August 18, 2017

Basic Facts About Independence Day in India

When is India's Independence Day? 
August 15.  

When did India gain Independence from the British? 
In 1947. 

What day or days are given off for this holiday? 
If it falls on a working day, only that particular working day is given off. It is true that some offices in India have a 6-day work week, working some Saturdays of the month. Where I live in Kochi, the second Saturday of every month is given as an off day. This may not be the case for every area in India, however. 

What happens if Independence Day falls on a day that is typically given as a weekend day (Saturday or Sunday)? 
When Independence Day falls on a day that is already an 'off day', no additional, alternative holidays are given as is often the case in the US. 

Do Indians take off days before or after Independence Day to have a long weekend?
As there are so many holidays in the Indian calendar, this is not typically practiced. Among some groups who like to go "out of station" on holidays, they may be more apt to take off extra days for this activity.

What do Indians do on Independence Day? 
While some select areas may have fireworks displays akin to the kinds in the US, it's not so common or expansive. Individuals may have small fireworks they set off around their neighborhood. Take note that unlike the US Independence Day, India's Independence Day falls during the school year. This also restricts the movements of families for vacations and out of town outings. If the kids celebrate Independence Day in their schools, part of their celebrations may include a flag hoist, singing of the national anthem, and a cultural program including re-enactments of the freedom struggle, a fancy dress (costume) competition where the kids dress up in costumes depicting historical or popular Indian figures, and other related events. 

What are the Indian national colors? 
The Indian national flag (right), is comprised of green, white, and saffron (an orange-like color). These three colors are popularly worn by some on Independence Day. Wearing these colors, however, is not so popular as wearing red, white and blue is in the USA. The symbol in the middle of the flag is called the Ashoka Chakra. 

What is the Indian National Anthem? 
The Indian National Anthem is called Jana Mana Gana. Feel free to listen to it below. 

What are some basic facts about India? 
The capital of India is New Delhi. 
The prime minister of India is Narendra Modi. 
The national animal of India is the tiger. 
The national flower of India is the lotus. 
The national bird of India is the peacock. 
There are 26 major languages. (This is debatable!)  

As Indian communities across the US celebrate Independence Day, some with large, public outdoor cultural programs (such as my friends in Corning, New York, where we can sometimes see the public participating in open air dandia and other Indian dances). Now, if your US colleagues invite you for these celebrations, you will have a little context to what is going on! Feel free to share more of your experience celebrating this Indian holiday below.

Related Posts: 
Learn to say basic facts of India in an American accent! 
Managing Teams in Various Parts of India 
Small Talk Tips for Indians for America's Independence Day 

August 8, 2017

Talking About "Back to School"

“There's 104 days of summer vacation, and school comes along just to end it…” 

The title song lyrics to the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb sums up the feeling that most American kids have between early August and early September. After a long summer vacation, kids and preparing to go back to school during this time of year. 

To clarify, no, kids do not have 104 days of summer vacation! School kids (grades 1-12) have about 60-70 days of summer vacation, while college students have about 100 days of summer vacation. Clearly with such a long summer vacation, preparing to go back to school is a big deal. 

When is "Back to School" season? 
Well, this depends on the area of the country and the school district. From a recent, informal poll of the author's Facebook friends that live in different parts of the U.S., here are some "first day of school" dates in 2017:
31: Atlanta, Georgia 
31: Indianapolis, Indiana 

7,9: South Louisiana
16: Olathe, Kansas & Rogers, Arkansas 
21: El Cerrito, California 
23: Raymore, Missouri 
24: Bay Area (near San Francisco), California 
28: Chapel Hill, North Carolina 

6: Spencerport, New York 

What is “School Shopping”? 
While parents are a bit eager for their kids to go back to the routine of academics, kids are not usually so eager about going back to school and sitting at a desk all day. While that is true, many kids do get excited about school shopping. School shopping in the US consists of buying new clothes and a plethora of school supplies. Some schools send parents a letter in the mail with the checklist of supplies. While parents grumble about their budgets, vehemently stating, “money doesn’t grow on trees,” the items on this list can reach in to the hundreds of dollars. It is easy to see how the stores and retail outlets cash in with their wide range of ‘back to school’ sales. 

Are Back-to-School Sales Only for Students? 
While it is a debatable issue if back to school sales save shoppers money, back to school sales do help average office-going professionals as well. Many of the school supplies like pens, pencils, papers, stationary and other equipment are found in a wide variety and selection in almost all stores this time of the year. For anyone who wants to stock up on office supplies, this is the time of year to do it.

While the stores are rolling in the cash, and families spend their hard earned dollars to prepare their kids for going back to school, children mourn the last few days of freedom of the summer vacation and dread the early mornings and long days sitting behind their desk at school.

Some common phrases/questions/small talk Facebook friends have shared that are related to the “Back to School” season:

What is the tax-free weekend? 
The US State governments are exempting certain school supplies from sales tax on a certain weekend, usually a few weeks prior to start of school (e.g. Texas and Virginia are two states with theirs in mid August.). This has almost become mandatory for the states; otherwise they lose revenue to neighboring states where they DO have the tax holiday. Of course, some say it is not worth the long lines and the rush to save a few dollars. Note, that while this tax-free weekend may appear to be the time to shop, saving you money, for some it only saves enough to go out to dinner or for going out to a movie (maybe US $10-30 or so).

What is "meet the teacher" night?
Stop when lights are flashing.
Some schools open the school for a few hours one evening a week or so before school starts, so kids and parents can meet their teacher(s) for the upcoming year before the first day of school. It’s also possible that kids will be able to meet some of their prospective classmates who will also attend this event. These events are not mandatory, so not everyone attends.

What are first day of school pictures?
The tradition of taking photos of kids in their new clothes on the first day of school, or getting on the bus the first day, or even walking in the school on the first day is so ingrained in the US culture, that Americans may find it interesting that people of other cultures do not have this “tradition.” That being said, having lived in India the past two years, I have seen more and more Indian parents in India adapting this tradition, posting their kids first day photos to Facebook! (Note there are several other trends in first day and last day of school pictures that are in vogue.)

Joining any teams this fall?/Playing any fall sports? 
This question is directed more at Junior High (7th and 8th grade) or High School (9-12th grade) students. In many American schools, fall sports practice sessions may start a few weeks before classes even start!

More images of back to school:

A fun word search activity was created for a training I delivered on small talk, holidays and special times of the year for Americans. This word search is found in the PDF below. Enjoy!

Jennifer Kumar is an American living in Kochi, Kerala, India helping Indians learn more about American culture to make small talk, forge better working relationships and be successful in cross-cultural business and outsourcing relationships.

Related Posts: 
Holidays in 2016
How to make small talk with US Americans 
Small talk for the 4th of July  
How Americans Think About Vacations 

Note: Store logos, names, brand names and ads used as examples only. Authentic Journeys is not being paid for any specific product or retail placement in this post.

Photo credits, listed by order seen in post: Jennifer Kumar (first 2), Preethi Kannath, Josh Beasley (school bus), Jennifer Kumar, Diane Cordell (back to school signs), all others n/a.
Networked blogs link:

June 29, 2017

Small Talk for the 4th of July Holiday

The 4th of July is a much awaited summer holiday. For many students mid May to Mid June starts summer vacation. During the summer vacation, many look forward to celebrating Independence Day, which falls on July 4. While many working professionals do get July 4th off, as it is a national and bank holiday, some companies graciously may give July 3rd or July 5th off if July 4th is a Saturday or Sunday or to make it an extra long weekend or holiday. In addition, many parents may elect to take more days off to spend time with their kids who are at home during summer vacation. 

This year (2017), 4th of July falls on a Tuesday. During this holiday, many will go to the park for picnics, camp out, have bar-be-ques, go on road trips, or have fun at home with family and friends. Many will also go to see fireworks. While many towns have their fireworks display on July 4th, many other towns may start their fireworks displays a few days before or elect to conduct them up to a few days after the 4th of July. Therefore, fireworks can be seen in many city night skies for about a week during the 4th of July holiday.  

When speaking to your US counterparts on July 3 (or days preceding this holiday), here are a few small talk phrases or questions that can be used to stimulate conversations and build relationships:
Indian employees learn American holidays through interactive games
and role plays. Here, they learn about American symbols for the 4th of
July through a fun craft project. More about US culture training here.
  • So, tomorrow is the 4th of July. How do you celebrate?
  • What kind of fun stuff do you do on the 4th of July? 
  • I heard many Americans go on a vacation for the Independence Day holiday. Will you also be going away? 
  • I heard the fireworks for the 4th of July are spectacular! Will you be seeing fireworks? 
  • How do you celebrate the 4th of July? 
  • I know that many people have a bar-be-que on the 4th of July, will you also be attending a bar-be-que?
  • Do you do anything special to celebrate the 4th of July? 
These are just a few conversation starters. When the other person answers you, find something interesting in it and reply back. For instance, 

“How do you celebrate the 4th of July?” 
“My family and I have a family gathering at the lake, and in the evening watch fireworks. Maybe we will go camping.” 
(Find something interesting in their response and respond accordingly.)
“Wow, you go to the lake! I also love to go to the lake. Do you go boating?” 

Keep in mind that unless your US counterpart brings up ‘family and friends’ do not broach this topic first. Direct all questions to that individual himself.

Another exception is talking about gas prices. While Americans don't typically like to be asked about how much they spent on things, they are more open to talk about gas prices. Similar to Memorial Day (the last Monday of May), Americans will always talk and probably complain about the cost of gas as many take road trips during this time. The videos below are news clips from 2017 on the cost of gas during the 4th of July and summer holiday season.

Florida gas prices start summer at 12-year low - watch on YouTube

Fourth of July gas prices will be at their lowest in more than a decade - watch on YouTube

Note a few other interesting phrases/words:
Going away, going out of town, going on a vacation – all of these phrases means “out of station” in Indian English. Americans do not say “out of station.”
Days off or take off days – In Indian English the closest equivalent is “leave” or “take an off”. Americans do not use those two phrases.

Feel free to add additional conversation starters and small talk you have used in your interactions about the 4th of July with your US counterparts in the comments below.

Here’s a short video of a fireworks display held in Rochester, New York a few years ago. Enjoy! Happy 4th of July!

A fun word search to use to expose yourself to new American English words and idioms used to discuss America's Independence Day is below.

Author, Jennifer Kumar is a corporate communication coach and cross cultural trainer helping Indians create better relationships with their US counterparts. 

Related Posts: 
What to wear on America's Independence Day? 
American and Indian Holidays 2016 
Effortless Small Talk with Americans  
More easy tips on casual talk with US team members 
Why do Americans over plan vacations? Can't they just relax and go with the flow?  
India's Independence Day - August 15 

Networked blogs link:

June 28, 2017

What is the Fourth of July?

"My American client wished me a happy 4th of July. What does that mean? It's just a date, right?"

As an American, born and raised, this question totally took me off guard! When it was asked, I answered with a stunned silence, trying to get into the person's head who asked me this to think of their context. The person who asked me was an Indian (from India), who does celebrate Independence Day in India, but on August 15, not July 4th. Also, as far as I know, I have never heard Indians say "Happy August 15th" to each other!

June 26, 2017

What to Wear on Independence Day in the U.S.

As the most anticipated summertime holiday, celebrating the 4th of July in the U.S. is something to look forward to. Let's see what people wear to show their affection or patriotism for America on this special day. 

While many countries have an Independence Day, it may not be customary to wear anything special to show one's affinity to the country. As a foreigner, expat or international student in the U.S., there are a few things you can wear to show others you are commemorating or celebrating the holiday.