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A week before Christmas I decided to fly back to India for a short vacation and to get a quick breather from the German winter that was trying it’s very best to kill me, and of course my time there was quite interesting.
I definitely will always have more good things to say about India than I have bad, but a dear friend suggested I write on this topic, and since he’s probably the only regular human being who reads my blog, I figured why not.
Here’s a list of my top things that annoy you when you go back home to India:
1. Social Distance
I sat by the boarding gate in Frankfurt, exhausted from a long journey after 2 Deutsche Bahn’s to reach the airport. A random man approached me, and asked if he could borrow my phone charger citing we had the same phone. He sat down next to me and asked if I spoke Hindi. As soon as I said yes, and he realized he had met a fellow Indian, he proceeded to ask a bunch of questions that were basically never ending. Every thing from my home town, to what I was doing in Germany, to what I did before, to my CAT score (the Indian GMAT), to what my future plans were, to where I lived, where I worked, what my parents did, how many siblings I had, how many languages I spoke, what did I eat while in Germany, what my religion was, whether I was straight or gay (okay, I got a bit carried away, not this thankfully). Anyway, what the f***. Most of it happened before boarding, but he found his way again to my seat somehow (which definitely wasn’t in the same section) and asked for my Facebook to “ask for business school tips”. In another 2 minutes, he’d texted me, “Do you have some nice company?”.
At this point I thought to myself, I’d rather sit alone next to 2 crying babies for 9 hours, than have him as my “company”, post which I proceeded to put my phone on flight mode. At the luggage pick-up, he found his way again and wanted to accompany me for lunch that he conveniently invited himself to. He insisted even after I told him my friend was coming to pick me up and I had to leave to catch my next train. WTF again. Thankfully, he had to check in his luggage for the next domestic flight, and probably expected me to accompany him or something, at which point I said, “Oh, my friend just texted, she’s here. Sorry I’m running late. Gotta go bye”. Phew, I never ran out faster from an airport!
It’s not that I don’t meet people who are unaware of their social boundaries elsewhere in the world, but in Asia, often times there is no such thing that is too private to be asked to a stranger. Anything and everything is deemed appropriate including marriage plans, relationship goals, information on kids, etc. Germans are at the extreme opposite end of this spectrum. So one can imagine, how this was a bit inconvenient. To be honest, I’d much rather not be sharing my details with some one I just met, unless I thought this person was my twin soul or something(if that happened, I’d believe in unicorns and Hogwarts too!) However, coming back to India means quickly adapting to a much more intrusive social framework, where not responding is considered even more impolite. Screw collectivism.
2. Noise Pollution & Traffic
Hello, New Delhi! If you plan to come to India for the first time, NEVER plan to land in New Delhi. There is no city that will put you in a stronger culture shock than New Delhi will. Thankfully, I haven’t been away for that long to completely forget about the honking and accompanied traffic jams in New Delhi, so it was quite okay for me. When it starts to get to you, is after you have stayed in India for a week, and then you really really miss going back to a city of 100k where you almost never have traffic jams and you can cycle pretty much everywhere you want without the threat of being run-over by a rash driver.
If rash drivers exist in Germany, I haven’t come across many yet. This is probably in part related to the intense driving lessons one is supposed to have at the ‘Fahrschule'(Driving School) before one is allowed to drive on the road. No private lessons from family or friends, unfortunately. You got to learn from one of the licensed schools, or you can forget ever being able to drive in Germany. Not to mention people actually stop when the light is red and let pedestrians cross first before driving across.
3. Neighborhood Aunties
Related to socially intrusive behaviour is of course nosy neighborhood aunties (every older woman unless related is an ‘Auntie’ in India and the same for older men (Uncle), for relatives we have specific names depending on the type of relation *rolls eyes*).
This one evening, an Auntie came by unannounced and I had just picked up my phone to talk to a friend. She sat inside patiently whilst I spoke to my friend for ten minutes thinking she’d eventually leave since no one else was clearly home, I was busy and there was no way in hell she wanted to talk to me, right? Wrong. Since she wouldn’t leave even after I went outside to talk on the phone, I rushed my conversation and went back inside to attend to her. I asked her if she’d like something to drink. She said no, that she only wanted to catch up for 5 minutes.
Those 5 minutes eventually led to 90 minutes of a long and painful one sided conversation, where I got to know about the past two generations of her family, everyone’s health problems in excruciating details, her daily diet chart and routine and stories of people I definitely didn’t know and couldn’t care less about. Perhaps, she was lonely and for that I feel sad. But what about my time? I could never imagine showing up unannounced at a friend’s (let alone a neighbor’s) house in Germany and stay for 90 minutes talking endlessly about myself. Rest assured, that person would definitely never speak to me again.
4. Insanely Crappy Internet
Need I say more? Lets be honest here, India is no China when it comes to infrastructure, in-fact I think it might be at least 10-15 years away from that stage. I can’t fathom how many years behind it is from Germany. Regular internet coverage is a continuous challenge no matter what provider you deem to chose. Also, its ridiculously expensive for the quality one is served. 5GB of 3G data (not even 4G) is about €8-€10 in India and perhaps equal or only slightly more in Deutschland.
If on a scale of 1/10 for social awareness and garbage disposal efficiency, I’d rate Germany like 8/10, India would be 2/10. This is in part a screwed up civic sense due to lack of early proper education and in part a severe lack of efficient civil infrastructure. This of course isn’t the case in every city, but only an average opinion. My mum casually told me when I asked about this mess, that the local garbage pick-up often goes missing for two weeks without informing anyone around, leaving the citizens to just keep piling garbage outside their houses. Not a very pretty sight eh? The stray dogs, cats and cows do not help this matter if also present in the said neighborhood. Going from 7 or more types of disposal bins in Germany to 1 that might not even be emptied for 2 weeks can be quite disturbing.
I’ll soon be doing more useful posts specifically for foreigners in Germany.
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