Monday, June 26, 2006

Culture shock - 1

Today, I'm going to list some cultural changes I encountered when I first came to the USA

a. I landed in Chicago and cleared immigration at around 9 pm. I've been hearing that Chicago O'Hare airport is the 2nd busiest in the world, or something like that. So, I expected a huge airport terminal, with thousands of people (at least comparable to Dubai's lavish airport).

Well, not so!! As I went into the terminal lounge, I found out that I was the ONLY person there. Not even a guard, janitor or cleaner! At 9 pm!! I was extremely hungry after my 30 hour flight, but found not a single restaurant or coffee shop open. The whole terminal looked like a ghost town.

I had to spend the night at the terminal as I didn't have transportation arrangements, so I slept or rather napped on a bench, while tightly grabbing my luggage.

Compared to O'Hare, other airports of similar size would be almost always full of people at almost all hours. I later figured out why this happened ... O'Hare has a small number of international flights, all leaving from terminal 5, and there were no flights after 9pm. So, the stores all closed, and everyone left. I guess the other terminals, mostly handling domestic traffic would be a bit busier.

b. On my very first day, I went to meet a professor in the department. It was the high point of a ferocious mid-west summer ... with temperatures reaching 32+ c (90+F). When I met the prof, I found him wearing a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt. In Bangladesh, where hot weather is a daily occurrance 80% time of the year, a professor of high stature would almost always wear Suits, rather than comfortable clothing. So, meeting a bigshot professor wearing shorts. I thought it made him more down to earth and approachable.

c. On the 2nd week, a member of the group proposed that we go to lunch to welcome the three new students (including myself). Now, when someone in Bangladesh asks someone else to go to a restaurant, this means the person who proposes is footing the bill. So, imagine my surprise when I figured out, right out there in the restaurant, that I am to pay for myself! Not that there is anything wrong with that, but obviously, I misunderstood "Let's have lunch!".

Of course, this is not necessarily true in all cases.

Anyway, that's all for today ... I'll write more later.