A life-changing event for me was a trip to the United States of America (USA), when I was selected as a Fulbright Scholar. The US is a dreamland for almost everyone; considering the number of visitors in New York and Chicago per day waiting in a queue would certainly testify my above mentioned assertion. I couldn’t believe I am in the US until the first day at the school. The whole system, the organized processes, students’ maturity, students’ goals, professors’ friendliness and among others, impressed me a lot and instantly broke the prejudice being carried in my mind about America and American people.
The mind-change was a little bit quick and I realized I am still in a danger zone as my friends and family members kept on calling and asking how’s everything? Am I having any trouble? It took sometime to settle down and realize that it actually is a safer zone than the part of earth I had been living.
Now comes “The Culture Shock”!!! The First day, I stayed in Holiday Inn in Lincoln, Nebraska and in the elevator one girl ran in with a towel on and wet hair. She seemed to have shower and forgot to go to her bedroom to change, instead, accidentally entered in the elevator. This was actually an elevator pitch for me for culture shock. Another Instance – My 3rd day in the US. I finally moved to my new apartment and someone knocked at my door. I woke up and thought who is there? I didn’t know anyone. I opened the door and Flash – A brown-headed old guy smiling with big face and having some condoms in his hand and said: “hey I have some condoms”, without looking at me. Excuse me – I said. He replied with even bigger smile, I clean this area and I thought a new chick just moved in. Whoa – Thank God, I do not look like a chick from any of the 360 angles. I asked what do you clean anyway? He smiled and said never mind – Good Day. That was unanswered smile for a very long time.
Well, Culture Shock does not end here. The actual Culture Shock is here that is not interesting for most of the people living back home. I will share my opinion but first let me share what I have been doing during the last year in the US that gave me enough experience to share some valuable shocks. I experienced many things in the US and the living proof is that I visited more than 30 States of the US within 1-Year stay here. I would say that I have seen more than half of the US and it is more than an average American travel count. I lived in Lahore for 22-Years of my life and never visited any single city other than that. My first city was Islamabad for 4 hours trip to Fulbright building for an Interview. That’s it.
Lets start with actual culture shocks. I would start with the appearance preferences first. Americans do not make “comments” on your physical appearance. That means in simple words if you are black, white, short, tall, bald, hairy, poor, rich or anyone; no one will ever comment on you. This gives liberty and confidence to anyone to do anything he/she wants. Therefore, any kind of talent does not go unpolished. Everyone is concerned what you can do? Regardless, what you are wearing? Or what language do you speak? That’s the reason, people do not say that a ‘Jamadar’ topped the exam or a ‘kitchen-boy’ topped the exam. They don’t disgrace the achievements but embrace it instead. They do not limit the pool of their talent to rich or people with good attire to come forward and perform. They do not make comments here if professor is wearing shorts or dirty shirt. They are just concerned with what he has to offer? I was shocked that respect is not connected to anything but one’s skills and behavior.
Secondly, Americans utilize the time they have. I actually realized the importance of the word ‘24’. We have ‘24’ hours in a day that is a great resource to achieve something. They calculate everything on daily basis and never compromise on the hourly utilization. They do not sit in groups for long and share jokes for long. They rather read books, discuss ideas and try something new. They develop habits and enjoy doing activities. I still remember one guy saying “I am 23 and I sometimes regret why I waste my that hour in doing something useless.” They really believe in productivity. Excuse me – Leave Friday nights apart, they deserve to go crazy on that night to get relaxed for whole week. That’s their culture so I am not discussing that. I was shocked to see the value of the time we waste mostly in traffic jams, load shedding, sharing useless jokes and doing useless things.
Thirdly, Americans become independent in their early twenties. They get very mature at that age and see the world differently. They identify their goal of life, their skills, their potential, their drawbacks and above all their plan. They make efforts to earn for themselves through varied sources. They never feel awkward in doing anything like cleaning, serving burgers, arranging books or anything. They experience the hard part of life at very early age. That’s the main reason we have more American business people around the globe and most the Richie-Rich are Americans. Take Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and the long list of successful people around here. They saw world differently and performed in their life. This is not surprising for me that most of the Americans are leading different organizations if we compare this with the rest of the world. I was shocked to see Americans too organized, mature, goal oriented, and self-made. All of them mostly start from zero.
I would not stop sharing things, which shocked me actually. The list goes on and on but I have shared the most important things here. There are many things to be worked on to change the system in our country. We have to take many bold steps to become successful and competitive in this world. No doubt, Pakistanis are very smart and genius. We can do wonders but first we have to identify our skills. We have to think differently and start reading as much as we can. We have to start following the rules and say no to everything wrong happening around. Rules mean something; they are not there just to see but to adhere. We have to stop discriminating. We have to give our children liberty and sense of independence. We have to embrace diversity and give reward based on skills, not on look or bank balance. I love my country and I love to see it flourishing. But that is way too far, especially after seeing what happened on Friday, 21st Sep. We have to think before doing something even for fun.
Kashif is a Fulbright Scholar at University of Connecticut. He is studying Financial Risk Management and also a professional Finance tutor and trainer.