Friday, January 24, 2014

Cultural Sensitivity or an Excuse for Bad Behavior?

As I begin to post about my husbands first year in the US and the things that happened between us, I want to touch on a subject that often becomes a hot topic in the online communities. It's very difficult to discern between what is and is not cultural when you're not born and raised in that culture. Sure, you can read or hear about all the stereotypes but in reality, life doesn't run off of stereotypes.

When does cultural sensitivity and tolerance turn into a scapegoat excuse for bad human behavior?

What is cultural sensitivity? It's important I define that before I move forward with this post. Being  culturally sensitive means you are careful not to engage in words and gestures that you know are offensive to the other culture. So, if you're married to an Indian this means that in most circumstances you're not going to dress provocative while walking around the streets of India. It could be really offensive to go to a temple or church and not observe the rules and customs for that religion. You should both learn and avoid key phrases to avoid throughout your marriage like "shut up," which is offensive to some Indians but used as a fun and light-hearted exclamation by some Americans.

Cultural sensitivity is NOT letting your spouse smack you in the face because he's used to it in his home country. No, this isn't the norm in India but it is more tolerated to give someone a slap on the face in India than it is in the U.S (where this is considered domestic battery under the law). Cultural sensitivity is also NOT giving up all of your culture, your habits, your religion, your life so that your Indian spouse can be happy. If your spouse is that unhappy with all aspects of who you are then why did they marry you? Right?

Throughout my exposure to India post-marriage, I have seen and been privy to some behaviors that baffle and bewilder me. I've blogged about some of them while living in India. Others, I've read about while other girls struggled to understand them. Sometimes as a pardesi we tolerate behaviors that we should not, often dismissing them as cultural issues when in fact they are not.

One thing on my mind right now is food. I wrote an emotional post called "One Bad Aspect of Indian Culture" about my MIL and her eating habits. In that instance, this was a culturally ingrained concept for her. She allowed her family to eat before she ate. In return, she had taught them that they shouldn't worry about her food, they should just eat all they wanted. Somewhere along the line, they stopped giving any indication that they worried about her food intake. She's not starving herself, she eats plenty.

In this particular case, this is cultural. Whether it's Indian culture or just my family culture could easily be debatable and would depend on what area of India your spouse comes from. This became a point of contention between hubby and me and my family. I love food. I do not wait for everyone else to eat lol. I don't intend to. Hubby on the other hand likes to ask everyone else for some of their food. No one is happy about this. They don't know how to respond to the request and he doesn't know how to respond to their denial.

In hubby's mind, this is sharing. Just another aspect of the communal living he was used to. To us, it's shocking. We share, but not to that extent. No, I'm not discussing times when someone has a bag of popcorn or chips. Those are supposed to be shared. I'm talking about when we get a plate of food and sit down to eat a meal. Let me clarify, hubby never took anyone's plate of food. He simply asked for us to give him some of our food almost every single time we ate something.

But that's not all. If he opened a package of something himself, like a packet of M&M's, he would insist we eat some of it and he never finished anything on his own. This too drove me nuts as since we don't typically share food, a lot of things would get wasted. He wouldn't come back and finish them later. He simply didn't finish his food. Argh! That's hard for a southern girl who was taught to clean her plate to fathom. Those of you raised in the US should be able to sympathize with having heard "there's starving children in *insert country here*" type statements your whole life.

I guess what all that comes down to is this being a cultural issue. There's no getting around it. No one gets hurt. Therefore, as annoying as it can be to adjust to this at times, I should not devote much of my creative energy to devising a solution.

Using food as an example, it IS a problem when a mother, wife or anyone else is not allowed to eat food until other family members are done. This is not an India specific problem. In the US previously, there were families where the children ate last, with dad eating all he wanted first, then mom taking her share and the children left to survive on what was left. That is BAD HUMAN BEHAVIOR. It makes me sick to think of things like that btw. Without going out on a tangent here, I'll get back to my point.

If your spouse demands you not eat until they are done, that is bad human behavior. That is not cultural, that is controlling.

Let's look at another example.

Imagine you're sitting in your living room, watching a marathon of your favorite TV program. You've been in there for a few episodes and your husband has been out with friends. He comes home and sits with you and you start talking - about the show, about your evenings, etc. Then suddenly he tells you to go watch your TV in the other room. He doesn't like the program and it's getting on his nerves.

He doesn't ask you to change it so you can watch something together. He doesn't offer to let you finish the episode you're on. He just tells you to leave the room. This is bad human behavior. This is not cultural. I've seen this done to children and that's an entirely different concept so I'm not discussing that here. I only mean between a husband and a wife. It doesn't matter if he's a massive cricket fan and he rushed home to see the match and wants the big screen TV. That is not an excuse to disregard you in his decision (unless there is only 1 TV, and he still could have approached you in a much better manner).

When you need to determine if something is cultural or simply bad behavior, you should consider whether or not it takes you as a person into account. Any behavior that is controlling, manipulative, domineering or dominating IS bad human behavior. Your spouse should be willing to give up or try to avoid behaviors that upset and offend you just as you would do for them. If they don't seem to take your feelings into consideration, talk to them. If they're unwilling to change, then they don't value you the way a spouse should.

As a general rule, I don't engage in serious conversation about any specific issue more than 3 times before I consider it a problem. So far when hubby and I have discussed issues we have adjusting to each other, it has never taken more than 3 serious conversations. I don't count reminders we give each other, stopping a conversation to address the topic when it creeps back in, etc. I mean 3 conversations devoted to the specific issue. Conversations you calmly engage in for the purpose of finding a mutually agreeable solution.

If after 3 serious conversations you have no resolution, it may well be time to part ways. I know that sounds harsh but no one is so set in their ways that they can't change something to make their own life better. Any change you ask for helps you both become happier. So this isn't a one-sided issue ever. If your spouse can't improve himself (or herself) to promote marital harmony, then they don't value the marriage the way they should and they likely won't get better. People don't become more flexible as they age, in fact they usually become more set in their ways. Can you really deal with the behavior forever? That is up to you. No one can make the choice for you but remember to value yourself when making the decision. It takes two people to have a marriage - so why would you ever discount your equality?

What are some issues you see in the community around you that are often mistaken for cultural when you feel like they are actually bad human behaviors?
Have you had to overcome a cultural aspect to better your own marriage? How about your spouse? Have they had to overcome a cultural aspect for the sake of your happiness?


  1. Two of my husband's teenaged nephews recently came to live with us from India - they are the sons of the oldest brother (so they have a DEFINITE sense of entitlement).
    What irks me is the Desi habit of theirs to throw garbage, dirty clothes, food remnants (like banana peels, pistachio shells, orange peels & seeds etc) ANYWHERE & everywhere.
    I just found the wrapper from a bag of raisins casually tossed on a shelf in the pantry AGAIN. (It was 4 feet away from the rubbish bin, SIGH).
    I just found a used Qtip on my computer desk too (ICK).
    I know the idea of a rubbish bin is rather odd in most Indian households - the Indian thought is that the maid or female relative (usually mom or sister) is supposed to pick up after you. But I find it RUDE & disrespectful to throw crap everywhere.
    Well, I've given them the "Your mother does not live here" speech & the "This is an American household with American rules" talk with not much affect.
    I know some of this is just teenaged sloppiness but now it is ultimatum time-
    Can't put your dirty clothes in the dirty clothes bag?
    Then your dirty clothes will not get washed.
    Can't make your own bed?
    Then you will sleep in an unmade bed.
    Can't throw your refuse in one of the amply provided rubbish bins?
    Then your rubbish will be thrown in your unmade bed.

    Sounds a bit dire, but we're much more fun & lenient with 'personal freedom' & 'stuff' than their parents. We've provided both of them with motorcycles, a PS3, their own TVs, laptops, mobile phones, new & hip clothing etc. (things their parents would never buy for them).
    If my ultimatums do not work then some of this 'fun stuff' will be taken away.
    If that doesn't work then they'll get shipped home.

  2. Seems like bad behavior to me. There is nothing cultural about it. We have a dustbin and even my five year old puts toffee rappers in the dustbin. He saw us doing it and followed it. Even with a maid, we do not litter our own house.

    In India, the dustbins are usually kept outside the house, as it is considered dirty. In olden days, you could not go into the pooja room or the kitchen, after going to the toilet. You had to take a bath and purify yourself. Even if your had made contact with toilet, you had to take bath. The same goes for dustbin/garbage I suppose. We are generally averse to making contact with the toilet or dustbin.

    There was perhaps a general sense of understanding then about what was clean and what was not so clean as people were not aware of how diseases get spread by germs. Some people are still particular about it. Some people don't take breakfast without bath and pooja. Some do not touch anything sacred after touching non-veg food. Some don't go to temple after eating non-veg. Some don't keep vegetarian and non-veg food in close contact. Indians have lots of dos and don'ts list. Now, in big cities where everyone has do his own stuff, these rules are not strictly followed.

  3. Oh yes, the qtip thing kills me! Luckily I've had a lot of success converting hubby over to the idea of western trash cans. He did once get a little miffed by the trash can in the bathroom and wanted to get rid of it but I told him no lol. That's the one place we need one the most. I got so excited, he actually asked me for his own trash can on his side of the bed a while back and he uses it and keeps it cleaned up. It was great! Previously he made a small pile until he got up to take it to the trash in the kitchen.

    I like your idea of discipline/ultimatums. I've done it myself and it works. Just wait till they have to wear something dirty and feel gross all day. That should change their minds about the clothes. It's innocent justice. ;)

  4. In my experience, which I admit is very limited, it's typically the children who do the littering. Then of course they remain children until marriage in which the wife's job is to teach them not to behave this way or they're expected to change overnight. I'm not opposed to letting kids be kids. All kids have their bad habits and try to get away with things but I'm very much opposed to the idea that people remain kids until the day they marry and then are expected to become adults overnight. That baffles me! But I've seen/heard that same ideal from a lot of fellow pardesi's.

  5. APPI, I'm confused by your food example. In what context/situation did your husband ask for other people's food? at home, a restaurant, a buffet, a picnic? Did he not have his own plate, and why? Could he not order more food, serve himself, ask for seconds? throughout the years, in my very Southern family we've often shared food in informal situations. As for not finishing food, that's why we have zip lock bags and refrigerators! My young children often don't finish their supper, and either I eat it or it goes in Tupperware and they get it at the next meal.

  6. I don't know Apple.
    I've seen many members of Indian households throw trash, dirty clothes & some rather unsanitary items on the floor in many houses now.
    I recall one Indian household where everyone blew their nose by plugging one nostril with a finger & then 'letting fly' with the other nostril in the general direction of the open door. When I showed them the western method of using a tissue to blow one's nose they eagerly adopted it, only to throw the soiled tissues on the floor (ICK). This was a 'middle class & educated Indian family by the way.

  7. Yet another bit of Indian culture/bad behavior-
    Tonight one of the teenage nephews got in a fight with one of our employees. As I walked in the door I heard him yelling-
    "You can not speak to that way, you are a SERVANT!!!"
    Sigh...he had also punched the employee in the face & kicked him in the kidneys.
    My husband calmly explained to him-
    "We do NOT hit, kick, or chapaat anyone for any reason EVER.
    We speak to our employees in a civil, professional & business like matter.
    If you cannot do this you will be sent home.
    Every day is a new world around here!
    You never know what will happen next!

  8. Great questions! I should have been more specific. He had his own plate but it's typically something different on it when this happens. He will say "give me a little bit." It's difficult to describe but this isn't in the same context as him wanting to try new things. It's mostly foods he's had. He just seems to want to eat some of our food and his food as well. Yes, we could ask for some of his food (at least that's the impression I get) but w don't do that. We don't typically share food that way in my family. Most of the time when we share it's more like someone ordered a meal at a restaurant and boxed up half of it to bring to someone else (a diet trick I learned years ago). Hubby and I have often gotten one big plate to share if we're eating the same thing to alleviate any tension over this issue. It doesn't happen if we're having the same food and this is mostly occurring at home. At restaurants he's too shy for this behavior. He could ask for seconds but most of the time he puts way too much food on his plate. It's a learning experience for him as well as me. I think given the nature of his sharing like this for so long, he doesn't realize he's getting too much food most of the time.

    A lot of the things he's opening can't be put in a ziploc bag for later. I wish they could. One prime example is granola bars. I keep them on hand because of my work. They're an easy, quick fix when I can't get to real food. Hubby will see them, think that because they have nuts or dried fruit he needs to try them. He knows he only wants one bite and then the rest will get wasted and he knows he doesn't like them but he'll still want to taste a little bit. I don't get it! Yes, I could finish it for him but our body clocks are on different schedules and I have some personal issues with eating after someone like this. Husband or not lol. I know that's weird to many people because we kiss, so what's the difference right? I know that part is me, but it's something I can't move past. Things we can break off a piece are not an issue.

    This whole thing is just something foreign to me. There's no right or wrong, only different. I hope that makes sense lol. It's kind of hard to describe!

  9. OMG! I'm in total shock reading some of this though this is not the first time I've heard it happening. It's just more personal since you've been with me so long on this blog. I feel hurt for you! I definitely think you and/or your husband need to sit down with them and go over the rules of your household. You're not required to bow down to them because they're guests. They're family and living with you. That makes them household members which is a different standard. I hope you're able to get this resolved peacefully. >hugs<

  10. HAH!
    Oh I've dealt with bratty teenagers before, I can handle it.
    I've dealt with Desi 'culture' long enough to have seen this sort of behavior before also - although I can't seem to get used to it.
    My husband's family has sent individuals with 'problems' to our house before. some of them we can 'fix' some get sent back to India.
    Thanx though!

  11. It's at home. There's never a shortage on food. He's getting plenty of food, has his own shelves in the pantry with plenty of options and when someone cooks there's typically leftovers.

    I'm not sure it's a territorial power display either. It doesn't feel like that. I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. He does this to everyone in the immediate family, so only those he's comfortable with. It feels (to me) like he's doing this just out of habit. I don't see any real rhyme or reason to it.

    I'm not sure that it makes any difference, but hubby eats twice as much food as I do. When he fixes dinner for me, he almost always fixes way too much. He'll bring me a full plate with like 3 slices of garlic bread and 2 chicken breasts, etc. He piles food on my plate! I never eat even close to that much lol. I think this reflects his feelings quite well - that he's not trying to control my food intake. I know he also has been through the culture shock 'I'm starving' phase in which he also would consistently order 2 meals for himself plus snacks and appetizers, etc. That baffled me as well. He would eat all of that at each meal and then still say he was starving.

  12. Mary,
    Yes, they are quite the stereotypical overindulged a-hole Indian males with an outrageous sense of entitlement aren't they?
    Unfortunately their father taught them by example these awful behaviors & the rest of the family has condoned this horrid behavior by not correcting them.
    From what I've observed this is pretty typical of the poor 'parenting' Indian sons receive in Indian families. (As APPI pointed out these Indian sons remain children until marriage.)
    Now these nephews have chosen (by several tantrums & refusals to eat - how DESI!) to come live with us to learn my husband's business rather than go to university.
    They have a year to 'learn' the business & 'unlearn' these bad behaviors - or they get sent home.
    They didn't much like finding pistachio shells & orange peels in their unmade bed last night & I did not find the floor littered with their trash this morning.
    My husband has made the nephew who hit the employee apologize to the employee.
    So it goes !!!!

  13. I enjoy reading your blog very much. I look forward to the posts you leave.

    bf is a neat freak so much that if i had a dirty house he wouldnt date me! He said his mom keeps their house very clean and is used to that. He constantly cleans his room though there isnt much to pick up. But his roommate is messy!. He constantly leaving dirty dishes in the sink for days or leaves food out to spoil. He hardly ever takes the garbage out. He tells bf I will clean that but never does. When bf first moved in the apt was a mess. His roommate was living there for a week by himself. The bathroom floor was sticky and bf had no idea what the guy did in there.

    I find it disgusting when I can hear bf blowing his nose in the shower!!! I constantly tell him how gross and unhygienic it is! For goodness sakes use a tissue!! I shower in there and do not want to step in his boogers. His excuse is "nothing comes out of my nose, see? He laughs saying I am indian wife yelling at him.

    Bf hates when people waste food. During graduate school he worked in the cafeteria and saw how much food americans wasted. It made him sad. people beg for food in india. When we eat out if he sees some food on my plate he will ask if im going to finish it. Most of the time i take food home but if i cant he will stuff himself so it isnt wasted. Sometimes he will ask me "Is it ok i don't finish my food?" When we were dating he would get upset if i didnt eat with him. Automatically think I was sick or something. If i protested I wasnt hungry he would still make me something and watch me eat. His friends are very much like this too. He still asks me what i had to eat and when did i eat last.

    Bf has never hit me but he thinks its okay to hit your wife. One time he told me "indian wives aspect that" I had a deep conversation with him it is never okay to hit anyone. Women do not like to be abused, nobody does. Physical abuse is about power and control. Just because its acceptable in India does not mean the same goes for here. I will not tolerate that. If he ever hit me I would go to the cops after I took a frying pan to his face haha.

  14. Thank you for the compliment!

    I had to giggle a little. Hubby used to tell me that nothing came out when he blew his nose (but for him he meant no matter how he did it). I had to teach him to blow his nose. This seems like a common thing that many other girls mention as well.

    I've also heard of some who think it's okay to slap your wife. (Not hit, like with a fist.) I got lucky, hubby and I both agreed neither of us would ever want that. I don't slap him, he doesn't slap me. Even though it's mostly acceptable in the US for a woman to slap a man for various reasons, I think it's wrong. If a man can't slap a woman, a woman can't slap a man IMO. So we get along well on this issue. Although, I did hit hubby with a pillow. I really need to blog about that. :P

  15. Those who litter their own houses are plain lazy and rude people. Men are more prone to these things. Women in general are more organized and want things in a particular way. So, they do get annoyed with men when they put a wet towel on the bed or do things like that. Men I guess are always in hurry. I can understand why your husband objected to the dustbin in bedroom. Indians eat lot of vegetables and other stuff which really gets smelly if the dustbin is kept inside. That how we define dustbin, where primarily vegetable and food garbage goes. Other than that, I believe some people are plain lazy. We are particular about keeping our own house clean but not outside.

    I have read many Americans complain that Indians smell. They don't take bath. Living In India, I have yet to meet an Indian who does not take bath. Americans also cannot tolerate what they call the "curry smell". On our side, we think that using toilet paper instead or water or not rinsing your mouth after a meal or washing dishes in a basin full of dirty water is gross or taking bath in a bath tub which is full of your own sweat and grime is dirty. I think certain things are also cultural. These are not my views but something which I often come across on the internet on culture clash forums

  16. This is indeed strange! have you asked him why he does this? My experience living in India for almost 3 years is that people do NOT take food off of other people's plates or ask for it. Sharing from a communal dish is one thing, but once it's on an individual's plate, there it stays. There are cases where someone might say "I can't finish this, here you eat this." I once did this at a group office lunch because there was some chicken on my plate and I really couldn't eat anymore, but I knew some of the men in our group would be happy to eat it. Does your husband do this in India with his family, and in what situations?: I just find it really strange that he would go around asking you and your family to give him food that you are clearly eating, from your plate to him, when he has plenty for himself, and you are eating the same things.

  17. I get a little irritated by people who blame someones smell on their race. I've not yet smelled one single Indian who smelled like curry (at least not the Punjabi curries I know!). I have encountered those who don't wear deodorant and sweat in the Indian summer but that's a human problem, not race specific. Plenty of people do this worldwide.

    Cleanliness habits are also something I think are more personal than cultural. However, the methods of cleaning and what is considered clean have some cultural distinctions. Just as you mentioned not taking a bath in bath water. That's because of the the dirt and dust in the air and the propensity to get dirty from everyday activities in India. It's an unavoidable situation. Here in the states, our air is much cleaner and dirt isn't picked up as easily. So we're not bathing in our own filth, there's just not nearly as much everyday dirt and pollution to wash off for some of us. Baths are also considered relaxing and not always used for cleanliness. Sometimes it's purely for rest.

  18. I find it strange too! We do share things we're done with just like you mentioned but that's a different scenario. I don't understand the asking for food like he does. It seems innocent but it's baffling and a little shocking since I've never encountered it before him. I think he also did it with his mother. I remember him taking her food if she had something he liked. So I'm either inclined to think he just really loves food and can't resist it or this is a habit he was taught somehow early in life.

  19. Frankly, I am appalled at the way your nephews behaved. Quite apart from the morals and ethics of it, it suggests a very feudal upbringing, which may be a family legacy, I don't know. Another thing for them to know is that at least in India it's a free labor market and ill-treated servants and employees will leave. Especially in major metros, keeping a good domestic assistant or employee is hard enough even with financial incentives. I don't know what social relations are like in Nepal but I can hardly believe that they would sanction this sort of behavior. Add physical abuse to the mix and you're also probably looking at a police case as the news tell us every now and then. Also, please tell your nephews that physically attacking someone, especially in a country not their own, can get them killed. With a khukhri. Another reason to behave themselves. If the appeals to morality and ethic don't work. Although God knows, that should be good enough for most people.

  20. Sounds like in his family life, from a young age, older family members allowed or encouraged him to help himself from their plates. Opposite of our upbringing where we are taught never to "snatch" from someone else's plate!

  21. There is something else I have come across frequently on the internet. It is believed that Asians are nerds by most Americans. They keep on getting good academic results in schools and colleges. This trend is prevalent not only in America but also in UK and Australia. There is a growing resentment against Chinese, Koreans, Japanese as the keep on pushing up the academic standards (Indians are not considered Asians by the way by Americans though India is very much in Asia)

    It is believed that Asian families put emphasis on education and force their children to study. The children miss out on social activities like sports, sleepover, dating etc unlike other Americans. Many Americans say that Asians may be good in academics but socially awkward, not creative, not well rounded etc. This came as surprise to me because for the first time I found somebody or a community being criticized for its academic achievements and hard work. In India, education is everything and secondly I felt it smacked of racism. Being academically good could be ground for discrimination was new to me.

    A Chinese Yale Professor Amy Chua wrote a book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" about Asian style parenting which has become quite a rage in America. For us America is near perfect especially american education. I also felt that there is a simmering resentment under the surface against different races in America. American parents also seem to have strong objections about american school education.

  22. Im asian and i swear we sweat more then others!! A couple of years ago I went to florida with my parents. it was very hot down there. My friend came with us (who is also asian.) We were sweating so much i swear i started to smell. we put deodorant on every chance we got. my parents kept saying how nice the weather was. They didnt think it was hot. My mom thought we were getting sick because of the sweat pouring out of us!

    Call me crazy but i like how indian men smell particularly bf. he has a very distinct smell. I swear its a mix of spices and something sweet. but I know not all americans find this attractive. I have heard people say indians smell of curry but those are just racists bastards.

  23. That's a good possibility. Now that you bring that up, with the way he eat sometimes it makes sense! There's a lot of time he acts like he's starving then eats 2-3 bites of food. So possibly he did this as a kid and that was how MIL kept him from wasting a whole plate. That's something to think about now. :)

  24. We call white kids nerds too. Nerd is a term directed at anyone who values academics over popularity. It's not racist.

    From what I've seen, the Asian community is becoming more accepted for their cultural value and it's being more understood that academics is something that comes with being Asian. From what I've seen, Asians are social in a much different way and yes, it are significantly less socialized than westerners. But, we also take our children on play dates from the time they're tiny so that's not a surprise. Social events and outings are part of academic culture from a very young age as well. As for creativity, I'm not sure what to say on that one since a substantial portion of our handicrafts come from Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries. My whole life I've heard things like "Persian rug" being used to describe high-end, coveted items. So I find it hard to believe we wouldn't think of other cultures as creative. Of course, growing up in the country-side, this could be because we're naturally crafty people and gravitate toward those things so I'll refrain from even trying to sort out what the rest of America feels on that topic.

    I wasn't privy to your particular incident but from those I've seen or heard about, I would venture to say there was less racism involved than the person feeling inferior. It's a sad but common trait for Americans to blame race when race is not even a factor. In the case of academics, I know far too many Americans who get bitter against anyone who beats them for a job/promotion, etc. and if the person is of a different race, they are often too quick to assume that race was a factor when academic credentials were likely considered first. Yes we have racism here but we're not nearly as racist anymore as people try to promote we are (and by people I mean other Americans!). It's a common practice of misplaced blame done to make the wounded feel better.

  25. I use a carrier bag as a waste paper bin in my bedroom in India, I simply cannot live without a bin. I noticed when we have visitors that they leave wrappers on our shelves and throw plastic on the floor.

    The problem is... the maids keep taking my carrier bag (a.k.a my bedroom bin) away, thinking I must have just thrown it on the floor.

    I hope to get a real waste paper bin one day *daydreams*

  26. You can find small trash bins at larger retail stores. Until you can get one you like, I found that making a small pile in one spot on the floor worked well. It keeps it out of your way, a little better organized and the maid instinctively knows to clean it up. I put mine just under the edge of my bed so I really never saw it too much. If I had to see it, it probably would have bothered me a lot more.

  27. According to internet posts, Americans believe that Asians are naturally good in mathematics because of genetics. Asians can memorize lots of information. Some say it is parental pressure. By creative Americans mean that Asians cannot "think out of the box" and create something new like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs because they cannot challenge the social and family hierarchy in their societies. Repetitive works are probably not liked in Western culture. This is the theory in most western countries about Asians. I love they way there is always some research/scientific theory explain everything in America. Everybody it trying/saying something new.

    This kind of positive sterotyping reminded me about British India. The British identified many Indian races like Sikh, Jats, Gurkhas and Marathas as marital races and praised their military skills sky high. This way they brought the loyalty of these races against their own country men. I see a hint of this kind of stereotyping in these theories about Asians. Probably an attempt to isolate racial groups into neat brackets.

  28. srcgreen-
    How do we bring about change?
    I have several nieces & nephews attending university in Delhi, Mumbai & Srinagar.
    From what I've observed not a lot of 'character building' is going on at these Indian universities - just more of the same 'rote learning' that passes for education at lower levels in the Indian educational system.
    My nephew has grown up in Srinagar - he has seen violence as a way of solving problems nearly every day on the streets, in his very expensive school, & at home by his a-hole parents.
    We now have an entire generation of Kashmiri youth who has grown up witnessing violence daily - it does affect them & they are 'desensitized' to violence. Drug/alcohol abuse & mental illness are rampant in Kashmir.
    What to doooooo? (Pardon my Indianism)
    Well you said it can only take place in families.
    I can guarantee this nephew's 53 yr old a-hole father & his 50 yr old nasty excuse for a mom are not going to change their ways.
    My husband & I agreed to take in these nephews because-
    A- they are both very intelligent
    B- they can be reasoned with & they have demonstrated that they can determine right from wrong
    I think that the nephew that attacked our salesperson did know that he had done something VERY wrong - & that's a start.
    We will patiently & firmly reinforce positive ways dealing with emotions & trying situations while punishing negative behaviors.
    If after a year these nephews have not learned the business & continue to indulge in displaying their anger in an aggressive manner - they go home to a severely economically depressed Srinagar most likely to be unemployed hooligans.
    If they do learn the business & how to behave in a positive manner then my husband & I set them up with their own shops. I have seen the pride of gainful employment & making one's own $$ reform some pretty nasty folks in my time.
    They have only been with us since January 1st but we have seen MAJOR improvements in their behavior & they have caught on to how to run a business quite well (for the most part).
    I'm sure we'll have a few more 'bumps' in the road as I don't think all of these learned negative behaviors are going to go away overnight.
    And that is my husband & my ideas on how to change nasty 'feudal' behavior.

    If you have any ideas that you've found effective to deal with this 'feudal' mindset I'd love to hear them.
    Don't count on the Indian police to enforce the law in any practical or effective manner - they are rather feudal in mindset themselves.

  29. @Beatrix, I was born, raised and educated in India. What I learned in college was both inside and outside the classroom. Since my university took in students from all over the country, I interacted with people with whom I had absolutely nothing in common socially. We were on an equal playing field for once since we were all newcomers to college. From my classmates who had come up via affirmative action, I learned how hard it was to first read the English texts to understand the language and then read them again for the content. From my more traditionally-raised friends, I came to empathize with their view that prolonging education was a good way of postponing marriage. I came to have empathy with others. In my (middle class) family, it would be unthinkable for anyone to hit the domestic help or an employee. We were taught to say "Thank you" for every glass of water served to us, and we had to help. We were not allowed to misbehave with anyone, least of all with the help. It was not contractually written down but my mother's word in these matters was the law. What made it work was the fact that my mother set a personal example by doing at least some housework herself instead of delegating it all. My father set an example by not making unreasonable demands on those working for him, either at home or at work. So, there are Indian families and then there are Indian families and, yes, these kinds of behavior can be learned in the Indian family too. Looks like your nephews' parents are unbelievably thuggish people. Luckily, they have a second circle of family to help them unlearn bad behavior. Or so one hopes.