Lack of Cultural Etiquette

One witnesses this everywhere in India. Looks like everyone wants to get ahead at the expense of another person, come what may.

At the pace at which India is growing, culture is going to be the casualty. This is not about Western culture taking over Indian youth or something, that has already happened in an irreversible fashion – we can’t do anything about it.

Even sophisticated-looking and well-dressed people, potentially well-educated, lack cultural sensitivity and etiquette. I have seen this constantly everywhere, especially in airports, malls and public places, where one gets overtaken in a rude manner with “brushed” and “bruised” shoulders. The lift is not held open for the guest trying to get in. The lift is not held open for the guest who wishes to get out. People show impatience when you are slow – even on an escalator, when some older person tentatively takes his/her steps and stabilizes.

This evening, I suffered the impact of such a behaviour. I was entering the driveway of a mall, and the left lane was for cars dropping off passengers, the right one being used for direct drive towards the parking entrance. The car in front of me suddenly stopped and started flashing the hazard lights on an afterthought. I horned as the car was blocking a series of cars behind me as well. The passengers were getting down slowly in a rather nonchalant manner, and the driver got out of his seat and came towards my car, gesturing me to down my windows. He was rather well dressed, and spoke in good English. He objected to my horning, but I explained that he should have moved towards the left as that was the appropriate alighting point and also safe for everyone. He started shouting, and said that he was not moving his car and I could smash my way through his car.

Well, I avoided his car by crossing him by his side and continued my way. He must have felt apologetic, as he approached me again when I was in the parking queue, and said sorry. That was unusual, as no one says sorry in India. I told him, OK that’s fine, let us move on, we are decent folks, et al.

The incident reminds me of several such issues in etiquette, which portrays an individual as he actually is. Nothing better shows the culture of a person than his immediate reaction to a provocation, or in this case, a mild objection to his demeanor. Well, that is it – I won’t hire him ! Except that he said sorry which happens to be rather unusual.

Even this evening, there were lot of shoppers pushing and pulling, but I have become quite cold to this show of force and impatience. I do what I wish to do while shopping – try to avoid everyone if possible. Luckily, I go for shopping once in two months, so it does not really matter. But I cannot avoid airports.

Well, let us practice some good behaviour towards strangers tomorrow.


Vijay Srinivasan
10th July 2010


2 thoughts on “Lack of Cultural Etiquette

  1. Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this also – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get anything done… Regards…

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