Forced To Be Someone You're Not

Jerod Clark

James McGrath
March 11, 2010

It is indeed challenging to cope with such circumstances. Politeness is mostly a matter of habits and assumptions, and it is very hard for us to think about politeness itself as something that differs from culture to culture. I remember from my own visits to India that I soon learned that what I thought was polite refusal was, in the context of Indian culture, the beginning of the haggling process. Avoiding looking in their direction was the most effective - to us it seems rude, but to the hawkers it means "genuinely not interested." Nevertheless, given the tendency of foreign tourists to pay ridiculously more than things are worth, hawkers can be very persistent.

It is always good to learn even a little of the language spoken in the areas you will be visiting. "Not interested" in Hindi is more effective on the streets of Delhi than "Not interested" in English, presumably since they assume you've been before and know the ropes, as it were. And for those travelling to south India, the Routledge Colloquial Tamil book includes in its dialogue a LOT of phrases that are of great practical use for haggling with autorickshaw drivers!

March 12, 2010

Jerod - The problem, it seems to me, is simply that you didn't know how to say "no" properly (not your fault). I live in Tijuana. After I learned the local gesture to say "no thanks", I had no trouble here. I would guess there is something similar in Delhi.

In response to your question: People who are uncomfortable with change don't do well in cross-cultural settings. We are REQUIRED to change who we really are. If we don't then we end up looking like and acting like fools or worse.

This very feature of cross-cultural living/travel - is what makes it so worthwhile. Lots of perspective can be gained, lots of idols torn down, worldview re-evaluated, etc.

Add your comment to join the discussion!