When everything is available in the USA, why do people carry so much stuff from India?

This was an interesting question that came from an online forum.

Indeed, US is the land of plenty and almost everything is available in the US. Indian Grocery shops – check out our extensive listing – can be found in almost every city and metro in the US. They stock a wide array of ethnic food, utensils, cookers and trinkets. Indians still prefer to carry suit-case full of ‘stuff’ while traveling to the US. A few weeks ago, we responded to a similar question “Where do I buy Indian mangoes in the USA?”

Here are a few practical reasons why Indians might ‘stuff’ their baggage while traveling to the US.

  1. Food-stuff and dry-grocery – to be used during the initial few days after they land. Many Indian visitors are used to home-cooked food and might plan to cook a dinner/lunch at an extended-stay hotel or at an apartment. [Why don’t they just drive to an Indian store for grocery stuff? Because it may not be possible to drive down during the first few days. ]
  2. Clothing – Indian ethnic wear, like Indian Sarees, Chudidhar (for women) and Kurtas (for men) sell at a steep premium. It is practical to carry sufficient number of these. Indian clothing can be heavy, adding to the baggage!
  3. Trinkets, Curios, handicrafts – ‘what did you get for me?’ is a typical question colleagues, friends and neighbors might ask. Indians returning back to the US generally carry a bagful of typical curios for others and some for themselves
  4. Mom’s pickles – Pickles, papads, ‘homemade’ masalas and savories are perennial favorites even though US customs officers have been known to randomly pick and discard some of these
  5. Indian Utensils – Some folks carry Indian utensils, cookers, mixers and even wet-grinders. Such stuff can be expensive in the US.

Requests from family and friends. Family and friends in the US are sure to make requests from 1, 2, 3 which returning-Indians might be obliged to bring back.