Just for the women coming to States

Walking mid streets in Mount Rainier National Park No I wasn’t alone in this lonely road

A lot has been written about what it means to be an Indian student in the American University or more in the United States. I have been reading most of them and found all of them to be so true. I have talked to colleagues, friends, seniors and some big shots of what it is like to be a first-timer in the USA. Experiences! Infinite. But you will definitely hear giggles after those stories of struggle, hardship, stress, pain and adventure. 
I came to the US early August of 2012. I had some shocks and surprises. But as many others, my experience has been unique. Not being a feminist but a strong believer of womanhood, I experienced it in a very different way. Sharing some experiences, I feel new female newcomers from the east should know as I pen some episodes down over the past four years and as I no longer remain a newcomer in this country.

Simply, my voice in this ever expansive landscape of immigrant stories.

The Eyes
Being a woman in the east, I have grown up being stared at and being eve teased. Towards the later part of your adolescent life, I had typically learned to ignore them.

When you arrive, for once in your life you will feel a gap where there are no stalking eyes. You can choose to walk confidently without feeling you are being judged. To an extent, I once heard my roommate telling me none looks at her and she is no more attractive. My friend is a beautiful lady and there is no way anyone wouldn’t find her attractive. Eve teasing and staring are not virtual stamping to you being attractive which is sadly regarded very common for an attractive person back in the country. I am not referring to male counterparts here (Maybe I am) but also to those aunties, uncles, elderlies, neighbors and infinite others. America considers it rude to stare at someone and stalking can get someone in prison. That said I have been eve teased here in the states and if you are a woman walking in the dark alleys all alone you will have to get through those flirty comments which would make you the most comfortable. You might get asked for a pack of cigars or someone might sell you some greens. So, just don’t take the west for granted.

Travel Alone

I have never stepped out of my home alone. My parents either accompanied me, was sent with a chauffeur, with my brother or if nothing else, the best suggestion go with a group. I cannot forget how mobile phones stripped apart the privacy of my friends with their parents calling them every second, while we went out for some fun. Unlike others my parents had always respected my privacy and they asked if I would mind them, calling me. I had explicitly answered to keep the calls coming, for that’s the best way I feel safe when I go somewhere (Archie’s gallery) 
For the first time, you will find yourself comfortable and confident traveling alone as a woman. There are no Gents/ Ladies lines in booths but you are comfortable standing in Unisex lines. The general notion is not to stand very close to each other. It is regarded polite to keep a padding between individuals while being in public spaces.

But fyi when it comes to women, even the western world hasn’t been too kind. Do take precautions when you travel alone. Try to avoid too late night flights when there is literally very few souls in the airport. Be careful of cheap hotels and airbnb’s. Most cafes are closed too late in the night and there are lots of shady places. Not that they are not monitored, but walking in the shady areas is definitely not recommended. Also, if you are careless you will lose your wallet at the bar. If you are drunk, the cab driver will make some unfair moves.

Clothing

Wearing shorts was a ‘thing’ when I was in college. I am sure the young generation is more comfortable with it back in the country. But clothing is not a matter of concern in this free world. You can wear your crop tops, super shorts, and swimwear with confidence. If you have Victoria’s secret photoshopped body you will rock it. But it’s advisable to be considerate of what you wear and where you wear it. In spite of all this I will recommend you do as Americans do; do as the environment dictates but above all do as you feel most confident in. If you are most comfortable in an ankle length skirt, wear it. Internationally women are much more comfortable with their skin and bodies, but growing up in the east I am still not comfortable with an overexposed swimwear while my American friends look fabulous in them.

Female Hygiene Products

For the first time in your (at least in mine), I could proudly place the hygiene products in my shopping cart without a wrapper from the convenience store. You could ask out aloud to the male salesman why a particular brand is not available and why you desperately want your wings. I won’t say I do scream about being a woman all the time but not hiding your biology feels great. 
Well, that said if you are following American politics, you may hear one presidential candidate shaming a woman for her blood.

Grooming

America is a hub of Cosmetics. Women here do wear a lot of make up and if you are coming here for graduation, probably your under eyes must have started that tiny streak of wrinkle (early twenty syndrome). Make up helps and its something you will find being widely used.

I hate make up and haven’t been into it for the past four years. Though I have had instances in a social event ridiculing myself not wearing any. But when I look back I feel that’s what I am, someone who hates makeup. So far I have been voluntarily able to keep myself away from styling.

The brown skin has its own charm and be proud of it. Believe me doesn’t make you less of a woman/ the girl you are. Fitting in is good in this grooming culture. Just don’t overdo it or don’t push yourself into it, if you are not a make up person. I have been mostly in IT, for me it has been jeans and sweatshirt for most of the times. On the flip side those wonderful make up artists go ahead with it. America has easy availability of some of the best brands of make up and the Asian make up section rocks anytime.

Ladies! your hair is going to trouble you a lot. Finding Salons has been the toughest. How you could try out some salons in India first by going for trimming and then checking out if others in the shop looked satisfied. Leave everything aside, each small trimming is going to cost you a lot.

Groom Tip: Be prepared to put some budget aside for your salon or if not long locks are always in fashion.

Dating

The concept of dating is very common in the USA. I have a colleague who shares her story of not having a boyfriend till she was 14 and how bad she felt everyday #lol. All dimensions of relationships are boldly spoken here. Single, married, divorced or open.

Do what you are most comfortable in. I have seen people who match with the social standards here pretty easily and others who stick to their beliefs of arranged marriage. Stick to what you believe in, if the free world doesn’t impress you much. Both co-exist here and it can be in perfect harmony. Be what you believe and speak for what you have believed in. Just being in America doesn’t make you a western dating guru.

Many of us find the love of our lives here and many just go shopping with tinder ;). Take your time and figure out what you want to do. If you want to take dating casually go meet people. If you are a typical conservative kind of marrying your boyfriend, then do take your time. Don’t rush into not being in a relationship. You know the cons ;). As said don’t run for love.

Career

If you would consider a spectrum then probably the USA would relatively rate higher on the scale for a country with enriched women rights. Though, my experience hasn’t been very consistent, I have had my share of bad experiences. I have been in the industry where my work has been belittled as a woman and called too cute for a job. And where I have been challenged to prove that a pretty face wasn’t the reason for my career acceleration. You will face challenges of being belittled by many male counterparts some from your own backyard and others foreign to you in this country too.

Finally

Stay Strong and Stay Woman. I wrote this piece as a reality check to the woman who come to the US thinking of picture-perfect situations. The world is not yet there! 
There have been claims that women are not bros! They don’t encourage each other too much as they should compared to their male fellas. I do. I jotted this short note my for Indian friends and juniors who will be flying to this country in the future looking for new opportunities. Just a quick check. Each word is extracted from my diaries. There will be better or worse experiences for many. Would love to discuss more anytime you need one.
Like what you read? Give Reecha Bharali a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.