Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cultural Insight #1

Indians are very blunt. If something is brown, they are not going to call it blue or green or even gray. They are very attentive to cultural manners, but they never speak please or thank you. So until you adjust to the change, requests sound like commands.

Take rest.
Have lunch.

My second week here I caught a cold. One of the women I interact with every day, in the morning she first said, “you are looking very dull today.” I think it’s their way of saying, “Are you sick? Should you go back to bed?”

India is wrecking havoc with my face. Every single one of my pores seems to be gradually joining the clog-fest. I don’t know if it’s the dust, or the sweat, or the food, or some other unknown factor, but here I am looking like a teenager again in the throes of pubescent acne despite the fact that I wash my face now three times a day. It’s okay. My vanity has gotten over it… almost. But it must be very obvious. The Indians are more concerned than I am. The first conversation of my morning went as follows:

“Good morning.” [this is me]
“Good morning. How are you?” [this is an Indian woman]
“Fine. How are you?”
“Good.” Pause. “Didi, (this means older sister and is used for respect) what is wrong with your face?”
Then I have to run through my store of English words to try to explain acne so they will understand. I’m not sure they do. Sometimes the same person will question me on more than one occasion. Or they offer suggestions.

In general, I think Americans are missing some of the graceful, cultural discretion and dignity of the Indians, so I’m not suggesting we adopt this method of communication. But it is refreshing here to know that no one is hiding things back. No one is afraid to ask me about what is plainly written on my face. Indians don’t avoid the elephant in the room. They ride it.

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