Friday, May 05, 2006

Culture shock!

This incident happened two weeks back. I was sitting at my comp when my expat colleague W walked past and playfully pulled my pony tail. He would always say that it reminded him of the tails of the miniature horses in his farm back home. This particular day he stopped and asked me if I wasn’t fed up of the long hair and the maintenance that comes with it. He said girls in the US tried different kind of styles. Without thinking I told him "I would love to, but my Mom will kill me". A typical off the cuff remark from an Indian girl. W suddenly froze and seemed taken aback at what I had said. I felt a sinking feeling like when you realize that you have made an embarrassing slip of the tongue but you quite don’t know what. I desperately tried to remember what I had just said to him.

Flashes of an incident at my Induction came to my mind. Miss Nair joining as a CA in this company with me, standing at the podium answering questions thrown at her. When asked about her extra curricular activities she blurted out “ I am doing an Inter Course” ( the last two words were said together). There was pin drop silence as people froze and politely refrained from laughing till I burst into giggles. There were embarrassed half smiles from the guys in the audience and muffled and uneasy giggling from the gals. Miss Nair never realized what she had said and left the podium a little confused at the reaction of the audience.

Now I was sure I had committed a similar gaffe too. I blushed red. W, recovering from the shock drawled in his Texan drawl. ( I have never heard a Texan drawl but I guess his accent came close to what I thought was a drawl) “ Do you have to take permission from your mother to cut your hair??????” It suddenly dawned on me that for a Westerner like him this sounded ridiculous. I groaned inwardly. Far from presenting my country as a high tech destination I had in a single swoop reduced it to the land of the Maharaja’s, snake charmers and subservient daughters.

I tried my best to explain to him about the Indian family and respect for parents and Indian values etc. but I guess I was blabbering because W suddenly said “You know, there was this time I colored my hair and my mother threw a fit!” He was clearly throwing me a lifeline to pull my country and myself out of the hole I had dug it into. And I grabbed it gratefully. We chatted for a few minutes more.

Just then my colleague R who is expecting a baby walked past. I introduced her to W and told him “ Do you know she hasn’t told her mom she is expecting? Her mom will be very distressed if she comes to know that R is expecting another baby. She doesn’t want R to go through the trouble of raising another baby without any help!” W froze again taken aback at what I had just said.

We were back to square one.


Mind Curry said...

lol..frozen and it only in front of expats or westerners that we freeze or are we numb to all these "issues" when we think of it ourselves..i wonder..

and playfully pulled my pony tail.
i you are the pony tail wali in office? :)

mrs.nair was soo funny..reminded me of some cartoon character in some old mal magazine my dad used to read and laugh out aloud.

Mind Curry said...

between, i should win the "rolling trophy" for the maximum number of 1st comments in your blogs..for this quarter atleast.

silverine said...

@Mind Curry: Yes, I am the ponytailwali on my floor :) Miss Nair realised later on when yours truly told her about it and but was not as embarassed as I hope she would be :(

And The Rolling Trophy for First Comment is hereby given to Mr. Mind Curry :) *applause*


Mind Curry said...

lol..are there trophies for "second comments" and "fourth comments"?

Alexis Leon said...

Very funny post. Miss Nair must have told the truth :-)
Should belong to Silverine blog.

@MC: Congratulations on your trophies for the first, second, and third comments :-)

Immigrant in Canada said...

I really like Mrs.Nair... remind me of the prof who told me you saitsfy me down not up..( first floor rounds and ground floor morning rounds comparison!!!)

calvin said...

Hehe .. She really said that ? an "Inter course" ? "JEEEEZuzzzz!!! " (Thats how our client side programmer in Germany exclaims )
btw , what did she mean by that ?

PS: So you have a ponytail ? >:) Guess who else likes pulling ponytails ?

silverine said...

@Mind Curry: I have just given the order for trophies for trophies for "second comments" and "fourth comments. Now you go and order the shelves to keep them on :))
@Alexis: LOL...mebe she was telling the truth ;)
@IIC:That was hilarious!!! :))
@Aashik: What she meant to say was that she had done her Intermediate Course in Company Secretaryship :))
Guess who hates her ponytails being pulled??? grrrrrr

Enigma said...

funny post enjoyed redaing thru it :)

silverine said...

@Enigma: Thank you Enigma :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I am an American living abroad in Germany and it is good to be reminded that as a Westerner we tend to be a bit harsh on judging other cultures. Just because something is different from what we know doesn't mean it is wrong. I am learning that every day. I think sometimes it is a harder lesson for Americans to understand but one that nonetheless we need to try and learn. (Especially something the USA government needs to learn--sorry had to throw that in there.)

silverine said...

Anon: Thank you for dropping by and the insights :)