But I wanted a first floor: Lessons from USA

“But I specifically asked for a first floor”.
“Yes, your apartment is on the first floor”.
“You kdding me ! What then is that on top of my apartment, the second floor ?”

Moving to a new city can throw many surprises, let alone move halfway across the globe. I recently moved from India to USA, and my initial weeks here had its fair share of faux pas too. The above conversation is one of those ‘It was at this moment he knew, <pause> he f__ed up’ meme moments I have had here. And to think that that the hours of American TV shows I binged had prepared me enough for America.

Yes, you wanted a first floor.

After a fair bit of browsing the web and taking virtual tours (literally someone walking around the apartment while on a video call with me), I rented a space in USA 3 months before I was to move to USA so as to make the most of an ‘early bird’ deal. I asked for a space on the ‘first floor’ and the manager of the property confirmed that he would put me down for a unit on the ‘first floor’. I preferred the fenced balcony of first floor units as it felt more private compared to the unfenced patio of ground floor units. To my surprise, three months later , I discovered that I was on the ground floor. And the above excerpt was my conversation with the manager after. I asked for a 1st floor unit in Indian terms and he gave me a 1st floor unit is US terms.

Writing this blog from the unfenced patio of my ‘first floor’ apartment.

My USA lessons were far from over for the day.

No, we dont have a chotu

My second USA lesson, a far more important lesson, was learned in the office of my apartments. I had just gotten dropped by a senior in the graduate programme to the office to collect my keys and sign some receipts for the same. Not wanting to push further on a favour offered, I told my senior that he could leave and that I could manage from here. After the formalities at the office were completed, I asked the resident associate (an undergraduate student working part time at the office), “Could someone help me move my luggage till the apartment.” His instant reaction was shock followed by a confused look. He then said, “Let me check with my manager.”. He came back and said, “I am sorry, we actually have a safety policy that doesn’t let us touch resident’s property”, which I thought was him politely telling me, ‘What the ___ did you just ask for?’.

Having lived in a Delhi University hostel for the last two years, I had gotten accustomed to ‘hands (Chotus)’ attached to institutions who helped out with odd jobs. I had just learned how it feels to move from a labour (or should I say labor) abundant country to a capital abundant country. I now spend hours (yes, hours) ironing my shirts to get that crisp look on my shirts that I could get by paying Rs.6 ($0.08) to the dhobi (a washerman) who had a shack right outside my hostel. One can rent a truck for a week and drive their furniture purchases from the store directly for lesser than what one would pay for delivery by the furniture store. “Sir, delivery aur assembly hamaare ladke free mein kar denge”(which is Hindi for “Dont worry, our boys will take care of delivery and assembly for free”) doesn’t exist here.


As the malayalam saying goes, “Kannullavanu kanninte vila ariyilla” (which translates as ‘It takes a blind person to know the value of an eye’), I now value many things I had taken for granted in India.

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