Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lies, They're All Lies!!

There are so many reasons for people to lie in this world. I ran across a news report recently that sparked some very interesting discussions between my friends, peers and online communities. The topic was lying and how we do it, why we do it and the way it is viewed as acceptable in both US and Indian culture. That's right, Indians lie too so you may as well save your typing skills instead of trying to convince me that it's somehow different when Indians lie or that it's okay because of why they do it. I'm not falling for it. Just like every other person in this world Indians and Americans and Australians, etc. etc. lie. Not all the time. There are many times people can be trusted and there are times when they can't be. I just found this topic interesting because of the differences in how and why each culture lies. And before you get your panties in a bunch I'm not saying either way is right. A lie is a lie, and you have to decide based on the situation you are in whether it was right or wrong. There are no cookie cutter solutions in life.

One of the things I think about most when it comes to lying is how in India if you go to a store and you need a purple sweater but the shop keeper doesn't have one, he is very likely to say come back tomorrow and he will have it. (This is in smaller shops and not necessarily big stores/malls/etc.). Now, he won't really have it tomorrow but he doesn't want to upset you in any way or make you feel like his store isn't good or doesn't have what you need so he makes a promise he doesn't intend to keep. I've encountered this - though not with a purple sweater. In the US, no matter how small the shop they will just tell you they don't have it. If they can order it they may tell you that and ask for a deposit or some kind of guarantee you will come back for it. That just depends on the store and there is no way to know which stores will do it and which won't.

This type of lie would be considered a little white lie. There is no real harm done and odds are you would have either found your purple sweater somewhere else or forgotten about it by tomorrow anyway so it's not considered a big deal at all. This type of little white lie is just as common as men in the US telling women how great they look in 'that' outfit without even really looking or paying attention. They say it to avoid any negativity in a situation.

Another type of lie is omission. This could be as small as saying you're okay or fine when someone asks how you are instead of telling them more details like 'I had a rough morning but I'm fine now.' Or it could be a much bigger omission like when you applied for a new job in another state and didn't bother to tell your parents because they won't approve of it and if you don't get it they will let you know how wrong you were in the first place.

The third type of lie we were discussing is what I'm going to call the 'keeping up with the Kumars' kind of lie. In the US that would be 'keeping up with the Jonses' lol. This is when your parents in India routinely tell their friends or neighbors that you work in this grand job for this major company when you are really still in school studying or maybe you work in the mail room and not the home office like they tell everyone. In the US this would be when you lie to your neighbors about the new 52-inch flat screen you just purchased and are having delivered next week once you get the house ready (to which you then run out and purchase said TV because you don't want them to know you lied so you could outdo them). Yes, this kind of thing happens.

I consider denial to be a form of lying. Most often this is lying to ourselves or avoiding admitting something that we perceive will make us look bad. This is probably the most common form of lying. I've noticed in Indian society that children and young adults tend to believe what they have always been told about their culture, even when it is not true and the evidence is staring them in the face. One such example is the belief that Indian girls don't sleep around before marriage like western girls do. Hollywood and Bollywood are both responsible for this misconception. Living here I have seen one man who has slept with more than 50 different young Indian women, young girls in the streets (in the most posh area of town) who solicit male sexual attention for fun, and I know of several affairs going on around here. Of course, I've had several Indian men swear this kind of thing never happens in India. Americans are very open to admitting societal problems so to my knowledge this grand scale of denial doesn't go on there. (Let's just avoid the political discussion because politicians are liars in every country lol.)

Lies can get you into a lot of trouble or they can mean nothing at all. One should tread cautiously for this reason when working or interacting with other cultures. Someone could be telling you lies to avoid hurting you or to make themselves seem better. Your chances of being lied to online are even greater according to studies. It is up to each of us to be vigilant about verifying the truth in important situations. Here's some fascinating news articles that have been in the news lately.

US News: We're All Lying Liars: Why People Tell Lies, and Why White Lies Can Be OK
Times of India: Women tell 468 diet lies a year
Punjab NewsLine: I don’t lie! Is this a lie? The facts about men


  1. OK we all know everybody lies.
    But the entire point of lying is to be clever enough not to get caught, right?
    Not so in India. Getting caught in an impossibly stupid lie doesn't seem to matter in India.
    Don't even get me started on the Indian penchant for inventing 'malicious gossip'.

  2. Lol, I won't get you started because we may both never stop! To my knowledge I haven't been a part of any overly stupid lies (though I have had some small ones thrown my way) but I did notice most don't if you know they are lying or not. That's why I mentioned the shop keeper example. I think it's understood if he tells you come back tomorrow he won't actually have it but he's happy he didn't say anything to upset you and the patrons seem just as content he didn't outright say no. I haven't yet gotten used to that and sometimes I still think I should go back tomorrow because he ordered it for me lol.