I came to the US in 2003, which means I have been here for more than 5 years. Living in two very different cultures can be a bit disorienting at times. An immigrant like myself will interact with fellow Indians in India, Indians in the US, and of course, Americans in the US. And the way you interact with each of the groups of people can be different because of their cultures. Usually, there is no right or wrong when it comes to cultural differences. For instance, Indians tend not to wear footwear inside the house, whereas Americans do. There is no absolute reason why one is right and the other is wrong. Both are quite reasonable. However, people tend to get a bit emotional when they start talking about culture. They get into a dogmatic mode and attribute the reasons for their actions to their culture, rather than reason or logic. This generally takes the form of statements like: “I don’t wear shoes inside the house because I’m an Indian”. To me, this makes as much sense as saying I don’t jump off a cliff because I’m wearing a red shirt. As a cold, mostly rational person, the argument from culture has no effect on me. So when it comes to choosing between the Indian way of doing things, and the American way, I fall back on the only method I know: reason.
Addressing people older than you
It is acceptable to address someone older than you by their first name in American culture. However, it’s considered very rude in Indian. The reason for not addressing elders by their first name is that it is considered disrespectful. Generally, a younger Indian will address someone older than them as either “Uncle” or “Aunty”. This doesn’t make a lot of sense. An aunt is a well defined term with a meaning. It is the sister of your father or mother. It is not any random person older than you. In addition, just because someone is old does not mean they necessarily deserve respect. This culture of automatic respect in fear of social pressure is wrong for sure because respect can never be automatic, it is always earned.
Well, this is pretty much a no-brainer. Two words – Arranged Marriages (India). Even the fundamentalist Christians in the US do not that. But I guess I still need to put forth an argument. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone, it makes sense to get to know them very well. This usually does not happen in such marriages. Thankfully, in modern times, these kinds of marriages are slowly going away.
This is an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed in the US and relates to associating things like music, movies, and cars with gender. In India, music and songs are gender neutral. Which means the average Indian male is as comfortable listening to a romantic duet as to the latest rap, rock, or metal. Over here, though, listen to Dido, and you’ll get a “Dude, that’s so gay” comment or something along those lines.If you like a piece of music, it is because the effect the sound waves have on your brain. Music waves are not assigned a gender when they depart their source!
This also carries over to the cars the average American guy is willing to drive. Trucks and Hummers are considered manly. However, if you think about it logically, “manliness” should be associated with speed, danger, and thrills. Driving a Hummer means you are slow, you are in no danger, and there are no thrills because you’re going so slow. On the other hand, if you’re in a small fast car, you are in danger from the bigger ones, you can experience thrills of taking turns at 30 mph and skillfully weaving in and out of traffic. Even the most “feminine” woman can drive a big truck or SUV. All it needs is putting the foot down on the accelerator. In fact, a woman in a pink Volkswagen beetle is in more danger and can go faster than a man in a Hummer.
This basically boils down to Christianity vs Hinduism. Both are completely irrational, but Hinduism is a bit more accommodating. It does not claim everyone who is not a Hindu will burn in hell for eternity. In this sense, it is a more benign strain of the virus that affects billions of people in our world.
The Dutch – Because they seem to be the most open minded culture in the world today.