Culture Shock, episode 1

So far I must admit to being rather proud of myself for how I’m adjusting.  That said, it should be noted that while Ryan is out in the “real world” for 9-10 hours everyday, I just sit in our apartment and watch TV (our shipments haven’t arrived yet, so it’s all I have had to do–don’t judge me).  Even so, there have been a couple things that have struck me as so different, it’s even hard for me to wrap my mind around them.

The first is what I like to call “Indian time”.  Actually, from what I’ve heard, most countries aside from the US have their own time, where “tomorrow” means “next week” or “30 minutes” means “2 hours”.  But I have never experienced this before.  I come from a culture of “If you don’t have your pizza in 30 minutes, we’ll give it to you free” etc. etc. so I’ve always expected that when someone says “30 minutes”, they mean “30 minutes”.  If it’s after that (within maybe a 5 minute grace period), it is considered rude and apologies are usually offered.  That is not the case here.  Since we have arrived, we have been promised many “tomorrows” that turn out to be several days or even a week later.  We have been promised “I’ll be there in 30 minutes” and we now know not to go down for at least an hour.  It’s not rude here, it’s just how it is.  However, Ryan is picking up on it.  He called his driver when we were an hour from our apartment and said, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”  Let’s just hope it’s not something he brings back to America with him.

Secondly, as white people, we get stared at, a lot.  In fact, we were told before we came that people would even want to take our pictures, and would sometimes even try to do it sneakily without you knowing.  Well, it’s one thing to be warned, and another to experience it for yourself!  Ryan and I visited Golconda Fort one Saturday, which is a big site-seeing attraction here in Hyderabad.  There are hundreds of huge stairs, so at one point we just needed to sit down and take a break.  At one point, I noticed that someone was sitting beside us and when I looked up, he was getting his picture taken.  So I moved to get out of the way, as people politely do in America, to get out of other people’s pictures.  As I moved, however, the huge group of people near the person taking the picture started laughing!  The guy who was sitting next to us says to us, “No, come sit back down, I wanted you in the picture!”  We were shocked!  Here is this young guy, speaking perfect English, dressed very western, and yet he still wanted a picture of the two white people next to him!  So I said (probably too politely), “I don’t want to be in your picture” while everyone was still laughing!  I was very embarrassed and Ryan and I just walked away. 

Finally, most people here have domestic help and we were told that it would be a good idea for us to as well, as the apartments can get very dusty.  So we thought we’d just get someone to come in and do the floors, the kitchen, and the bathrooms a couple times a week.  However, if we want someone to do the toilets, we’d have to get someone separate who’s in a lower caste.  This fact was such a whole different concept for me!  I thought to myself, “Forget it!  I’ll clean my own toilets, I don’t care!”  It must be so strange to come to America after living in India and realize that people in the middle class clean their own toilets!  And even their houses!! 

I am hopeful that once I adjust to these three changes, I’ll be a more patient person, not be so self-conscious, and know how to clean a mean toilet!

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~ by Amy on October 7, 2008.

One Response to “Culture Shock, episode 1”

  1. […] white skin is quite the novelty here.  In the beginning it was very disconcerting.  Remember this post from October? Secondly, as white people, we get stared at, a lot.  In fact, we were told before […]

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