Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cultural Awareness 101 - Right but not right.

A maid working for an American family went sobbing to the Indian neighbors. Asked them to talk to 'sir' as his behavior was causing her great grief at home. It turned out that sir had been making her sit on the dining table to eat with them and smiling and talking to her nicely. Sounds good on paper but in a country where there is a huge class divide this behavior had gotten her husband extremely suspicious. He had walked by the house on occasion and was sure there were unchastely events happening beyond the dining table.

Today I stopped for lunch at a fast food place (kathi kabab roll for those that have to know). I ordered my food then something for our driver. When the food arrived I realized that I had not asked for his food to go. I called him up to ask him to come in and eat. I was going to sit at another table. I could sense his immense discomfort as he refused politely. Then I felt really uncomfortable as I asked them to wrap up and take the food to the car. It was weird and I was glad when we did not discuss this on my getting back into the car.

I guess I am learning too like the poor American dude, it is not always the intentions that matter, right for one maybe downright (uncomfortably) wrong for another.

A smile and a roll on a dining table - ughh, now it sounds bad on paper too.


  1. Are you the american family in the story or the indian neighbour :-)

  2. Interesting. I have always vowed that I would treat my maids like equals if I ever went back, and would eat them at the dining table with the rest of the family. I guess I never thought of the expectation at the other end could be different :)