Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mini-Vacations


I wanted to write a little about the mini-vacations I sent my husband on during his first year here. I try to be clear with this blog and I wouldn't want anyone thinking that I just took him on surveillance and let him see the roads as we passed by. I did take him with me on surveillance quite a bit and in addition to these trips he's been to Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee and North Carolina. He's also been hiking and to the beach a few times each. I'm saving all the truly fun (and funny) stuff for bigger posts but

Vacation 1 - Lewisburg, WV
This city was dubbed as the coolest town in the US in 2011. It is quite beautiful and they were having an art show. Hubby got a little excited at some children playing in a fountain in the park in the center of town as we arrived.

(Picture of a fish with a wine bottle inside, part of an exhibit to promote knowledge of how throwing trash in the water affects underwater life.)

His reaction was a bit interesting as we saw a board full of fish like the one above. As most of you know, trash is thrown out carelessly in India and it's often eye-opening to see just how it could wind up inside of a living creature. As most of you know, Hindu's frown on harming living creatures. So hubby had a pretty strong reaction to seeing this.

Vacation 2 - Some random location with my dad
I thought it may be good to let him get out and see things with someone else. My dad wanted a companion to go hiking with in the woods somewhere and take photos. I figured it was a win-win situation. So off he went for 4 glorious days, woman free.

On day 2 my dad took him to Maa's house. Maa is a relative my dad still takes care of. She is 89 and he mows her grass and such. He took hubby with him and taught hubby how to drive a riding lawn mower. Maa, like a good southern mom, stuffed hubby with 3 plates of home cooked food and when he almost puked from eating too much, she lovingly packed him a plate to take with him when he went home that day. This seemed to be the highlight of hubby's trip.

On day 3 they went on their hike and he got tired but liked it. He was all too happy to post the pictures all over his Facebook lol. I didn't hear much about this trip but I know my dad out-hiked him and they both laughed about being worn out.

The remainder of his time with my dad they watched TV shows and talked and ate out. I didn't hear any complaints from him.

Vacation 3 - Washington D.C. with my family
I had to work in the D.C. area so I took the family with me. While I was at work they took the metro and ran all over downtown D.C. They went to the Smithsonian Zoo, the Air and Space Museum and had breakfast and lunch out. By the time I got off work they were begging for me to come get them and hubby was certain he was going to have blisters on his feet from so much walking.

This was a good bonding experience for them all and they came back with a funny story about a waitress demanding a $6 tip when they tried to leave without giving her one. The food was horrible, the service was terrible but she was hounding them and demanding it and blocking their path so they couldn't leave. Hubby seemed very tired, but fairly happy afterward. Just FYI, but this was his second trip touring D.C. since he's been here. He's already been to the White House, the National Mall and several other tourist attractions. That time I got blisters for real.

All three of these vacations happened within a  2 week time frame. This is why I specifically mentioned in a previous post to slow down your vacations. Poor hubby ditched me and stayed him with his TV for a while after that. I didn't intend to wear him down but I wasn't thinking about it. I just wanted him to experience America more and not get bored. Turns out, even my husband who is typically anti-boredom, sometimes wants to be bored.



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Differences between American and Indian Shopping Habits

Just about everything in American and Indian cultures is different, especially where shopping habits are concerned! So, where to begin? 
 
One possibility would be with regard to the personal shopping assistance that sales people in North America provide, where customer service is (or once was) a given. Another possible place to start would be with an explanation of the culture clash (shock!) that Americans seem to experience when they aren’t able to locate their favourite products, fast foods, and (gasp) local Starbucks! :)
Could it be the way in which Indian consumers seem to be far more comfortable buying from local markets rather than supermarkets, grocery stores, and malls? And finally, is it possible that Americans by nature invest more time trying to locate the best prices, discounts, coupons, and sales?
All of the above reasons are definite possibilities… so let’s take a look at some of the major differences.

Shopping in India:
Shopping in India is usually a family event. Simple observation makes this clear; India is one of the countries least likely to jump on the ‘mall culture’ bandwagon. The desire to shop with family members seems to outweigh the international trend to social-shop and browse fashion outlets with friends. It’s not uncommon to ask for family or friend’s recommendations for purchases before making a purchasing decision.
Additionally, approximately one person in eight reports wearing the same clothing to work, social events, and while out-and-about, decreasing the need for a vast assortment of outfits suitable for every occasion. Only 1 in 4 even feel the need to buy ‘designer’ brands… most Indians care little for name brands. The majority of consumers in India are inclined to buy new clothes most frequently for special events and special occasions, but not otherwise.
Interestingly, with the increase in internet connection and the growth of the Indian middle class, all these trends seem to be evolving slowly amongst the younger generation, since nearly half of the population finds international merchandise superior to local brands. As the economy of the nation develops, so do key indicators in the population like an increase in opening bank accounts, making credit card purchases through Amex India, financing homes through mortgage payments and more.

Shopping in the USA:
While recent economic stressors have caused United States citizens to curtail their spending sprees, Americans still love to shop. The majority of patrons consider shopping to be a social event as well as a recreational activity, particularly when it comes to buying clothes and browsing. 
 
While discount chains are feeling the strain, online e-commerce sites like Amazon are seeing an increasing rise in consumerism, especially during the holiday seasons. An increasing number of citizens are shopping online, with virtual shopping on the rise by about 10%. Fewer shoppers are stopping by the local shops and malls, yet Americans continue to enjoy trending fashions, designer brands, accessories, tech/apps, and items that are designed to suit a wide variety of occasions.
While excellent service was once a trademark of most American retailers, recent trends and lack of resources have given way to speed shopping and online ‘carts’. However, Americans still appreciate their favourite products, the tried and the true! The majority of shopping in the United States consists of a trek to one of several mega-stores along with… let’s hear it… a quick cup of cappuccino and a snack at the local Starbucks! By contrast, India is still steeped in tradition with consumer trends lagging behind their deep appreciation for family and tradition.

*This is a sponsored guest post however, I have personally used AmEx credit cards and was impressed by their level of attentiveness to security and protection of consumer information. As a private investigator, I can assure you they are the best card for those who don't want their information tampered with, stolen, misused, etc. I feel confident this post is a great addition to my blog and beneficial to my beloved readers. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Coping with Culture Shock as the Primary Care Giver

"Care giver" may not be the best term but at this time I'm unable to think of any better way to put it. I'm clearly not a babysitter in this situation but as the resident American, I have some additional responsibilities and more burden to ensure the safety, well-being and happiness of my immigrant husband.

I know I had a very difficult time in India but I went through a lot of things willingly in the best interest of the marriage. While I was in India, I worked and did my best not to ask them to do anything for me - including small things. I took it upon myself to learn about my culture shock and to do my best to deal with it in a manner that wouldn't hurt him.

If I had to ask for things, I did my best to make sure I was as little burden as possible. The last thing *I* wanted was to be remembered as a royal pain in the *ss or to have my in-laws think I was some sniveling brat who wasn't willing to try and take care of herself. Of course, little did I know you can get away with this in some homes and no one thinks lesser of you LOL. Oh how I wish I had known I could be a drama aunty and still be loved and appreciated.

It's okay though, my self-respect remained intact because I know how I behaved and there's a lot of gratification in knowing that. As hard as things were for me there, I feel I successfully maintained a healthy, caring relationship with my MIL and FIL.

Anyway, that's what this blog was for. I could vent my frustrations here and get help/advice without taking things out on my husband or his family. I talked to people online who had been in similar circumstances and I made a conscious effort to watch my words when talking to him or his family. I made it a point not to be a burden on them any more than I had to. I respected the rules of the house as much as I could without sacrificing my sanity.

My husband was very good to me in India. We had a fairly equal relationship. We both worked, combined our money and both enjoyed the benefits of having it. I never made him feel inferior because he had an Indian income and I had an American one. I never made him feel like it was my money. It was always our money, our lives, etc.

I did things I didn't want to do, ate foods I didn't want to eat and I suffered in silence over a lot of things. I tried to find ways to deal with the issues I was having so that if I had to go to him with something, I would at least be able to offer a solution along with the request. Of course, we can more rationally discuss all of this now that we're here in the states and we both agree that I was a pain in the *ss LOL. These are funny discussions now. Hindsight is 20/20 you know.

So when my husband was coming here, I decided to try my best and do what I could to help him through his upcoming culture shock. These are some things I found that worked:

  • Stock up on Indian foods, spices, and anything else you know of your spouse likes. Include packaged roti's and naan bread until they familiarize themselves with how to navigate an American kitchen if they will be doing any of their own cooking.
  • Spend the extra money on uniquely Indian items like linens, pillows, cookware, and decor items. Yes, I know in India they're dirt cheap but all imports are expensive regardless and here in the US it's easy to forget they're imported items. (I know, everything we sell is made elsewhere it seems but these weren't just made for South Poe or Polo, they were specifically imported.)
  • Put extra blankets on the bed, especially in the winter.
  • Provide special closet space or an empty cabinet just for their belongings. While many Indians live communally, this combats the disorientation of not knowing where everything is at first.
  • Set up Indian TV channels through your satellite provider. This could take time to accomplish depending on where you live and who your provider is. Make sure you check into this at least 30 days before your spouse's arrival.
  • Designate a quiet space just for them. They may need a place to go and sit just to get a break from all that is unfamiliar. It's hard on the psyche to constantly be overloaded with the differences and trying to learn it all.

And some things I found didn't work:
  • Ready cooked Indian meals. These are so far from tasting like real Indian food they quickly become a gross disappointment at first. Hubby likes some of them now, but in the beginning he thought they were the nastiest things ever and I didn't blame him.
  • Going shopping too soon. After their arrival, hold off on the shopping for things they still need until you have a chance to truly gauge what they have already.
  • Too many side trips or vacations. It's common for an immigrant to want to see the new host country and all it has to offer but try to remember how tiring travel is. Slow down a bit and your travels will be much more enjoyable.

Other things you can try that didn't apply to us:
  • Set up a Hindu temple in your home. The small ones like some people place on a shelf or in a cabinet.
  • Designate a place for religious items like prayer rugs if your spouse is not Hindu.
The bottom line with all of this is, know your spouse and what they will want or need to feel more comfortable in your home. They may not consider it their home right away and as such, try to be a little more giving and doting in the beginning until they have a chance to settle in. Do your best and communicate about everything until you both find a middle ground where you both feel at home and at peace. 

What are some things you did to help your spouse through their culture shock? Did they work?