I’ve never thought about it in those terms until I came across this blog post today: Stuff Desis/BrownPeople Like: #54 Placing People
“But to get yourself placed in a totally uber category, you should be dating/married to a white person or at the minimum having lunch/coffee with a non desi.”I know this blog is tongue-in-cheek, but I guess there’s a truth behind it. For my husband, being married to me (a white girl) isn’t much of a status symbol – he didn’t go out looking specifically for an American or a white girl. He didn’t “need me” in order to get somewhere in life. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time and things worked out.
- Always offer – no actually insist - on offering your guests a drink (a cold drink or hot tea/coffee – depending on the time of day). We had sparkling pink lemonade with our Indian guests today. But many Indians like chai in the morning and at mid-afternoon tea time as well.
- Your Indian guests may not like much ice – especially if the drink is already cold, so it’s better to ask.
- Have some snacks on hand to offer your guests. Today I was caught off guard – we’ve been trying to eat healthier, and so I’ve been buying less “snacky” foods. I had to really dig (when reminded by my husband!) to find something appropriate. What did I end up serving? I found some Trader Joe’s Oriental Rice Crackers, and some digestive biscuits, and some spicy peanuts. Whew, I pulled that one off!
- Presentation is important – don’t serve the drinks in recycled plastic 7-11 cups! Dust off your nicer cups and it is considered polite to serve drinks (even just one drink) on a tray of some sort. Don’t ask me why – but in almost every house I’ve ever been to (as a guest) I have always be served drinks from a tray…
- If you’re serving food, it is better for the hostess to wait until everyone has been served. In some houses the hostess won’t eat at all until everyone has eaten.
- You should insist that your guests have more to eat – even go so far as to serve more on their plate – even if they say no. You have to give a very forceful no if you really are full – otherwise everyone will just assume you’re being polite!
- When you go to someone’s house and eat, be sure to take very little at first – so that you’ll have enough room to have seconds – that is a compliment to the hostess – otherwise they’ll think you don’t like the food or it’s too spicy or something.
- Try to always have something on hand in case unexpected guests show up – depending on the time, you might need to invite them to stay for dinner - better add some more water to the dahl!
So the guy at the pharmacy the other day was a really nice older man. He started chatting with me while filling my prescription. When I when I handed him my credit card to pay – he commented on my last name. I have to give him props because he actually said it right. Some people don’t even try – but it’s really not that hard – it’s phonetic people!
Anyway, to my surprise, he looked at it and said, oh your last name must be Indian… I smiled and said yes, it sure is! I was thinking how well-informed this pharmacist must be – he probably meets all kinds of people… and who knows, maybe he’s even come across our last name before!
I guess I got excited too soon… because the next thing he did was scratch his head and say… “Now is that Cherokee or Apache…?”
Carrie’s mother Peggy became concerned about her daughter’s social and romantic needs as Carrie entered adulthood. “When the loneliness began to loom around 21 and she saw her sister and brother having relationships and getting married, she longed for it,” says Peggy. Group discussions at a nearby resource center for people with disabilities brought “some comfort,” she says, but Carrie continued to talk about meeting her “Mr. Right.” Says Peggy: “We never dreamed it would happen.”
Sujeet’s mother Sindoor, however, says she “had marriage in sight straightaway” once Sujeet expressed interest in Carrie. “We come from a different culture,” she explains. As India-born Hindus, Sindoor and Sharad Desai, both dentists, “don’t expect dating and breaking [up].” Nor did Sindoor wish to expose her vulnerable son to the emotional upheavals of serial entanglements.
- IST (Indian Standard Time/Indian Stretchable Time): Invitations sent out said the party was starting at 7 pm… got a call a couple of hours before the party saying it had been pushed back to 7:30. It was all good, we had to drive across the Canadian border, since the party was in Vancouver, so that gave us more time to get there. We figured the party wouldn’t start on time anyway, so we arrived at 7:45 (maybe even a little closer to 8), and you guessed it – we were the first guests to arrive! Thankfully the next guests arrived about 10 minutes after we did. But the birthday boy didn’t arrive until 9.
- Food: We weren’t told ahead of time whether we would be having dinner or just snacks. Our guess was that there would be dinner – because most Indians eat dinner late (between 8-10 pm) and what is an Indian party without food? My husband was concerned, because he was starving, but I felt sure they would have dinner. So we took a gamble and went with empty stomachs… and we were happy we did! There was a full Indian dinner – totally fabulous – veg & non-veg.
- Guests: All Indian, aside from me (American) and one girl from Thailand. I don’t mind being the only white person at a gathering, especially when I’m not singled out. Often times in India I would be offered a spoon or fork when everyone else was eating with their hands – which at first was a nice gesture – but eventually I just wished I could blend in better! Thankfully, we know these friends really well and they always tell me I’m “like an Indian in disguise.” I choose to take that as a compliment.
- Conversation: We got lots of questions from guests who we were just meeting for the first time. They wanted to know how we met, where we’re from, etc. A couple of the guys were talking to my husband and found out they had been in North America for approximately the same amount of time. They were like, “Man, how did you get such a great American accent so soon?” I have to laugh at that one… my husband does not have an American accent…nor does he try to fake one. He grew up in an English speaking home and studied in English schools. If anything he sounds more British than American. But I think because he’s married to a white American girl, and because he does speak English very well, these guys assumed that his accent has morphed in just a few short years.
- Birthday Cake: If you’ve been to an Indian birthday party before, you might have seen the birthday boy or girl cut the cake and feed it to their family (much like a bride and groom do at an American wedding). This party was no different, the birthday boy fed his wife first, then went around the room and fed all of us a bite (from the same piece of cake – with his hands)! It was….interesting. We did sing “Happy Birthday” but only after the candles were blown out and the cake was cut.
- Customs: In India, on a birthday, usually the birthday boy/girl is expected to “treat” his friends. In school, you might provide cake/candy for your classmates or when you get older you might be expected to pay for your guest’s dinner on your birthday.
If you are in an Indian intercultural relationship, or if you have plans to visit India anytime soon, you might expect that you can communicate effectively by just knowing English. That might be true – but only up to a point. There are a few differences, especially if you speak American English. Because of it’s history as a British colony, India has retained the British use of many English words. In addition to British words, there are some Indian expressions that are unique to India.
In the beginning of our marriage, I found myself having to “translate” for my husband at times. Now, he has learned most of the American words for things, but on occasion I still have to poke him in the ribs when our friends look a little perplexed at something he’s just said! Of course, when we’re in India, he gets his turn to make fun of me too!
I thought it would be fun to make a list of a few of these words. The Indian use of the word is on the left, and the American meaning is on the right. If you have any words to add, please leave a comment!
- Auto – Auto Rickshaw
- Biscuits – Cookies
- Bunk – Strike, Absent without Permission
- Cool Drink – Soda
- Crore – 100 Lakhs – 10 Million (1,00,00,000)
- Dickie or Boot – Trunk of A Car
- Dustbin – Trash Can
- English-Medium –Schools Taught in English
- Flat – Apartment
- Flyover – Overpass (Highway)
- Football – Soccer
- French Beard – Goatee
- Fringe – Bangs (Hair)
- Full Stop – Period (Punctuation)
- Geezer – Hot Water Heater/Tank
- Hash Mark – Pound Sign (#)
- Holiday – Vacation
- Homely – Someone who is Domesticated
- Indicator – Blinker/Turn Signal (Car)
- Lakh – 1,00,000
- Lift – Elevator
- Met with an Accident – Had An Accident
- Nappy/Nappy Pad – Baby’s Diaper
- Petrol Bunk – Gas Station
- Queue – Line
- Ring-Up – To Call Someone
- Rubber – Eraser
- To Let/To Hire – To Rent
- Torch – Flashlight
- Windscreen – Windshield
- Zip – Zipper