A Culture Shock

Before this summer the furthest afield I had been was a week I spent in Greece when I was 7. I have travelled quite extensively within Europe (Spain, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Czech Republic and Belgium) but visiting these countries is a whole different experience to the journey I have been on so far. 

Despite the differences in each European countries culture, there is a lot of common ground. Our heritage has overlapped many times over the last few thousand years of history and anywhere you travel within Europe will offer some sort of familiarities. The Emirate and India are distinctly different places.

Dubai, of the United Arab Emirates, was the first place I visited on my journey and it is a truly odd place when it comes to its culture in crisis. Due to the desire for economic growth it has allowed a lot of development, and a lot of Westernisation, to it’s country. Dubai’s advertisements are predominantly filled with white European individuals, and all their development seems to be towards huge shopping and entertainment complexes. 

Abu-Dhabi is significantly more restrained, but you can see how they have pulled aside certain restrictions to allow Westerners to feel more comfortable (only demanding women cover up in Mosques, for example) while desperately trying to hold onto their culture in other places (by ensuring you are never more than a few miles from a mosque). 

Though the strangest place of all where the clash seemed obvious was in the Emirati women. Many of them were in the full hijab but carrying with them expensive designer bags are insanely high-heeled brand shoes. You would also seem them in shops looking at fancy clothes which you couldn’t imagine they would ever get to actually show off, though I may be showing my ignorance to Islamic culture in the Emirates here. It just seems ludicrous to an outside observer.

India on the other hand feels different, very different. There a clear signs of Western influence (in the adverts, the clothing, the television) but there seems to be a strong identity with their heritage. This may just be the area I am living (Manipal being a student town, filled heavily with the youths who have adopted our cultures) or the minimal Western populace here. There is no money to be made here as a salary, for someone who comes anywhere with a higher cost of living, and only investment in labour and materials has really migrated here. 

India is so different to Britain, in almost every way. The roads, food, work ethic, facilities, living quarters, restaurants, transport, manners etc. The cars and Rickshaws here don’t care if people are in the way, the buses don’t break but honk their horns and the motorcyclist weave in and out of traffic without helmets. Food is generally eaten with your hands, and Indian restaurants haven’t done a good job of conveying the actual way to eat Indian food, everywhere serves milkshakes and to grab your waiters attention you look at him, raise your hand and call ‘Boss.’

Yet as a Brit, the single most confusing, frustrating and terrifying difference is that no one queues. Getting food from the cafeteria involves forcing yourself to the front, barking your order at the server, and throwing your money at him. If you don’t force yourself there, you aren’t getting food. It is something that I am not used to. People in Britain queue. We form neat little lines at any given opportunity, and people join queues even if they don’t know where it goes. 

Oh, and I suck at bartering. I feel so rude turning down something for a tenth of the British price, and demanding half of that price.