Hello Everyone! My name is Prerna Agarwal and I am one of the ICSP members. I grew up in New Delhi, India and moved to Portland, Oregon for my undergraduate studies. In India, there is so much diversity within the whole country from state to state in terms of food, music, dance, religion, architecture and languages. Below, I have shared some of my experiences comparing the Indian Culture with that of Portland’s and how it has influenced my personality.

Prerna from India

I have been in the USA for over 4 years now and one of the major differences that I observed was how everyone is on time here. Since being late is a standard in India, everyone keeps their clocks 10 minutes ahead of the actual time. You might have an appointment at 3 pm but you will most likely be called in at 5 pm. To be ready on time, to never miss deadlines, is one of the major things that Portland taught me. However, I sometimes still struggle to be on time for meetings and rush to finish the work minutes before the deadline.

In India it is always about ‘our’ life. Indians have a collectivistic behaviour; anything that we do is done together in a group. We have to regard everyone’s opinion and ask permission for everything. We are dependent on the elders for our decisions, unlike the people here who are independent. People here in Portland have an individualistic behaviour, they make their own decisions, they are self-sufficient and assertive. They do have home rules but they do not rely on anyone for the approval of their decisions. For instance, students here in college work and study simultaneously, look after themselves and go on several trips by themselves. Trying to be independent since I moved here challenges me to make my own decisions and sometimes I do feel asking my parents, but learning to face those challenges and learn from my mistakes is a work in progress.

One of the major memories that you will have if you visit India is the honking. Since there is so much traffic, we tend to reach our destination in an hour which is actually 30 minutes away. If you ever want to test your patience, just drive. You will hear people honking even at red lights because rules don’t matter to them. There are no lanes and overtaking is the sole rule that everyone knows. I have observed that even 16 year old teenagers in Portland know that there are rules and unnecessarily honking is not a solution. I have become more patient now than I was as a high schooler and it is something that I hope on never losing.

I have learnt that both cultures are unique- different traditions, festivals, food, etc. is what makes them exciting and makes us want to explore other cultures. There are many things that shaped me as a better individual after learning Portland’s culture.  From missing school buses to being punctual, I have improved considerably in these 4 years, from being a dependent teenager to an independent individual. I have learnt that apart from subjects like Physics, Math, etc.- that India stresses on, there are other activities that are equally important like getting involved in clubs and taking up leadership positions, exploring different subjects and doing research. One of the things that I miss of Indian culture is the spicy food, but then there are buffalo wings to make up for it!

Prerna and friends celebrating Halloween


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