Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cultural Shock

இந்தியாவில் இருந்து வெளிநாட்டுக்கு குறிப்பாக ஐரோப்பா, அமெரிக்க போன்ற நாடுகளுக்கு படிக்க வரும் மாணவர்கள் எதிர்நோக்கும் ஒரு விடயம், இந்த கலாசார மாற்றம். அனைத்துமே இந்தியாவில் நடந்தது போல் அல்லாமல் வேறு விதமாக நடக்கும். இது இந்தியாவில் இருந்து வரும் மாணவர்களுக்கு மட்டும் இல்லை, ஐரோப்பாவில் இருந்து ஆசியாவுக்கு செல்பவர்களுக்கும் பொருந்தும். இங்கு இருந்து செல்லும் முன் மாணவர்களுக்கு கலாச்சார மாற்றம் குறித்து தனி நிகழ்ச்சி நடத்த படுகிறது.

இதை ஒரு தலைப்பாக எழுதித்தரும் படி சக பதிவர் SG அவர்களை கேட்டுக்கொண்டேன். அவர் ஆங்கிலத்தில் கொடுத்ததை இங்கு அப்படியே தருகிறேன். இதை தமிழில் மொழிபெயர்த்து அதன் நளினத்தை சித்திக்க விரும்பவில்லை.

நன்றி SG உங்கள் நேரம் மற்றும் பதிவிற்கு.
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I think this post is a lot less relevant these days with westernization moving at an exponential pace in India. Since this is confined mostly to the cities and there are others who come to Germany, I think some of this probably still makes sense (or it simply makes for an interesting read :D). Of course the culture shock can take varying forms, depending on the sex, background, personality and the overall mindset of a person.

I am going to begin by listing some of my experiences, and I am going to be as frank as I can (as is permissible in a public forum). It should be noted that I came here in Feb 2003 and that was the time when MNCs had not ventured into India in full force, take-away pizzas were rare, dating was unheard of (and those who did date did it like the CIA and guarded their secret like the FBI) and there were no ‘educational’ movies like Dhoom 2 or Race or Kandhasamy to learn from.

It was my second day in Germany. As I was sitting with a bunch of my classmates, 2 Spanish students joined us. They introduced themselves as newcomers and began by shaking hands with everyone. As the first one approached me, I put out my hand (a little reluctantly, albeit with a big smile) and before I knew it, he gave me a hug!! I was still in shock when the second guy gave me a hug too! To me it was completely unexpectant and in fact, quite bewildering. Then they sat down and began merrily chatting with all of us.

Physical contact: The first thing that bothered me was the hitherto-unused-to physical contact – handshakes, hugs and sometimes even a kiss on the cheek or on the hand. Although I have been born and brought up in Chennai with a number of male friends (some of them really close that they meet my parents now and then even when I am not in town), both from school and college, there was somehow no physical contact in the friendship. I have lots of cousins and I am close with them and excepting those, physical contact with guys was completely foreign to me.

It was my first month in Germany. I was in the S-Bahn (local train) and the only one in a 4-seater, with 2 seats facing 2 others. In one of the stops, a young couple boarded the train and sat in the seats exactly opposite to me. As soon as they sat down, they began kissing vehemently. I was completely embarrassed and didn’t know where I should look since they were in my line of sight, I looked outside the window for a while and stared at the train ceiling for a while and all along, I had this creepy sensation of two people being tongue-tied next to me. At one point, I could take it no longer and so I moved away to a different part of the train. When I mentioned this to one of my friends, he said, ‘Nee james bond movies parthadhu illaya??’ and I retorted ‘sure, but ivalo close-upla, ivalo livea naan edhuvum parthadhe illa’!!!

Public displays: It is very common to see couples here holding hands, hugging, kissing etc. in public places (right from a shopping mall to an elevator – no exceptions!). This has embarrassed me quite a few times but I slowly learnt to live with it or rather ignore it. Over time, I have grown up to an extent that public displays of love sometimes make me smile. What bothers me most is when there is a public display of lust. I saw a lady step down from a train, and nearly run to hug her husband and kids on the platform – this falls in the former category and is heart-warming while seeing 2 teenagers lip-locked in front of my building is not!

I was waiting to withdraw cash from an ATM and in the queue, there was a desi guy and ahead of him was a German. When the German got his turn and was at the machine, the desi guy stood very close behind him (like we do in queues in India fearing that if we left a gap, someone would come and fill it !) and the German turned and stared at him a couple of times and finally said “Könnten Sie bitte Abstand halten” i.e. “Can you please maintain some distance?”

Personal space: People need their space be it a queue or public transport. I have noticed people standing even when there are seats left in a 4-seater since they prefer standing to sitting in close quarters with strangers. In general, no one breaks a queue anywhere, so people maintain a good distance from each other.


I was in Amsterdam for a weekend and as I turned around a corner, I almost ran into two people kissing. I was flustered and looked up to apologize, but the two blonde men (yes, men) hadn’t even noticed me !


I was on a work trip to Canada and although I was traveling alone, I had a spacious suite with a living room, dining room and a huge bedroom with twin beds. One of my colleagues who was leaving Canada that night missed her flight and had to spend the night. While she was thinking of hotel rooms, I suggested that she stay with me instead of spending money. She happily agreed and when she came to spend the night, she had brought her own sleeping bag and slept in the living room although I told her more than once that she can sleep in one of the beds.


Same sex interaction:
Interaction between similar sexes is pushed to extremes here. When on the one side, there are same-sex couples, on the other side men are totally against any physical contact with other men like hugging or having one’s arm over the other’s shoulder and they are completely shocked when they see desis do all this (I had a couple of people, who have seen guys sharing a bicycle – doubles – ask me if they are homosexual). In case of women, there are some who would hug and kiss (or rub cheeks, I really do not know the right way!) when they greet and some who shy away from it.

I was in the University when one of the guys who worked with me under the same professor as a RA (research assistant) asked me if I would have coffee with him. I was under the impression that coffee meant ‘just coffee’ until he had this sheepish grin on his face.

I was coming home after a b’day party and as I was waiting in the train station, an unknown guy approached me and asked if I was interested to have some drinks with him and some “fun”. I pointed to the ring in my finger and I said that I am married (although I wasn’t then, the ring is sure helpful!) and not interested. He walked away.


Accosting people and dating: Men accosting women either for dates or ‘otherwise’ is quite common. The key is to assess the situation and react accordingly without going into panic mode. Being accosted by a drunken gang in a station at night is obviously much different than being asked out by a guy at work. In one way, I feel this is better than being gawked at all the time. People generally take ‘no’ well too.

It was my first summer here and it was extremely hot (touched 40 deg C on one day). My apartment in the university was just behind the woods and also had considerable stretches of greenery on the front. Women in bikins and men in trunks (Irrespective of their figures, all people who sun-bathed would be clad in similar costume) sun bathing was something that happened everyday. I did get used to seeing it pretty quickly but what always bothered me was some desis and people from other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, staring open-mouthed at these people.

It was my first time to the University swimming pool. When I went to the women’s bathroom, to take a shower, I was in for a shock. There were no curtains, no partitions – it was just a huge room with a number of showers and everyone in there was naked. I was the only one showering with a swim suit on and excepting a couple who gave me a weird look, no one else cared.


‘Freedom’ w.r.t clothing: I need not elaborate on this. What one must understand is that everyone has his/her own opinion as to what and what not to wear. This is almost akin to vegetarianism for me. While I do not eat meat, I do not make faces when someone next to me does. So be yourself and let others do what they do. People here are used to seeing women in skimpy clothes, so someone wearing a swim suit does not attract as much attention as it would in India. While this works to the advantage of desi girls, guys get in trouble ! For guys (and sometimes, even girls), sight adichufying is different from gaping at someone. Alavodu jolli valamaga vazhga !

Many universities like the University of Stuttgart, offer integration programs that discuss various aspects of the Cultural shock, not only to arriving desis but also to Germans who have to interact with them.

It all comes down to living and learning and giving people the benefit of doubt. Do some research on dos and donts and exercise discretion and you should be fine. At the end of it all, you would definitely have some interesting stuff to share like I do :). But, please, please, bear in mind that while in Germany, you are an Indian ambassador and anything/everything you do will go into a German's definition of an Indian. So do your bit to make this definition better and not the other way around.

For more information about ''what is typical in Germany'', read this post.

- SG

7 comments:

நட்புடன் ஜமால் January 27, 2010 at 7:09 AM  

முன்னுரை மட்டும்(தான் இப்ப) படிச்சேன். சரியன விடயமே.

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மற்றவையும் படிக்கின்றேன் - ஆ-ங்கிலம்.

S.A. நவாஸுதீன் January 27, 2010 at 7:13 AM  

நல்ல விஷயம். பலருக்கு உபயோகமாக அமையும். வாழ்த்துக்கள்.

SK January 27, 2010 at 10:38 AM  

நன்றி நவாஸ். தமிழ்மணம் மற்றும் தமிளிஷில் இணைத்தமைக்கு.

பொறுமையா படிங்க ஜமால். அழகா எழுதி இருக்காங்க.

பதி January 27, 2010 at 5:57 PM  

தேவையான மற்றும் அவசியமான ஒரு இடுகை. நானும் பல சந்தர்ப்பங்களில் இது போல் ஏதாவது எழுத எண்ணி கிடப்பில் போட்டுள்ளேன்.
இதனை இங்கு பதிந்தமைக்கு நன்றி SK

இந்திய/தமிழக சூழலில் மிகவும் கட்டுபாட்டுடன் வளர்ந்த, தாங்களுடைய பழக்க வழக்கங்கள் தான் உலகிலேயே "சிறந்தது"' (!!!!) என எண்ணிக் கொண்டுள்ள பலருக்கும் இது தேவைப்படும்.

பொதுவாக கலாச்சாரம் என்னும் சொல்லை உபயோகிக்காமல் பழக்க வழக்கம் என்னும் சொல்லை உபயோகிக்கலாம் என்னபது எனது கருத்து.

சரி.

//Over time, I have grown up to an extent that public displays of love sometimes make me smile.//
ஆரம்பத்திலிருந்தே எனக்கு என்னவோ இது போன்ற அன்பை வெளிப்படுத்தும் ஜோடிகளைப் பார்க்கும் போது ஒரு குறுஞ்சிரிப்பொன்றே இழையோடும் !!!!
:-)

//What one must understand is that everyone has his/her own opinion as to what and what not to wear. //

இது போன்ற சிறிய விசயங்களை கூட உணர்ந்து/புரிந்து கொள்ள முடியாத சிலர் முதுகலை முடித்துவிட்டு முனைவர் பட்டத்திற்கு வெளியில் வருகின்றனர். அப்படி வருகின்றவர்கள் ஐரோப்பிய சமூகத்தினரைப் பற்றிய ஒரு கீழ்த்தரமான கருத்தாக்கத்தினை கொண்டிருப்பதோடு மட்டுமலாது அதனை போகும் இடமெல்லாம் கொண்டு சென்று விநியோகித்தும் வருகின்றனர் !!!

இந்தியாவில் பெண்கள், சிறுவர்களுக்கு எதிரான பாலியல் குற்றங்களின் எண்ணிக்கை மற்றும் அதன் விகிதாச்சாரத்தைப் பற்றியோ, தனியாக மட்டுமல்லாது தன் துணைகளுடன் போகும் பெண்களுக்கு சமயங்களில் தமது "கலச்சாரத்தில் உயர்ந்த புண்ணிய பூமியில்" எண்ண நிகழ்கின்றது என்பதைப் பற்றி கிஞ்சித்தும் அறிவற்றவர்கள், அல்லது அதனைப் பற்றி பேச மறுப்பவர்கள் தான் நான் மேற்குறிப்பிட்ட வகையினர்.

ஒவ்வொரு ஆண்டும் ஆய்வுக்காகவோ அல்லது தனிப்பட்ட முறையிலோ குறைந்தௌ 2 நாடுகளுக்காவது ஐரோப்பாவில் பயணம் செய்ய நேர்கையில் சந்திக்க நேர்கின்றது அங்கொன்றும் இங்கொன்றுமாக விரவியிருக்கும் நமது கலாச்சார காவலர்களை !!!
:)

பதி January 27, 2010 at 6:00 PM  

இடுகையின் அனைத்து விசயங்களையும் ஒப்புக் கொண்டாலும்,

//please, please, bear in mind that while in Germany, you are an Indian ambassador and anything/everything you do will go into a German's definition of an Indian. //

இந்த வாக்கியத்தில் நான் முற்றிலும் மாறுபடுகின்றேன்.

உடை, உணவுப் பழக்க வழக்கம், மொழி, உறவுமுறையில் திருமணம் போன்ற ஏராளாமன விசயங்களில் முரண்பாடுகளின் மொத்த உருவமான இந்தியாவினை எல்லாம் எந்த மாநிலத்திலிருந்து வரும் யாரும் பிரதிபலிக்க இயலாது மற்றும் அதற்கான தேவையும் அவசியமும் இல்லை.

உங்களது தேசிய மொழி என்ன என வினவி அப்படி ஒன்று இல்லை மற்றும் அதற்கான தேவை இல்லை என பதில் சொல்லி அவர்களின் எதிர்வினையை கண்டு இரசித்து விட்டு அதற்கான காரணங்களை சுருங்கச் சொல்ல 1 நிமிட பதில் போதும் நம் மொழிப் பிரச்சனையை விளங்கப்படுத்த.

இது மற்ற அனைத்து விடயங்களுக்கும் பொருந்தும்.


ஆக நாம் தேவையற்று மற்றவர்களை பிரதிபலிக்க எல்லாம் முயற்சி செய்யத் தேவை இல்லை என்பது எனது எண்ணம்.

நாம் நாமகவே இருப்போம் !!!!!!!!

nila February 14, 2011 at 11:06 PM  

i agree that these physical contacts among youngsters make us turn our face. but here in spain i have seen old couple walking hand in hand with each other, supporting each each other, embracing each other. on seeing that i have always felt that we loose such love in our country as people get old. we r reluctant in showing our better half that we love n care for them. rest, i had same experiences... but it was not a shock for me as i know such things r common here.

arul April 22, 2012 at 9:54 AM  

this post is very helpful about other
cultures

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