Cultural differences

One of the big things here is to be “fair” not dark. The western norm of beauty is really gathering force and your skin has to be as fair as possible if you are to be seen  or want to be successful.

It is also probably a class and caste difference, as in general rural people and those who work outdoors tend to be darker.  There are hundreds of lightening creams on the market, Fair and Lovely, Natural White and other similar names. The number of ads on TV is shameful really, using Bollywood celebrities with a sort of light-o-meter miraculous skin tone change that happens on screen, promised in 2 -3 weeks. A speeded up  Michael Jackson-type conversion.  So while the foreigners are out to get a tan, while most Indian people, women especially, shun the sun.

Another example of cultural difference is around privacy, personal space, noise or having consideration of others. There is no privacy at all, people just ask you “What are you doing here? For how long? Why? How much does it pay? Why did you leave your country? How old are you? Are you married? Why not? What we would see as somewhat private matters are not here, they are in the public domain and a source of fascination and amazement.

For personal space and noise differences, here is a great example from the swimming pool at a hotel in Kerala. Two Scots that I had met at the hotel were lying on sunloungers beside the pool, trying to get a tan before going back to the frozen north. I was lying nearby on a lounger under a big parasol nearby. It is quite peaceful, only foreigners lying by the pool. So then arrives an Indian couple, young, affluent. He strips off to his swim gear and jumps into the pool, shouting and playing around. She does not swim. She is dressed in a salwar kameez, and shouting too, starts to take pictures of aqua boy, who is cavorting and snorting in the water, it’s a scene of merriment and yelling. Then she sits down, on the tiny stool meant for drinks, right next to the Scottish couple, who are in swimsuits. So the Scottish woman reading quietly in a bikini, now has the Indian woman about 2 inches away from her, plonked down in their space, fully dressed, all the while shouting and chatting with her boyfriend/husband in the water and taking photographs. Eventually, the Indian couple leave, leaving the Scots looking around in slight amazement at what just happened, and me giggling quietly into my bottle of water.


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