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Manners?

So today a telephone conversation with Babu got onto the subject of manners, I had hiccuped and almost instantaneously said “excuse me”.  He started to tell me, that in his culture, it is considered rude to have manners around the people close to you.

Confused much? I was.

He said that Indians expect that they should be allowed to burp or whatever in front of others (more specifically friends and family) without apology, and that no pleases or thank you’s are required because it is expected that you can have that, or you deserve it, so no thanks is required.

He went on to say in fact that if you were to use manners at home or whatever it could in fact cause offence?  For a girl who had been brought up always to use her “Ps and Qs” with a strong expectation of the same from everyone else, this is all a bit foreign to me (excuse the unintentional pun).

Don’t get me wrong, from my experience, he has better manners than most guys I’ve met, he works for a top cruise line – you couldn’t expect anything else – he’d be out of a job otherwise!  If I do something nice for him he will always say thank you, and if he does wrong he will say sorry – I don’t think any man in my life has ever said sorry to me before!

So, maybe it is just something that is more localised to his friends and family, or even where he is from, or maybe it is more of a cultural thing, but I just don’t get it.  No matter where I am, what I am doing, manners are the one thing I always take with me, and they generally get me quite far with others.

Maybe it was the chastisement that me and every other child growing up in Britain got whenever we didn’t use our manners that leads me to be so perplexed, so please excuse my ignorance.

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9 responses to “Manners?

  • sharell

    You’ll find that Indian culture is often the complete opposite of the west in many ways, and this is a prime example.;-) What he told you is true, as unreal as it seems. There’s an uncle in my family that lets out numerous loud and unstifled burps at the dinner table after eating, without any apology or thought that he’s done anything wrong. Which, of course, he hasn’t by Indian standards. I also thanked my mother in law for going out of her way to come and pick me up on the train. Her response was “why?” for the thank you. In her mind, it was completely unnecessary as she was just doing her duty.

    • ria

      This really made me giggle! I can imagine after the initial shock it can prove quite amusing, I just hope that when I do eventually visit India my extreme manners don’t offend – I say extreme because I have spent the majority of my career working for a posh supermarket, it’s drummed into you so much it becomes second nature, the words “sir” and “madam” roll off of my tongue a little too easily!

  • Piu

    You go girl ! Manners are very important and do not give it up !

    While his wording is a bit perplexing; I guess he means, take it easy in front of others, and let them be ? Most people in India have never heard of the word, and bringing it up in any form can cause some kind of unwanted sentimentalism ….

    • ria

      Oh my manners won’t be going anywhere!

      I have sooo much to learn, I worry that maybe when I meet his family “being on my best behaviour” won’t be the best option on that occasion 😉

  • Arvind

    Just stumbled upon your blog. Interesting topic! I am an Indian living in the Unites States since the past dozen years. Although there are some parallels to your story (I married a local girl i.e. white American), we never had to deal with the long distance angle.

    Coming to your boyfriend’s point about manners: he is 100% right. That’s exactly how it is perceived in India. Let me try to explain. I hope it wouldn’t confuse you further!

    “Thank you”, “sorry”, “please” and “excuse me” as well as other terms in the “manners” category, are considered as formal expressions. Consequently, there’s some amount of stiffness, aloofness or distance attached to it as it is perceived there – a distance that has an air of artificiality between people who have a close bond between them. For instance, I could never say “thank you” to my dad or mom – not because I take pleasure in being callous and rude but because it would have a hollow ring of insincerity to it. It would be more befitting to reciprocate the act in action than words i.e. do something nice in appreciation instead.

    • ria

      Thanks Arvind, that has helped make it clearer for me, I’m loving learning about these little quirks that I otherwise wouldn’t have had any clue about!

  • travelbeans

    I was born and raised in India but I have always expressed my gratitude with a “thank you” and used the words “please”, “sorry”, “excuse me” quite liberally. Proper etiquette was an integral part of my school life. At home, my parents expected no less. So I am quite surprised by your’s and Sharell’s experiences. Well, maybe it depends on the family?
    Anyway, my point is, please don’t leave your manners at home when you go to India. It is important to be polite anywhere in the world.

    • ria

      Hi Travelbeans,

      Indeed, maybe it could even be a regional thing with Babu and Sharell’s Husband both being from the same state. As for me, my manners always come with me wherever I go, I am one of those British people (I have never come across anyone from another country with this problem) who ends up saying sorry when things aren’t even my fault – example – someone walks into me – I say sorry – then walk away thinking how ridiculous I am 🙂

  • the inquisitive

    I think it is right to say that it depends on the family as well as the region, because I have been taught to mind my manners at all times. Where I come from (south India), it is considered to be more civilised. Also, I never got such a comment (I sometimes got queer looks, though). However, my old room-mate used to tell me that I was too formal. I have occasionally experienced that embarrassing “sorry-situation”, too. 🙂

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