How to stomach 35 cups of tea? My experience with US Prices as an Indian international Student.


A fascinating thing that I learned in economics this semester was something called the hurdle method. It dictates that firms can maximize their sales by making it difficult (but not impossible) for the public to get discounts for their products, thus only those who are willing to overcome the hurdle (for example, the inconvenience of searching for discount coupons) will be able to obtain the lower price (which is still profitable to the company). Therefore, by offering slight, inconvenient discounts to those who would not purchase the product at the original price, firms can maximize profits and sales through the hurdle method. Upon further deliberation of this concept, I realized that in India, I would rarely even haggle, which is one of the most fundamental examples of the hurdle method (the awkwardness and inconvenience of haggling for a lower price) to get a lower price, let alone spend time searching for discount coupons. However, a few weeks into the US, I felt myself transform into an olympic athlete who was willing to overcome just about every hurdle for a few cents off the market price. You see, landing in Atlanta wasn’t just about crossing continents; it was about crossing a threshold of price tags. My carefully planned rupees, seasoned with memories of chai stalls and street samosas, quickly felt bland in the face of American costs.

In India, hailing a cab or ordering food were casual affairs, but here, opening the app was like cracking open a fortune cookie. Surge pricing lurked like a mischievous genie, ready to inflate an ordinary ride to a Bollywood epic. A quick trip to the grocery store could suddenly cost as much as a weekend picnic back home! My mind would do mental gymnastics, calculating rupees to dollars, trying to decipher the ever-shifting price fluctuations.

One of the most shocking conversions I carried out in Atlanta was that of a cup of tea at an Indian kitchen in tech square. Initially looking at the price of $4 was nearly not as harrowing as when I converted it to about INR 350. To put it in context, a standard cup of tea in India costs no more than 10 rupees which meant that the tea in the USA was 35 times more expensive than in India. Despite devoting my utmost attention and trying to extract the maximum amount of utility from every single sip of the western “chai tea”, it unfortunately failed to live up to even a single cup’s expectation, let alone 35.

But Atlanta wasn’t just about sticker shock; it was about a new kind of lesson– the kind that comes from resourcefulness. I transformed into a coupon ninja, wielding discount codes like ninja stars. My dorm kitchen became a culinary laboratory, where ramen noodles were reinvented and leftovers became sacred offerings. I learned to embrace the DIY spirit, mending ripped clothes and fixing cracked phone screens.

This sticker-shock odyssey wasn’t just about surviving on a shoestring; it was about forging resilience. It was a crash course in financial literacy, forcing me to become a master planner and budgeter. It taught me the art of prioritizing needs over wants, the value of delayed gratification, and the resourcefulness that comes from adapting to the unexpected. It gave me a newfound appreciation for back-home conveniences I once took for granted, and a deeper understanding of the economic disparities that shape our world.

My Atlanta adventure, with its spicy prices and thrifty flavors, wasn’t just about navigating sticker shock; it was about learning to thrive within it. And although the American price tag will likely be a constant companion, the lessons learned are invaluable, equipping me to navigate not just the financial complexities of the US, but life’s challenges, one carefully budgeted step at a time.