March 23, 2017

Free Video Tutorials - Authentic Journeys' YouTube Page

The Authentic Journeys' YouTube page has over 100 videos. View most of the videos in this post through playlists. To browse the entire collection, view the YouTube page.

March 1, 2017

3 Uniquely American Phrases You May Hear at Work

As an American born and raised, there are certain English phrases that, while I know can be habitual, I realize are uniquely American after having lived and worked in Kerala, India for the last six years. Though some of these phrases could be regional, from the Northeast of the U.S., I have had many of my Indian clients who have visited various places in the U.S. also ask me about these phrases. So, what are some of the common phrases you may hear in the U.S.? Let’s see! 

February 25, 2017

What is a Social Security Card?

According to the Social Security Administration, "Unless you are a non citizen who wants to work in the United States, you probably don’t need a Social Security number.

While this is true, the process for applying for a Social Security Number (SSN) does vary per visa type (immigrant vs. non-immigrant, J1, J2, F1, F2, H1B, H4, etc.).  To learn more about the paperwork and documentation you need to get an SSN in the U.S. as a foreigner or non-citizen, see this page from the Social Security Administration. Note, that social security numbers can be applied for from your home country in some cases, if you are coming to the U.S. as an immigrant. Read more about that here

For international students coming to the U.S., the Berkely International Office has made a handy reference specifically for common student visa types of F1, F1 OPT, J-1 Students, J-1 AT Students, J-1 Scholars and J-2 Dependents.  

According to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), SSNs are needed for applying for an apartment, getting a cell phone connection, credit card, job, getting a driver license, and more. Also, it is mentioned in the video that an F1 students can only apply for an SSN once a job offer is in hand. Learn more by listening to the video below at the 6 min 45 second mark.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), most individuals who receive their Employment Authorization Document or EAD can also apply for an SSN. For contact information, see here. Depending on your visa type, you may be eligible to apply for an EAD. See more at this USCIS page

If you come onsite to the U.S., you would also need to apply for a social security card as part of setting up your life in the U.S. as an expat. So, if you are thinking, "How do I get my own social security card?" watch the video below to answer your question.

While a social security card is required for setting up so many elements of one's life in the U.S., it should not be carried in your wallet or purse everyday. If the card gets lost, the person who gets a hold of your social security card can steal your identity. To prevent this, memorize your social security number (all social security numbers come in this format XXX-XX-XXXX), and lock up your original at home in a safe or safe place. For more tips on social security card safety, watch the video below. 

SSN Card Safety Tips: 
  • It is not necessary to carry your SSN card with you. In fact, most Americans keep it home, under lock and key. Since it is not a photo ID, the card itself is only needed in certain situations where you need to prove your SSN. Always keep your photo ID on you (passport and documents if a non-citizen). 
  • Do not give your SSN over social media, the internet or phone calls. Normally, even banks will only require the last four digits as a PIN. 
  • Shred any unnecessary documents with the SSN. Any documents you must keep with the SSN on it must be kept in a safe place, possibly in a safe. 
  • If you have any other questions about your SSN or for reporting lost SSNs or replacing an SSN or changing names on an SSN, see this handy page from the Social Security Administration.   
Author, Jennifer Kumar works with global professionals and aspiring entrants to the U.S. see her profile on LinkedIn.

Related Posts: 
Getting a Driver License as a Non-Citizen
Immigration Scams 
Writing Checks: India vs. USA    

updated: Feb. 2017 

February 24, 2017

21 Ways We Learned To Impress American Clients

After attending the U.S. business culture training - Meetings with U.S. Clients from A to Z, participants noted these 21 ways they improved their client facing meeting skills.  

  1. How to schedule meetings
  2. How to prepare for the meetings
  3. Making sure we are starting 5 minutes early and ending 5 minutes early (Time Management)
  4. How to write a good agenda
  5. How to use questions instead of statements
  6. Need to find backups in case someone is absent (not to delay the meeting or start of the meeting)
  7. Give updates before they ask for it (proactive updating)
  8. Use names instead of he/she, title
  9. Importance of thank you: how to say thank you and respond to thank you
  10. How to participate more effectively
  11. Use open ended questions
  12. How to start a conversation
  13. Getting equipment ready for the meeting
  14. Negotiation - having facts ready, pros and cons
  15. Never say I don't know when we are not sure, but buy time, ask for clarity on the question or give partial information or reference
  16. How to give feedback (positive, negative, positive)
  17. Use names to show initiative
  18. Don't say hi friends or hi people (team)
  19. Housekeeping session
  20. Learned some better ways to respond to Americans questions- rather than just 'ok'
  21. I learned something about the American mindset which can help me interact with them better.

February 20, 2017

Presidents Day – A February Holiday

This “floating Monday” holiday, which falls on the third Monday of February, is officially known as Washington’s Birthday. However, as Washington’s Birthday (February 22) and Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12) fall close to each other, these two days were combined into one holiday colloquially known as ‘Presidents Day.’ 

Presidents Day is both a federal holiday, and for most banks, a bank holiday, also. 

What’s the Official Name of the Holiday? 

Is it Presidents Day (a day for many Presidents), President’s Day (a day for a single President) or Presidents’ Day (a day for two specific Presidents)? Frankly, I am not sure there is a standard as there is no consensus. Even when seeing President’s Day sales flyers, we can see many different spellings of this term. Each of the three Presidents Day images in this blog are from various sale ads, for instance. (And, for that reason, purposefully, in this blog, I have not chosen one particular spelling.) 

What’s for sale on Presidents Day? 

The late night shows all joke that this time of the year is a best time to get a new mattress, home appliance or bed (mattress), which doesn’t seem far from the truth seeing the ads on TV or online. Other sales include good deals on winter clothing as the season is coming to an end (and in some stores swimwear, such as bikinis are seen). But, actually it seems almost anything is up for grabs as a sale item. Stores of all categories have sales just to be able to jump on the sales bandwagon. 

So, What is Celebrated On Presidents Day? 
School children may have special lessons on Washington or Lincoln around this time of the year. Some younger students may also learn about American money and coins to correlate which Presidents are on which kinds of money. If Presidents Day is seen as a day to celebrate any or all Presidents, then lessons may focus on the great deeds of any President. 

Adults really don’t celebrate Presidents Day in my experience. I am also not familiar with community parades, flag hoisting or any other public celebration or commemoration (however, if your area of the US does hold a public gathering, do let us know in the comments below). However, in 2017, some are celebrating ‘President’s Day’ as ‘Not My President Day’ with anti-Trump rallies.

Is it a Day Off Work (or School)?

While President’s Day (officially known as Washington’s Birthday) is a Federal Holiday, so government offices, schools and post offices have the day off, most office-going people do have to go to work. Additionally, many schools end up having the whole week off. This week may be known as ‘mid-winter break.’ 

What is open or closed on Presidents Day?
Though we know schools are closed, government offices are closed and most banks are closed, it is up to the discretion of each business or entity to remain open, have abbreviated hours or close. In some areas public services like buses or garbage pick up may be halted. Watch your local NBC, CBS or NBC channel to know more about your local area, to see updates like in the video below from KHON, a FOX affiliate in Hawai'i. 

Is Mid-Winter Break the Same as Spring Break?

No. These two weeks off are very different. While mid-winter break is typically for schools (Kindergarten through 12th grade), Spring Break is both for school and college students. Spring break tends to fall anytime between late February and mid April depending on the academic calendar and area of the country. A majority of spring break week-long holidays tend to fall during Easter time.

Small Talk for Presidents Day

There really is no greeting or wish for this day. As far as small talk at work, people may talk about: 
  • What their kids may be doing to spend their time during their break.
  • Day care for kids during mid-winter break. (Now a days there are mid-winter camps!)
  • How they may need to rearrange their work day to be with their kids during the week.
  • If they are planning on going to sales or buying stuff.

Note, both talking about children and cost of things are two sensitive small talk topics in the U.S. office. Typically, these topics may be bought up indirectly until we get to know a person.

When is Presidents Day:

2017: Monday, February 20
2018: Monday, February 19
2019: Monday, February 18
2020: Monday, February 17
2021: Monday, February 15

When is Mid-Winter Break:

2017: Monday, February 20 – Friday, February 24
2018: Monday, February 19 – Friday, February 23
2019: Monday, February 18 – Friday, February 22
2020: Monday, February 17 – Friday, February 21
2021: Monday, February 15 – Friday, February 19

What are Other February Holidays in the U.S.?

Groundhog Day - February 2nd
Valentine's Day - February 14th 
Mardi Gras - February 28th (date changes yearly)

More Videos about Presidents Day

Presidents Day Sales NBC 9 Cincinnati, Ohio 

Snow storms are common during this time of the year, as reported by WLWT, NBC Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Read more about common weather patterns in the US.)

Basic overview of Presidents Day.

Note: the first ad is from BMW, the second is from and the third from Ford. Ads are used only for demonstration purposes. The companies have not paid for sponsored ads on Authentic Journeys, nor does Authentic Journeys do business with these companies.