Cultural differences

My normal is somebody else’s exotic.

12:02 PM

I find myself very often reflecting on my life and surrounding, and am still amazed today at how things that were exotic growing up are really part of my daily life now and how what I grew up with is now the exotic. I get a kick out of it actually, in a good way, because I think both where I am now and where I come from is equally exiting and how they both contributed to make me the person I am right now, right this instant.
I also find myself wondering often about who read my blog, I know there is a fair amount of you guys out there, I get an average of 300 page hits a day, and I know from your comments that you come from many places and cultures, some find my living in India exotic and enjoy reading my take on it, some are Indian and are enjoying reading about my roots and my take on living in their own culture, thank you all for enjoying my blog.
Today I decided to give you some of snippet of what is pretty much a normal life to me, I think my whole blog pretty much reflect that, but summarizing it once in a while is a fun exercise.

- Where I grew up, leafy trees and pine trees were common, when I look at the palm trees around me I can’t help even 9 years later to think “wow  what would people back home think of that?” Palm trees are things you see during your beach holidays, not outside your apartment windows right? On the other hand, trees that loose their leaves in the Fall are now my exotic, I don;t see them around here, they are the thing I need to go on a holiday to witness.

- My kitchen is a nice blend of your average westernized kitchen and Indian one, the counter is too low for my taller frame, we have a gas stove sitting there that we back home would call a camping stove. I don’t have one but two “wok” or kadai as they are called here, a pressure cooker, continental style frying pans, a flat tawa, a concave one, and my sauce pans have no handles, I had a special plier to remove them from the stove in typical Indian style. My pantry contains both several type of lentils as well as pasta, noodles, peanut butter and nutella.

- I am a mom, my fridge door probably looks like yours in the west: full of post it notes, school craft project, grocery lists and ABC magnets. Inside it is full of veggies, fruit yogurt, Tupperware containers containing both Indian and continental leftovers. And of course I have a pack of French fries in the freezer for these emergency days, who doesn’t.

- Often on weekend DH and I call samosa, kachori and jalebi breakfast, we buy it from a chaat chop, the way my parents would go to the local bakery on Sunday morning to buy croissants and cinnamon rolls.

- I can’t make my own croissant, puff pastry isn’t available in stores, and all my best efforts to try making my own pastry have all failed miserably, even my grand ma questioned why I would embark on such a tedious work when stores sell it…uhm not in India! If I want a croissant we need to go to a coffee shop, they often taste horrible so I pass, and I don’t feel like spending 10 times the Swiss price for a good one in a 5 star hotel.

- Right now I’m wearing something close to my daily uniform wear: denim long shorts and a light cotton short kurta, East meet West. It’s comfy, and airy and I like it. You can live in India without wearing salwaar suits and dupatta everyday, or at all.

- Of course I have salwaar suits in my wardrobes, I wear them on occasion, but not all the time. In Winter you will find me cosy in a pair of stretch churidar and a cotton long sleeved kurta as often as you will find me in my good old sweat pants and long sleeved t-shirt…yes it can get cold in India!

- TV commercials come in English and Hindi on the English Channel…wait how cool is that, I watch TV in English! Where I grew up it was all in French, and if you understood German and Italian you could what the two other national channels, in the beginning my TV had only 6 channels, the 3 Swiss one and the 3 French national ones because we weren’t far from the border. When the cable came in the 90’s the only English channels were MTV and CNN or other news channels. So of course I get a kick of watching and hey understanding English ones now, I feel the same kick when a French movie comes and I can follow it without subtitles…ha!

- Now I am sure some of you might be wondering…wait her native tongue isn’t English? Nope it isn’t, I learned it in middle school, perfected it in high school and decided I wanted to have that one as my second language at a proficient level, so I practiced practiced practiced, without English I would never even have met my husband in the first place.

- I can understand Hindi and speak it a little, I’m far from being fluent though.

- When I run out of milk and eggs or anything basic during the week I buy it at the kirana store (mom and pop store), but we go once a week to the supermarket to stock up on groceries too.

- Back home we have the Alps, here it’s the Himalayas, right now they are both equally exotic, I can’t see them out of my window. But living in Mumbai we have the sea and beach. In my childhood days the beach was on the lake side and had just rocks for me to collect, Ishita doesn’t get rocks, she can collect seashells they are both super cool to collect for kids.

- Beaches in the Mediterranean area are super crowded with lots of flabby people in swimming trunks and bikinis. In Mumbai it’s equally crowded (and I mean EQUALLY) with fitter, more toned people wearing sarees, jeans and t-shirts, salwaar suits, and shorts. People on the beach in Europe sell ice cream, nougat, coconuts, French fries and donuts. Here it’s ice cream, fresh toasted peanuts, pani puri, cotton candy and corn on the cob, samosa, shaved ice, and pav bhaji. And of course when we go there we eat beach food…who doesn’t?

- My home is a mess, all homes are, you are likely to step on a clippo block and sit on a Dora doll.

- In Bangalore we often had monkeys coming in the neighbourhood, it might look fun, but it isn’t, they are aggressive, will go after your food if they can get into your home and it used to drive my dog banana. I get the exotic factor here. But I have friends in North America that have issues with bears and racoons going after their garbage and food and they aren’t happy about it the same way the sight of monkeys around made me crib. They went through my food stuff a few times when I was new to India, you then learn not to leave your balcony door open and feel grateful for bars on windows.

- We put stings of lights on the balconies for Diwali, and they come out of the box again in December to go on the Christmas tree.

- We have iPods and a docking station, we listens to English songs as often as Hindi ones, and I like instrumental music, both relaxation music and classical music as well as movie scores.

- Favourite Indian take out menu food: Naans, Afghani Chicken, Butter Chicken and kebabs. Favourite continental take out: Pizzas. We cook everything else at home or go to a sit down restaurant.

- Back home I was used to 4 distinct seasons, and each had their perks and pitfalls, I miss them now. But I have 3 nice ones here too: Summer, Monsoon, and Winter, even if in Mumbai the gap between the end of the monsoon and Winter often feels hotter than the Summer. Winter is that much sweeter when it comes. My favourite back home were Summer and early Fall and I used to hate Winter. Here I tend to dislike Summer, enjoy the Monsoon and absolutely love Winter.

- I may be living in India, but I am still Swiss, and I like it that way, I am enjoying new traditions, but I haven’t forgotten who I am, I just adapted myself to new surrounding. Christmas is still important to me, and I enjoy sharing that both with DH and Ishita, I put some twist on some of my family traditions and created new ones, that’s what families do. I’m not Indian, and guess what, I don’t want to be, and there is no reason why I should be so. Indians going abroad carry their traditions with them, celebrate their cultural heritage wherever they are. I am doing the same.

6 comments

  1. JustHeather7:59 PM

    A great post and something I agree with. While Finland isn't quite so different from my home town/country, there are differences that can be seen as "exotic". Thanks for sharing!

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  2. We all live an exotic life to someone, it's always nice to remember it, that makes your everyday life a bit more exiting isn't it?

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  3. Sharell9:18 PM

    Really interesting! And it sounds like your "daily uniform" is similar to mine. :-)

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  4. I need practicality in my outfit, if it makes me sweat, or comes in the way of my movement it's not going to be worn much :-)
    I got rid of a whole bunch of unpractical clothes recently.

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  5. Hélène8:20 PM

    You are really cool lady, Cyn !

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  6. Well, thank you :-) *blush*

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