Indians find it hilarious and wasteful that I use toilet paper after going to the bathroom, instead of the ubiquitous squirter hose in every toilet.
(As we’re leaving a Chinese restaurant to go on a weekend drive)
“Hey…maybe you should grab some of these napkins…for your ass!”
(All the Indians laugh.)
“I got mangoes! 20 rupees for a big one and a small one”.
“You were ripped off. You see these green and black marks? That means it was chemically ripened.”
“Uh…I didn’t know that was possible.”
(We go back to the stand and leave again a few minutes later with 2 huge evenly-ripened mangoes.)
Another westerner, this time from Italy, started at the lab a couple weeks ago. Since I had been around for longer, it was kind of my job to guide him around. I heard from him that last Saturday, he got an offer from an autorickshaw driver to drive him around Bangalore for 300 rupees for an entire day. Apparently, he was well served, going to museums, sights, etc. and the rickshaw driver would wait outside for an hour or so each time. At the end, the westerner was so happy he gave the driver 500 rupees (a little over $10). This is way overpriced. Normally, guide books say you can usually get an autorickshaw for an entire day for 250 rupees, so even the original price was pretty high. The westerner doesn’t yet know the proper prices of things, which I know a little more about. So I’m annoyed and felt that he was ripped off. But why do I care? Its so little money.
“What’s your last name?”
“Is that Protestant or catholic?”
“I don’t know? I’m an atheist.”
“In India, even If someone is an athiest, they know what the origin of their last name means.”
“It’s probably Protestant, because my dad’s ancestors came from the British isles.”
(I now feel inadequate and disrespectful of my ancestors).
I went to a pub in Bangalore last Saturday night. It was full of Indian males with low alcohol tolerance playing air guitar to angry metal music from 15 years ago. It was so loud I couldn’t talk to the people I’ve with. I’ve heard this is the norm. (More on the Indian bar experience later!).
In reaction to my terrible pub experience, I’m been looking for a place that has dancing in Bangalore. I asked some older guys at my office where I could find a “dance club”.
“Dance clubs are illegal in all of India.”
“What? How is that possible? But, there’s even scenes with dancing in Bollywood movies.”
“That will just be a set they put up for the movie, and then take down.”
“But, I don’t even understand this, how can dancing be illegal?”
“There are some places you can find if you are really looking for them, but they will be expensive.”
I found out 24 hours later, then for Indians older than mid-20’s, “dance club” = “strip club”. I went around the office later telling everyone that I was not, in fact, looking for a strip club. What I should have said is discotheque. (I actually found one last night, and was happy).
Even though almost everyone I deal with regularly can speak English, I have met very few native speakers, and so I’ve been checking myself from using over colourful or metaphorical language. Frequently, after a sentence leaves my mouth, and someone expresses confusion, I realize that what I really meant was hidden behind several layers of literal interpretation. I’ve had to rewrite emails a couple times. I’ve been developing a non-standard english spidy-sense, where I’m able to stop myself before I write or say something that is non-standard English. But it feels like I’m losing my literacy, so I’ve started writing little short stories and poetry to not lose my grasp on extravagant English.
As I was walking home from exercising at a gym, I made a throwaway remark to another person about how I was going to shower at home because the showers at the gym kind of smell funny and don’t work well. Apparently, he took it to heart, because a week or so later, I heard him talking to a bunch of people about how it was embarrassing how Indian is known for its bad smell, and specifically that spitting and sneezing in public should be illegal. I talked to him later and said that this was almost exactly the case in Singapore and its overly clean and creepy. That’s another extreme. I guess I should be careful what I say.