Monday, January 9, 2012

An All New Low?

Many expats such as myself have experienced changes in their personality and personal habits after moving to their new country. I've struggled with some of my own changes and I'm not always happy with the results. But, recently I stumbled upon something that I'm not sure how to address yet. I can't say it's right or wrong based on my previous life. I was raised to believe this kind of behavior was wrong but in Indian society this is completely normal. So adjusting to my new intercultural life and learning about new customs, habits and things like that has me wondering if some of the things I was taught are right/wrong or simply a different way of life (either culturally/religiously/etc.)

I was raised that you don't ask for most things. Sure, it's fine to tell Santa what you want for Christmas but you don't ask your friends/family/relatives to buy you all the things you want. It's completely taboo to ask for anything considered expensive unless you are a child asking your parents. I was taught to respect that money is not easy to come by and just because someone has it does not mean we are entitled to spend it or ask for it, etc. If we did there was the full expectation they would most likely say no in some way. This isn't a big deal as we are raised with a strong sense of independence and the expectation that if we want it we must work for it. If you want something expensive it is acceptable to ask for money for a birthday or special holiday and indicate you are saving up for something big. This is respected because people like to see the sense of independence building.

In India it's not uncommon for family members to ask for expensive items on a regular basis. The view seems to be that it's okay to tell someone exactly what you really want and (within reason) money is not thought of in these situations. For example, one of hubby's cousins routinely asks BIL for things like Armani clothes, iPhones and such. This is just strange to me. I can't believe someone as distant as a cousin you haven't seen since he was a child would ask for such things. I've seen this in other cultures as well, such as Egyptian and Pakistani. This works both ways, adults give to the kids just as freely. I don't seen friends ask for things this expensive here but they do ask for things point blank.

So BIL routinely sends these expensive electronic gadgets via the good old non-postal system. Meaning he has friends that travel here to visit family and the items go in their suitcase and then get delivered. I've never asked him for anything (except a high quality..aka not from his mobile phone...8x10 photo). I just don't feel it's right. It often bothers me when family members ask for computers, and other expensive equipment but I keep my mouth shut most of the time. This time he decided to send a brand new tablet PC. Now, knowing I had computer issues hubby discussed it with BIL and they agreed to give it to me (I found this out after the discussion...I had no part in asking and didn't even know it was coming). I got all excited because I do need a new computer as this laptop is having issues and internet access is vital to my freelance career (which is going well...bhabi is about to be published in a fairly large newspaper in the US!).

Hubby and I discussed the use of the new device (because we didn't want anyone else in the family - aka the leeches living across the hall from MIL and FIL to feel jealous). We were going to keep the device a secret, at least for a while so they didn't know it came from BIL. Some people in this house tend to get pissy because the PSP's, phones, expensive sunglasses and iPod's he sends aren't enough for them. BIL expressly said in his discussion with hubby that he doesn't believe a 15 year old kid needs a brand new tablet. Hubby agreed because they would only want to leech off our wifi and I'm not having it.

Then yesterday all of a sudden it got mentioned how said 15 year old would love to have the tablet and if we didn't need it we could give it to him. This was said 5 times. It came from BIL. I got upset and being upset only made me further frustrated. A big part of this drama comes from my own upbringing and how much I see them ask for. BIL is abroad and single but that doesn't mean he's a money factory (and believe me....they do treat him as such). The second biggest part comes from how pissed off I get seeing their own father treat them like a rupee is more important and then acting like everyone else in the family should be the ones to purchase everything the kids need. I would love to state my full opinion of this man but putting it in writing could one day become incriminating. >:D

I also got a little frustrated because here I am getting upset over a gift that was going to be given to me but now may not be. I don't have any rights to these items, or at least I don't feel like I do. My only right is being a family member, the same as nephew. I almost felt greedy for being upset over this. I've lived for 4 years in this relationship and the only thing BIL has ever given me was a suit and I was just fine with that. I never give gifts with the expectation of a return gift and I honored my duties (of my own free will) to send rakhi's, birthday cards, etc. I was content with this relationship. Now I just feel hurt and let down. I've had to do a lot of thinking on that and why I feel this way. What all of a sudden gives me the right to think I deserve this?

I don't have answers to these questions yet but I did shock myself by telling hubby things need to be worked out so the tablet goes to me. I refuse to share the wifi with the leeches and I know the head leech won't bother paying a rupee on his own. I also am overly sick about the whining they keep doing about how they don't get enough gifts from him. (They don't do this to any other family member!) So in part I am being mean. Yes, I need the tablet. No, I won't die without it. But I had rather be a b*tch about it than see them be able to continue mooching off of a young man in the family. Uncle ji is a full grown man with a very good job. Good enough he rarely works and still rakes in a substantial income. And his sorry *ss can't even cough up the dough for 4 pair of 3-D glasses to accompany his 3-D TV. The family all shares 1 pair!!! Needless to say this man makes my blood boil. Oh the stories I could tell you but just don't always get the time to write. Maybe I should devote a whole blog post just to some serious Uncle ji hating rants. ***okay, time to breathe again.**

Back to me. I realize this is all part of the adjustment phase. There is nothing wrong with asking for the things you want in life and I think more people should understand the concept behind it. I also think a few Indians could learn some of the American concept of not asking for too much. I'm sure I don't have to describe to you how low class (not monetarily but socially) this makes a person look to always be whining and asking for someone else to provide your kids with their dreams. (Which btw is only the nephew because niece doesn't seem to be allowed to ask nor do complaints come when she doesn't get much.) One word comes to mind, moderation. And in the mean time I'm going to work on my own self respect since I seem to be lowering my standards for it suddenly. With that - I'm off to make lunch and then hunt for more job opportunities. I hope you all have a good day!

27 comments:

  1. Wow!
    that sounds terrible but isn't it usually the "lower" classes/caste that demand stuff from richer family members? 

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  2. I don't think this is what she means, as usually there is not more than one caste or class in a family.
    I think Americans see this behavior as begging from others and others being walked all over and giving in.
    This is not how Indians see it. I think in India people buy more for others than themselves at times and if you aren't buying for yourself, someone else should! (But I have heard where it goes way deeper than this. Kerala as a state is a shining example of this with every 4th family having a member in the Gulf or abroad, so many sit at home doing nothing while their family abroad toil hard to provide for them in India. That's why there's such a labor problem in Kerala!) That's to be told later.

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  3. You would think so. But, Uncle ji is just a low class loser and cheap jerk. He has no problem buying these gadgets or making nice purchases for himself but if the kids want a 20 INR snack from the street vendor he says no. Someone else always has to take pity on the kids and buy things for them. I recently wrote about him not feeding them but once the whole day on a long car trip and them begging for food for hours before I had to step in and do something so they would feed them. He's just a rotten individual all the way through.

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  4. That's about how I meant it. In the US this would be seen as bad behavior and people would stop talking to you. Here it's normal and no one thinks anything of it.

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  5. This is another example of the extreme opposites in standards of behaviour in India and the west. I still struggle with things like this.  :-(

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  6. Thats terrible!
    I think you're brave to live in India with inlaws and such. I don't think I would be able to handle it x-x

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  7. Draw the line!!!
    Nip it in the bud!!!
    I made the mistake of buying expensive gifts for my Kashmiri in-laws for the first 2 yrs of our marriage. Never again. Give them an inch & they'll take a mile. My in-laws have even asked me to buy cars for them. WTF? The worst thing is they don't even appreciate anything of quality you give them- they don't know what 'quality' is.
    An example- I bought my nieces 'Lancome' makeup & perfume- they wanted me to take it back & buy them American brands like 'Maybelline' & 'Charlie' perfume.
    Imagine that- being ill mannered enough to tell someone to take their gift back & then the nerve to tell them to exchange it for something cheaper & crappier?!?
    They have absolutely NOOOOOOOOO idea of what having a real job is & that people might actually have to WORK for their $$$?
    UGH! Mooches!!!

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  8.  I feel you have raised a very pertinent point. I have seen all kinds of people among my acquaintances and such behavior do not surprise me though they do disgust me.  And if your gut feeling tells you that disgust is the only emotion you feel at this, then so be it ... just be a little careful to not vent it out abruptly.

    India is a very large nation and there is a huge difference in income levels/background/social conditioning/values. It is not at all a homogeneous population. Recognizing that is the most correct way to see this. It is much less uniform than (say) US or UK or even China. The differences here are not racial but socio-economic and cultural. See each family on a case by case basis. And the way you describe your extended family, I think they do not deserve much sympathy.

    I too have seen some leeches in my extended family, but no one comes close to what you write. But I am quite familiar with the kind of people you write as they come up again and again in many discussions with disgusted friends.

    OK about your tablet -- there is nothing you can do about it. Whether you contrive to acquire it or lose after trying or lose without trying, this thing will always leave a bad taste in your mouth ... let it go and in future refuse any gifts firmly and politely. Now isn't that the opposite of asking ?

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  9. It is not true. People do feel bad but they do not have the forthrightness to say it upfront. 

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  10. And some raised the issue of Kerela. Punjab too has a similar problem. There have been many punjabis going out of India for work. So such asking may be more common in Punjab. I am not sure how common it is in Kerela ... I will get back if I manage to ask this thing without offending any of my Mallu friends.

    In either case, I have a gut feeling that outside these two states, the problem is not so severe. But I am willing to be proven wrong. As I said, each family shd be evaluated on a case by case in India.

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  11. You maybe mistaking the point once again. Cheapos like Uncleji (quite a character, he can be a perfect model for the slimy relative in hindi movies :D ) teach his kids to milk others and save family money. The kids are not as innocent as you think. 

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  12. I am confused by your calling nephew/niece ... they are Uncleji's kids, right ? so they are technically your MIL's nephew/niece, not yours ... am I interpreting correct ?

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  13. It can depend on particular families and communities. I have heard this problem is pretty bad anyhow with NRIs... NRIs treated better because they are 'outside' and therefore are 'expected' to bring home gifts. It's all to fluff their and their family's feather to show the wealth. The worst part is local desis sometimes get the wrong impression that abroad NRIs are actually affording many homes and homes in India etc. Because the salaries look a lot in rupees people believe all these things. That money flows easier than water. They take advantage of that. I have seen people struggling in US and living like paupers to keep up appearances in India by buying things for much extended family and homes and property and so forth.
    This is not only common among Indians. I have heard definite stories about Kenya and other countries.

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  14. Good point. I really really want it though lol. Now that I have all these ideas for how much easier it will make things. My laptop really needs some repairs from all the abuse it's taken and it's so hard to read my books on this thing. I would love to be able to go outside without having to take this thing with me. But, I have decided no matter what happens I'm just going to deal with it. I can't say I won't be pissed if it doesn't come to me but I can firmly say I will not share the wifi period. End of discussion.

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  15. Interesting. I evaluate on a person by person basis most of the time. Because I know in this family each person is very different and each family in the house is also very different. It's so strange because you would expect people living under one roof to adopt some of each others habits. That has not happened here. It's quite intriguing. That's why I watch so much of what goes on in the house. It's a good learning experience.

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  16. Maybe. I know I've made it backfire on him a couple of times. Like the post about the 250 INR soup. >:D

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  17. Correct. but the terms have stuck in my mind because that's what Rohit started calling them before he realized we wouldn't call them that in English. Perhaps I need to find a better set of terms. Glad you pointed that out lol.

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  18. Me too, I had a friend whose family was asking for 2 or 3 iPhones at a time and stuff like that. That family was in Egypt. That's so unreal to me.

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  19. I already have for myself. I brought some gifts when I came here but I'm not anyone's sugar momma and I don't intend to be. And you're right that gifts go unappreciated. That's why I quite buying hardly anything after I brought everyone gifts (we were getting married at that time) and hardly anything was appreciated at all. I figure if they don't like my tastes in gifts then I won't waste my time and effort. I purchased a very expensive silk brocade fabric set for MIL to make a salwar from and she gave one set away and the other she shoved in the closet and I haven't seen it since. She never had the suit made. That's just one of many incidents. I've never been asked to take something back personally but I've seen family members refuse to accept gifts that they deemed weren't what they were looking for (even though they got what they asked for) and instead demand cash. I get so disgusted.

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  20. I doubt I will ever get used to it.

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  21. Yeah it's not easy, that's for sure. I just pick my battles and this one isn't worth my time, nor does it directly involve me.

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  22. I don't think you actually care if it comes to you.. but you seem to have strong feelings that it doesn't reach your uncleji... which i think is fine.

    And yes it is normal here in india for asking for gifts... i used to do it a lot when i was a kid... like from 7 - 14... like a lot.. not reallyu expensive things.. but cool things... like a watch which was made out of gum... i still try to find it though.. :)

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  23. magguu-
    That is interesting, so basically the Indians that participate in this sort of behavior KNOW they are being rude- but feel they are entitled to do it anyway?

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  24. That's possible. I really don't like him or people like him. I have seen bubble gum watches in the US actually. I've also seen gummy watches (like gummy worms or bears but it was a watch). Keep looking, you're bound to find one. ;)

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  25. maybe just their names.

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  26. The "gift giving" culture in India still baffles me after 8 years living int he country! The hints for expensive gizmos, the fact that when you go home to visit family you bring stuff that are showy and pricy above what will be liked and needed.
    DH having the highest income in the family, it is kind of expected that we bring big gifts for Diwali, not asked, but expected...UGH! And yup they don't have to be useful, just have to scream "See how much my darling kid living in Mumbai in his big consulting job can give us" Last November we kept the gifts small because the plan tickets fleeced us, but still showy enough so that my in-laws could brag about them, beside after a few years we realised that it was always us doing the gifting and we never really got anything as diwali gifts ourselves.
    Oh and I stil have on instance of gift giving stuck in my throat forever, we bought many sarees as gifts for the family before getting married, both DH and I took special care picking up one we both knew his mom would like...guess what came back to me 6 months later? Yup that is right, my MIL brought the 3500 rupees silk saree WE bought for her asagift to me..WTF????? If you don't like it lady, at least don't give it back to the person who purchased it in the first place saying it is a gift! If I wanted a 3k silk saree I would have bought it for myself. DH was as bitter as me, because the damn silk saree in question we had to purchase last minute, barely 24 hours before we had to catch a flight to Lucknow for our wedding, with MIl calling us at freaking 6am saying "I want a nice silk saree, bring me one"

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  27. Well, I know what the standards are for this family and I'm not purchasing all of that stuff for them. They make a big deal about how going abroad will "set your life" but then they try to spend every penny BIL makes (or it feels that way to me at least). Then they whine about how he didn't do enough or it wasn't the right gift because they were looking at something else instead or it came in scratched, etc. My FIL is the only one I have noticed isn't like that and is truly happy no matter what the gift and even if he doesn't like it he still takes pride in owning it and uses it. I've had some of my gifts re-gifted to me as well. It's just sad. So I just save everyone the trouble and don't purchase hardly anything. Life is a 2 way street not 1 as well so unless I start getting included in the family more I won't take on the role of being a participant.

    I got the tablet btw. It caused a big stink about how the 15 yr old needed a computer to do his schoolwork and it should have went to him. Well, this thing isn't even close to being a computer. It works like a mobile phone mostly and you can't type on it like a computer. They can say what they want, he really wanted constant internet access and free games (apps) to play while he's supposed to be doing schoolwork and everyone knows it.

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