Culture Shock: Privacy

Culture Shock: Privacy
india chaos chor bazaar

Chor Bazaar in Bombay.(Photo by Eric Parker)

There are so many things I had to live with and was NOT accustomed to when I moved to India. Slowly, some of those things are becoming tolerable. Some are still not. One may experience culture shock when moving to a different country, and usually, when people visit or move to India, those things include: massive poverty, adults and kids doing their private business out on the streets, the crazy roads, the smells, the cows, the staring, the dirtiness, the crowds… As soon as you step out of the Chhatrapati Shivaji (Bombay) Airport, chaos is apparent. (On a side note, every time I arrive to India, the airport has been improved.)

elephant railway crossing

Elephant at a Mumbai railway crossing (Photo by Arpana/Rajal)

mumbai traffic

Evening traffic, Mumbai (Photo by Christopher Rose)

But not me, none of those things affect me because I know to expect them when arriving here, and frankly, and possibly unfortunately, I am used to them. In fact, my first time in India, I was 6 years old, so I don’t remember ever experiencing culture shock in India, that is until Josh and I moved into our house about 2 months ago.

Visiting and living in India are two completely different experiences.

One of the first culture shocks I experienced was the privacy intrusion:

I love my privacy. Ever since I can remember, at home, I used to spend most of the time by myself in my room (painting, using the computer, watching tv, eating chocolate, reading, writing…), and even though I wasn’t hiding from anything, it bugged me when the door was open. Major pet peeve growing up: whenever anyone entered my room and left without closing the door. Having said that, I also loved spending time with friends, outside in the world, but always enjoyed my time alone.

Then, when I moved to the U.S. to be with Josh, it was always just us two. Which was totally comfortable, (it is kind of crazy how Josh and I never get tired of each other), we never had people over (we would always come to them, or meet at a 3rd place), and obviously didn’t have maids or cooks (because no one does in the U.S.) So!… When we moved to a house in India, the lack of privacy was a major culture shockI even wrote about it back in July.

We had people dropping in, unannounced, many times a days. They were just trying to be helpful and asking if we needed anything, and sometimes bringing food. But it really became too much. They were dropping in when we were still sleeping; they were dropping in during the day, afternoon, and night. Even workers don’t schedule visits, they drop in when they can. I was unhappy about all this. Even though I do appreciate the help to get settled, I still felt invaded. Almost felt the pain in my heart.

Now, people have learned not to come before 1pm, whether we are awake or not, and the visits, even though they are still happening, have reduced. There has not been one single day where we have had the house all to ourselves. I would still love that, but I have learned to tolerate and get used to the drop-in visits, they don’t surprise me anymore.

Here’s a tip about complaining: A few days ago, I was feeling very frustrated about this whole privacy thing, and specifically about the one person who was coming to our house many times a day. I was going to complain to Josh about it, (he receives a lot of my complaints because he’s basically the only person I have to talk to, and I’m sure it’s getting old), and some of these complaints might come out as backbiting, something God doesn’t like at all, so we try not to backbite as much as possible. I complain to Josh as a way to vent, but before I went to him to complain about this, I remembered something I had recently read online about taking your complaints to God, so I gave it a shot. For the first time, I complained and talked about my feelings about this person to God instead of to Josh. And guess what? It worked like a charm!

Over the next few days, this guy reduced his visits and the length of his visits. Plus, the venting purpose worked too because I didn’t feel the need to tell Josh or anyone else about this feeling I was having. It was amazing. I am not saying here that if you take a complaint to God, He will fix whatever it is, (even though He did make it better this time), but I do suggest you give it a try. I know I will try to remember to continue doing this whenever I have a complaint.

11 Comments

  1. Love reading a foreigner’s perspective on this. But having lived in the USA, i see a 85 year old lady who lives all alone. She loves it when someone pops by just for a cup of tea and some conversation. She loves watching kids play. I feel sad watching her sometimes and wish she had family visit her more often that once a year. I guess that’s the difference. In rural india, this seldom (not saying never) happens although abandoned elderly is becoming a common sight in the cities.

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  2. you may see it as intrusion on your privacy but to me it’s different. Let me share you a different picture of my village where every person is dependable to others, be it marriages or any other event. Recently I went to my village with my family to attend death ceremony of my grandmother which lasts for 13 days. Atleast each member from a household visited and many relatives and persons who were known to us visited from far away places too. Everytime a villager came he came with home grown vegetables or dairy products. The people there are not rich, in fact, very poor. The annual income of most of them doesnt exceed 1.5 lakh rs but still they are rich by heart. They are more lively and cheerful compared to a rich person in city. The life there is more social than life in cities (where people are social only in social networking sites). Life is more colourful in villages and in cities everything is artificial

    Reply
    • I know it is the way of Indian culture, but that is why it is called culture shock. I didn’t grow up this way, so takes some time to get used to. This blog is personal, so I write about my experiences and feelings. I didn’t mean to offend the Indian culture. In fact, I think it is great how Indian people help each other so much, and they help strangers too. I think what you described about the funeral is very admirable, but I was talking about my daily life experience and the intrusion of privacy in our house every day. I also agree with your statement about Indian people being poor in money, but rich in heart and joy. It is something to admire in India. I understand what you are saying because we don’t live in a city.

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  3. That’s funny because one of the big things I’ve learned about Danish culture is that you NEVER show up to a Danes’ house uninvited or without a previously scheduled appointment. The drop by is highly discouraged. They’re a very private people, these Danes, and I think it can be a shock to those expatriates coming from more colorful, exuberant countries like India.

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  4. I have the same issue with privacy. I couldn’t understand why people would show up unannounced at 9pm and expect to stay the night… or people coming around at 8am. The maids would just walk in to our room and start cleaning (could times I was in the process of getting dressed haha). Guests would also just walk in our bedroom too. LUCKILY we have a lock on our bedroom door, at first I felt it was rude using it all the time but then I realised it was the only way for privacy x

    Reply
    • Yeah, a few times when people have come, especially workers, I would go to the bedroom and try to have some peace, but mostly failed. If it was workers, their tools where way too loud, and if it was people, the talking was loud enough for me not be able to read my book. :s We have those Indian style locks that you just slide in on every door, but they don’t help much.

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