In small shops in India, there is no such thing as ‘no, we don’t have it’

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After we have decided to go for it and said ‘yes’ to the adventurous offer to move to India for a longer period, we had to decide whether to keep our house in the Netherlands or not. My wife is not always with me in India, so we came up with the idea of keeping the house in the Netherlands and build-up a new place from scratch. We have given ourselves a budget to buy and source stuff for our house as we only brought some personal belongings from the Netherlands. Thus, we had to buy almost everything in India: a bed, furniture, linen and also a lot of basics like cups, cutlery, dustbins etc. Having an almost endless shopping list, we have spent hours wondering around in shops, on markets and in shopping centres. Very soon, we found out that there is no such thing as a ‘no, we don’t have it’ in small shops. During many of our shopping experiences we asked for something unusual. For instance, during our search for clean white plates, in a shop with everything but plain white plates. ‘Do you have plane white plates’, we asked the owner, who was very kind to us. Within seconds he showed us the plates that we were looking for, from his stock. We found out that a lot of stock is hidden, placed at the back of the shop, or stored underneath the counter. We also found out that they will never say no, even if they don’t have the desired product. What they will do is to source it from the direct neighbourhood. I don’t speak Marathi, nor do I speak Hindi. So it was very challenging for me to understand the directions that were given to one of the shop assistants during many of the occasions. I do understand body language and I also understand economics, so I found out that they were sent on a mission: ‘kid, go and source for this product and please do it quickly’. The result was not always satisfying, but many times we were surprised with their help and service.

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