Asking very personal questions helps people in India to understand your social position

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I’m always proud and optimistic when I share insights about my life back home. My very progressive hometown (Netherlands) has acquired a famous position; its the first country in the world to launch a bunch of modern policies. Firstly, we were the first country in the world to legalize gay marriages. I have been to quite a number of gay marriages and it is accepted by a large part of the population. Next is our view on soft-drugs. We have legalized these and regulated shops with a permission to sell without any problems. It is seen as a successful policy, as it keeps people away from hard drugs. The last thing is our view on euthanasia. Doctors who assist in euthanasia – unless they follow very strict and modern policies – are seen as very respectful and compassionate individuals. So our country is a progressive’s heaven? You could think that we are also very open as human beings. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, we are very cold and will be kicked out in the first round if we were to compete in a country hospitality contest. Where guests are treated as gods in India, we tend to treat the people in our homes with less compassion and warmth. Although there are some exceptions, but unplanned visitors are generally not invited to stay for dinner. Don’t expect us to feed you when you arrive at our house without advanced notice….I’m slowly adopting some Indian habits (also the bad ones) and hope to bring some hospitality back with me, after my assignment has completed. I could write about numerous forms of behavior which made me happy or even shocked me. But I want to revert a bit more about conversing with Indians in daily life. One of the very surprising habits here is to ask very personal questions. It’s funny and in some cases even embarrassing, so it’s important to have a solid strategy in place to face such personal questions. We, my partner and I, don’t have any kids and are completely happy about this. We appreciate our lifestyle very much as it is, and this has never been a point of discussion. However, not in India! During some of the very personal and intimate interactions with Indians, we were questioned about this. It took us some time to counter the questions with relevant answers, but we are now at a point where we can bend the conversation to another topic without any harm. Sadly, there are some topics that could end up as a questionnaire which are tougher to counter. What to do with questions like ‘What’s your monthly rent’ and ‘how much money do you make’? I want to be as open as possible, but I prefer not to share my personal financials. The reason: if I tell them this, I feel the need to share crucial elements within the context and I don’t want to. It’s only interesting to know my yearly salary if you really (want to) understand the West-European Macro Economics of a household. Buying a house, paying for your medical insurance bill, taxes, going to a restaurant….everything is so much more costlier than similar stuff in India! But how to deal with this, what to do when someone questions you on unpleasant topics? The first and foremost step in countering these questions is acceptance. You need to accept that Indian people have a different mentality. Step two is to accept that these questions are far from being impolite. Indians are very open and therefore very interested, especially if you’re from the west. Moreover, they ask these questions in order to position you. The widely criticized caste system is generally seen as an old-fashioned and outdated division between groups of people. In modern India, money has become the new divider. Asking a lot of – in our view inappropriate – personal questions helps people understand your social position.

 

3 thoughts on “Asking very personal questions helps people in India to understand your social position

  1. Sadly.. Its an extremly generalised post.. And sounding very bipolar.. Your own different.opinions about Indians are juxtaposing. Are you deriding them? It has a Govt with a compassion which is unmatachable , who was looted by the land where sun never sets, still managing to cope up with 300 year of financial draught. India was the most sexually advanced country until the Muslims barged in and the orthodox England of 1600 started ruling ,which deprived of our freedom. These piercing questions of so called middle class socio-economical rung should be dealt with positivety and try relating it to an rebellious outcome of being gagged for 100 of years by foreigners. Its really sad to see indians supporting your point of view on pune expat club.

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    1. Thanks for your open and straightforward comment. It touches me deeply, because I never – ever – want to generalise. If you read my blogs very good, I try to give an open and positive view on India. But remember, it’s always MY view of this country. I try to club in as much knowledge and facts as possible.

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  2. As an Indian I find it extremely rude of strangers, or anyone for that matter, to ask about what I earn, how much I am worth, what my husband does, or where I live, with a view to assessing my economic status. Its just as judgemental a way of weighing up people as the caste system. If I am worth anything it’s because of what I add to the universe and who can judge that except myself. This inquisitiveness is, by the way, not matched by an equally open discussion of their own monetary worth. Rest assured that these people will share very little which is private about themselves. They also couldn’t care less what you think of them as you do not belong to the same community. Luckily not all Indians go along with this attitude and many think that money is not a topic for conversation (or bearing children for that matter)

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