Signing It
You should cultivate a habit of reading what you are about to sign. When you sign a paper, it becomes a piece of a legal
document. An example is your rental lease agreement. If you sign a lease agreement and break the lease then your
landlord can put you through a lot of trouble. In some cases, you will just forfeit your security deposit. However, others
may even take you to the court and make you liable for the financial damage. If you need more time to read the document
before you sign it, you can ask for the extra time to do so.
Opening a Bank Account
Most people use credit card or personal checks in the US. You will need to open a checking account in a local bank so
that you can make payments for your housing, tuition etc. Personal checks, money orders or credit cards are preferred
over cash in many instances. You can request your bank to issue a debit card and/or an ATM card for your convenience.
Having a credit card and timely paying of dues is extremely important if you want to build good credit history in the US.
Good credit history will become handy later on if you decide to borrow money from banks or make larger purchases and
/or investments such as buying a car, and buying a house.
The complete version of this document can be downloaded from www.ANMAUSA.org