Explaining the Lack of Privacy and the Lack of Verbal Manners in India

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I have posted about lack of privacy culture-shock and about the lack of manners in India in point number 5 of this post.

And now I have explanations to both those things.

Amit from India taught me this:

“The culture here is more like a tribal kind which means people are much more connected to each other rather than an individual kind of culture. In this kind of culture it becomes very difficult to find personal space.

In India many people don’t say thank you and welcome to close ones because we think that when there is closeness it is not needed. You may have observed that in India many will say thank you for a good gesture by a stranger but if the same is done by a close one, they find no reason for this.

In india there is a saying in sanskrit “atithi devo bhava” it means “guest is equal to god”. This is the reason why we are bound to respect our guest and treat them well even if they come uninvited and at any time. In other sense it also means that a person can go to anyone’s house without invitation at any time and leave their house when they (guest) wishes to leave. It may also be the reason why you will not find personal space in India.

You should try this once i.e., going to one of your neighbor’s or friend’s house who knows you and strike up a conversation. I think you will enjoy that.

India is a very different country. It is a place where to communicate words are not always necessary. People read signs and emotions, heart and mind more often than words. Try to understand people’s feelings. It will help you to build your experience and understand people (it will give you the ability to distinguish between bad and good). In India it may happen that what you see cannot be true and what you may not be able to see will be true. Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Ajit from Mumbai taught me something also:

“Please and thank you equivalent words are not used automatically in Marathi [the local Maharashtrian language]. E.g. word for please is krupaya where Krupa means blessing. So “please give water” in Marathi is “bless me with water” sounds funny.

Marathi is my mother tongue and have stayed in Mumbai for last 40+ years of my life. I might still find it difficult to stay in rural Ahmednagar district. So kudos to you for staying there and wonder why God told you to stay there in first place. Western sensibilities regarding privacy, cleanliness, politeness will not work in Ahmednagar so please be safe. “

I told you guys, Ahmednagar ain’t an easy place to live. You heard it from an Indian.

So, what do you think? Very insightful and interesting information from people that know the deal. I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it. I also like that they say “bless me with” instead of “please give me”. I really wish I could learn Hindi and Marathi in a super fast way.

9 thoughts on “Explaining the Lack of Privacy and the Lack of Verbal Manners in India

  1. Very interesting. It’s nice to have an explanation of the cultural differences. It goes a long way towards accepting and moving past any lingering frustrations. (Trust me, I know!) That last post about where you’re living now sounds a little ominous, though! Good luck! 🙂


  2. I had an jaunt that lived in American for 25 years before returning to oz. She was very similar in her thinking and behaviour. Not exactly acceptable Aussie behaviour but we definitely got used to it lol


  3. Didn’t know you had another post on the same topic. I just commented directly on the older one – my 2 cents from a linguistic angle.


  4. Nice thoughts. I’m living in Chennai and have thought about this a lot. I had a similar experience where someone actually got offended that I said “thank you” after they did something really nice for me. I posted the story here: http://globaladjustments.com/wpblog/?p=2495.


  5. Interesting analyses. I have found Indians to be very polite to me as an outside, although I can see the kind of lack of manners/order they have for each other/the system. Maybe this is why queues are so unorderly, because people just don’t feel the need to be polite to one another; they are used to the scrum!


  6. @backpackerlee… don’t say lack of manners. You gave the example of a queue but did you notice that even if the queue is not in order it functions here in India. Do you think that the queue will work if there will be no manners. If you know the indian traffic and then compare it to western traffic here the traffic works pretty well even if people don’t follow it always but i don’t think that if your traffic system will become like India. It will be able to work even for a couple of days. The fact is there is a manner in india which does not works always on a practical level but there is always a understanding within everyone here. Indians don’t need a zebra crossing to cross the road because the motorist and the person crossing the road understand each other. And the biggest example is India itself which is full of contrast. Do you think that the worlds largest democracy can run successfully embracing different language, culture,religion and all the differences which you can notice without manner. I don’t think so.


    1. Amit, thanks for your input. Just wanted to let you know for next time that you can reply to someone’s comment by clicking reply above their comment, instead of adding a new separate comment. This way they also know you replied to their comment. 🙂


  7. American Punjaban PI February 1, 2014 — 7:20 am

    Another point on the privacy, they share everything as a sort of alternate to the checks and balances system we have in place in many western societies. Whereas here you adhere to societal rules because of the impending sense of punishment, etc and thus most people don’t violate the trust of others, in India they keep everyone close enough that the opportunity never arises. Instead of us having committees and agencies that monitor everything we do, in India your whole family makes sure you don’t mess up so to speak. I think this system works quite well in India on so many levels but leaves the people with less power over government corruption and issues outside of the home. Inside of the home, they have it well under control.
    In my own personal nature, I’ve not been able to grasp and hold onto the concept of not saying please, thank you, etc. Even after 6 years I still use those words with my husband. It’s too deeply ingrained in me and I want the same love and appreciation back. He says things to me that let me know he appreciates all I do, it’s just not please and thank you.


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