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Mentality and Behavior of Indians in the USA

Disclaimer

  • This article is meant to be constructive criticism and an effort to improve the lifestyle and image of Indians in the U.S. Take everything positively.
  • This article is not meant to label Indians with stereotypes. It does not represent all of the 3 million or so Indians living in the U.S. Everyone does not do everything mentioned here. It is based purely on personal experiences and observations.
  • Even though the examples in this article may refer to someone from a specific region, state, or caste, it is just an example and may apply to many other types people. Do not take anything personally or literally.
  • This article is not meant to be against Indians, not to complain against Indians, and is not bashing Indians.
  • The U.S. has many positive things to offer. (Not everything, though.) This article hopes that some people learn the good things from it.
  • Everything mentioned is not always a bad thing done by all Indians and some of the things mentioned here may exist with other people as well. However, it is an effort so that all Indians will be proud of themselves after changing themselves, and be seen positively by others some day. When a country welcomes you, your duty is to first try and assimilate with the people and its culture.
  • If you think you have a better way to express any of the comments in this article in a nicer manner, please send it to us and we will sincerely consider it. Otherwise, please do not make complaints about how this article is not written in the right spirit.

Definitions

  • Indian means the person of origin of India, a country in South Asia.
  • For the purpose of this article, Indian means anyone of Indian origin living in the U.S., even if the person is a citizen of U.S. or any other country. Includes second, third and nth generation Indians as well.
  • Even though American is a proper term for anyone who is U.S. citizen (including people of Indian origin), for the purpose of this article, American means people in the U.S. who are of European origin, white or Caucasian race.
  • Definitions of South Indians and North Indians vary among people. But the proper definitions are
    • South Indian – People from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
    • North Indian – It typically includes the Hindi speaking regions. In other words, it includes Bihar, Chattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh. That means, it excludes Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Orissa, West Bengal and 7 other states in the Northeast. Not everyone would agree with these definitions. Many South Indians would consider the rest of India as North India which is inappropriate (e.g., Gujarat is in West India, and not North India). Some people say there is no North India, but only South India and the Rest of India.

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Work

  • Use the company resources only for company work.
  • Do not print 100 pages worth of personal stuff on company printer.
  • Do not abuse sending email or making personal phone calls (including calls to India) using company resources.
  • Be sincere at work and be at the desk most of the time. Do not spend hours doing social networking, sending instant messages, chatting or otherwise wasting time.
  • Do not spend an hour or two socializing with others at work. You are in office to work.
  • Everyone at work is not necessarily your personal friend. They may not want to share their personal details such as what exactly they did during the weekend, or information on their love life, etc.
  • Do not discuss salary or a performance appraisal, etc.
  • You don’t represent the entire India which has over 1.25 billion people and counting. Do not consider yourself an authority on India and every subject. You are not an Ambassador of India to the U.S.
  • If something bad or negative happens in India, don’t take the blame for it or feel embarrassed about it.
  • If something good or positive happens in India, don’t take too much pride as if you did that yourself.
  • Work is work and private life is private life. Keep them separate. Do not talk too much about your private life at work and don’t expect others to tell you too much about theirs either.
  • Do not get involved romantically with anyone at work. It is an issue especially with someone who reports to you or is under your hierarchy. You don’t want any sexual harassment charges filed against you if it things were to not work out.
  • Do not eat sambar/rice (or other similar food) by hand. Use a spoon.
  • Do not make noises while eating lunch at work. No slurping.
  • After eating lunch in a company cafeteria, make sure to clean up after yourself. No peon or maid is normally present to do that for you.
  • Just don’t drop into anyone’s cubicle at any time of the day to start personal gossip.
  • Don’t hang around in the office till 8 PM or 10 PM, or work on most weekends. Spend time with your family. If you are still single, spend time with your friends. Have some sort of a life outside of your work.
  • Do not take office supplies home for personal use for yourself or your kids.
  • If you are a manager or even higher in your company, do not favor someone just because he is from your state, city, or caste. Do not discriminate against others.
  • Call your boss or anyone else higher up in your company up to the President or CEO by their first name. There is no concept of calling superiors by “sir” or “madam”.

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Social

  • When you see other Indians (or anyone else), at least smile at them. When others (especially ladies) smile at you, don’t take the wrong meaning. They are simply being polite.
  • If you see another Indian, don’t have the mentality that you are here because of your intelligence but others are here because of luck or fraud.
  • Make sure to talk in the most common language that everyone can understand. For example, if someone understands Marathi, it is fine to talk to each other in Marathi as long as no else is in the conversation. However, as soon as a Gujarati or a Bengali is in the conversation, immediately switch to Hindi, assuming that all of them can understand Hindi. Similarly, as soon as s Tamil person is around, switch to English, assuming the Tamil person doesn’t know Hindi. Similarly, as soon as some American or non-Indian is around, definitely switch to English. It is simply rude and annoying for two Telugu speakers to have conversations in Telugu when a Punjabi and Kannada person is around, as the other two have no clue what is happening. Do not make others feel isolated. (Again, each language referred to here is simply for illustration purposes only.) Do not start a debate of whether Hindi is a national language (of India) or not. Just talk in any language that everyone around you can understand. If a Marathi and a Bengali are talking in Hindi, South Indians should not automatically assume that Hindi is their language and if they can talk in Hindi, you can talk in Tamil. Those two guys are simply talking in the most common language among them. There are many other languages other than Hindi in the rest of India. South Indians should not assume that everyone else’s language is Hindi. Simply talk in the most common language that everyone can understand.
  • Whenever you meet another Indian, don’t immediately ask ‘Where are you from?’ where the expected answer is which state he/she is from. For example, many South Indians want to socialize only with other South Indians. Within that, many Telugu speaking people want to socialize only with other Telugu speaking people. Within that, many Hyderabadis want to socialize only with other Hyderabadis. Within that, many Reddys want to socialize only with other Reddys. (Again, this is just one example for ease of understanding. Do not take this literally). Please do not do that. Just because someone is not from your caste, your city, or your state, do not automatically exclude him or ignore him. Both of you are from India, both of you now live in the same city and in the same state in the U.S. Therefore, behave accordingly and respectfully.
  • Do not start arguments about South Indians vs North Indians, or Tamil vs Punjabi or anything like that, at least in front of non-Indians. It only makes fun of India overall and proves to others how divided India is.
  • An average American has no idea about such differences and does not care. Many Americans may not even be able to recognize the difference between an Indian or Pakistani. If an average American sees an Indian, he may think this person is from the Middle East. Please do not continue to have regional differences as it is not worth it. You have come to America for a “better life”, whatever that means. Try to be American in all the positive ways that you can.
  • All South Indians are not ‘Madrasi’. At the same time, all North Indians are not ‘Bhaiyya’.
  • Second generation Indians may not like first generation Indians and first generation Indians who have been around here for 20 years may not like the ones who just came to the U.S. 2 months ago. Please understand that no matter how long you have been around here, others still consider you Indian.
  • The same Indian who arrived to the U.S. 10 years ago, who was highly in favor of giving greencards to H1 holders quickly, has now become a U.S. citizen. This person is now against giving more greencards to newly arrived H1 holders. It seems that everyone wants to shut the door behind them. That is not fair.
  • The same Indian who stands in line properly when he is at the U.S. post office does not want to obey the line when he is at an Indian function such as Diwali Mela, 15th August etc. People start behaving as if they are in India, and they start cutting the line, pushing others in front of them, and simply crowd up as many people as they can.
  • The same Indian who drives on a U.S. road properly and parks properly at the mall would like to break traffic rules and park randomly at Indian functions or even in a neighborhood that is predominantly Indian. Please understand that you are still in the U.S. and you still need to obey the driving rules. Otherwise, the police may give you tickets.

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  • Don’t throw trash all over the place at Indian functions.
  • Even within your apartment complex, do not roam around in lungis (men) or night gowns (women). Do not venture out like that even if it is just to throw away trash in the trash container located in your apartment complex. If at all you wear a lungi, please don’t fold up half way.
  • Just because an Indian family invited you to a social function like a birthday party, it is not OK to come very late just like in India. For example, if the host booked the venue for 7 PM to 9 PM, that means, the host has to vacate it exactly at 9 PM. The host paid for every guest including the food, tokens for playing, a cake, a goodie bag, and everything else based on the number of people expected to attend the event. It is simply not right to show up at 8.30 PM. If you are invited for the event at 7 PM, be there on time by 7 PM. The same Indian would show up to the meeting at work at 9 AM sharp. Why not be punctual everywhere?
  • Don’t show off to other Indians that the work you are doing is great or complicated and assume that others are simply mediocre people. You never know who you are talking to.
  • Some newcomers to the U.S. think they are something great just because they made it to the U.S. You may show that attitude to others you know who you think were still left back in India. However, don’t show such an attitude to other Indians who are here, especially the ones who have already been here for a long time.
  • Don’t show attitude to others based on how educated you are, how rich you are, or who your father is and what his influence is (in India).
  • If possible, try to adopt an American accent properly. However, do not throw on a fake accent just 3 months after moving from India.
  • Do not wear sports shoes with trousers or with a saree or salwar. (If someone has a foot problem and must wear shoes, it might be justified.)
  • Don’t be stingy. Buy some good clothes and live a quality life.
  • Don’t stereotype Indian people from other states: All Gujaratis are not motel owners, all Telugus do not have fake degrees, all South Indians are not software engineers, all North Indians are not cooks in restaurants, all Punjabis are not taxi drivers, etc.
  • Do not buy a small drink at a restaurant just because refills are free. More importantly, do not buy one drink and share it with your entire family because refills are free.
  • Do not abuse the return policy of a store. Do not buy new clothes and bedsheets because it is a Diwali and then use them and return them. Do not buy a new camera for a couple of days because you need it just for that one trip and then return it after using it.
  • If you have a really long name, don’t complain that it does not fit anywhere. Legally change your name to a shorter one if it is truly a problem for you.
  • Tuck in your shirt.
  • If you visit a beach or a swimming pool, don’t ogle at the girls/ladies in swimsuits. Don’t go too close to them and embarass them. In any case, do not take their pictures and make them uncomfortable.

Bollywood Concerts / Shows

  • Do not get up from your seat and block the view of others behind you. (Comments to organizers: Do not allow such behavior and have enough security personnel to enforce it.)
  • Do not crowd up the place between the stage and the front rows to take pictures, dance, or for any other reason, especially if the stage is not high enough. The person who has purchased a $500 ticket to sit in the front row has at least as much of a right to enjoy the show as you have, whether you have purchased a $25 ticket or a $35 ticket. Be considerate to others. Don’t make fun of front row seat people by saying that they could see only your butt/back or had to see the show only through your camera’s viewfinder. (Comments to organizers: Do not allow such behavior and strictly enforce it. And in any case, keep the stage higher, and not too low.)
  • Sit in the seat you have paid for. If you have purchased a $35 ticket, sit at your place. Do not try to sneak into a $100 seat or a $500 seat, if any of them are vacant. If you want to sit in those seats, pay for it. (Comments to organizers: To be fair to those who purchase higher priced tickets, do not allow such things. Does any airline ever allow economy class passengers to sit in first class or business class seats just because some seats are vacant? No.)
  • If the show is at 8 PM, be there on time. Do not show up at 8.30 PM. Worse yet, do not show up at 9 PM or even at 9.30 PM or 10 PM and keep walking in front of others disturbing everyone else and blocking everyone else’s view. (Comments to organizers: Make the habit of starting the show right on time, irrespective of how many people are present. Do not allow anyone entry after the scheduled show time. Next time, people will start showing up at the right time.)

Hygiene

  • Put deodorant on every day.
  • Shave regularly, preferably every day.
  • Cut your fingernails regularly, but not in front of others.
  • If you touch a food item, you are expected to take it and eat it. Do not put it back and expect others to pick it up and eat it.
  • Don’t pick your nose in front of others.
  • Do not wear hawai chappal (or slippers or flip flops) around. In fact, do not wear leather chappals either. Get a good pair of shoes and wear them consistently. Otherwise, you would invite foot pain sooner or later.
  • Use less powder on your face as a dark face and white powder is not a good combination.
  • Wear perfume but not too much.
  • Take a bath (shower) daily.

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