Sunday, July 29, 2007

Indian Habits

There are obviously many cultural differences between Indians and Americans. Some that I have ran into that I find amusing:

1. Phone etiquette. People in India do not greet or say goodbye. So for someone like me who expects cues such as a hello and an identification, it can throw you off. Also no one says bye to acknowledge that we're done talking, so most of the time I feel like people are hanging up on me.

2. Passing gas. People have no problem burping or farting during normal interaction or even formal settings like a meeting. At the OFAI meeting a couple days ago, someone farted and no one even blinked an eye. The part that throws me off the most is that women do it too. A woman burping is a pretty novel concept to me. Seriously, how many times have you ever heard a woman burp? And I don't mean something under the breath, I mean a full out "aaaaaarrrggggghhhhhh" but in a feminine sort of way. It's pretty hilarious.

3. Eating. This one drives Maneka crazy. Indians are so LOUD when they eat. Slurping and sloshing around. According the her, I'm one of them myself, but I think I pale in comparison to others I've seen/heard. People have no problem munching wildly, food churning for everyone to see.

4. Loose Interactions. Indian people have a habit of maintaining a very loose notion of person-to-person interaction. This manifests in many ways: when you're walking in a public place, you can very rarely make eye contact or smile at people. When you talk to someone like a auto driver or a vendor, they will often give you as little feedback as possible about what they are doing or whether they got what you're saying, etc. In meetings, people not only leave phones on but have no problem taking the calls in the middle of your conversation. An attendant may go on a break in the middle of processing your transaction, only you realize that he's gone on his break 10 minutes later because he never actually said anything to you. In this environment you start to do the same things yourself, but I don't like it. At home, we make eye contact, give a person your full attention, turn off cell phones, are helpful to customers, etc. We put a lot more effort into our interpersonal interactions, I would say. Not sure whether one's the right way, but I know what I'm used to and have come to expect.


  1. Have you met AMIT SURA????!!!

  2. GENERALLY SPEAKING - I think, here in the US, we spend more time ensuring that our ACTIONS show that we are paying attention. We automatically say sorry, bless you, and thank you. But, is there any meaning behind it? If we work in retail, we are 'nice' to the customer to his/her face. But, what do we say about them when they leave?

    What's the ACTUAL feeling within? I'm not saying that in India, every person cares about every one else. But, in my experience, I've had MANY, MANY more REAL conversations with "strangers" in India than I've had in the U.S... this includes people sitting next to me on trains, rickshaw drivers, villagers, etc.

    Anyways.. food for thought.