The Struggles of Living In Another Country (when under-prepared)
Sometimes life fish slaps you yet again, and all you can do is smile
Heading to another country, or even just showing up in a new place can be a jolt and it takes some time to adjust. Between new foods, cultures, and schedules. Even the mundane can slap you in the face.
Since arriving in India, my mental cheeks have definitely gotten a little red. And I have finally rooted out the culprits.
Missing out on any and all jokes.
This one is especially painful 2 months in when you have a hint of what people are saying… but you just don’t understand why it is funny. Partially due to the change in culture, every joke is an inside joke, and I am the ultimate outsider. Sometimes the entire room will burst into laughter for minutes at a time and I just sit there and cry a little bit on the inside…
Social encounters… all the time
I arrived in Punjab without knowing anyone — even the person I signed up to live with for a year. Upon arrival, I immediately had to begin getting to know the people I lived with on the most intimate level, in the midst of meeting new guests every day. In some ways, this is awesome! I have gotten Punjabi small talk down pat, but at the same time, my little introverted heart is a little bit full of people. But this is why I write… to give me energy for the day!
Breaking rules I didn’t know existed
If I am honest, this one is kind of funny… I keep doing really stupid things without even knowing they are stupid — like the time I brought a respected guest a glass of water with my hands. Turns out that is a big no-no, only a platter from here on out. Things like this only really become frustrating when I don’t know exactly what I did wrong or what I can do to fix it. At that point I just pull my face in to a slightly peeved grimace, look both ways and continue with life, hoping next time I can figure out what was so weird.
When you realize that “bitter is better” has poisoned the entire world
Alas, it is truly an epidemic. Don’t get me wrong, bitter in its place is wonderful. I love the pickles here, and a good saron da sag really makes my taste buds soar, but when it comes to chai… just no. Leave my heavenly — and sweet — chai alone.
But nah, somehow “the best chai” is just regular chai, but with the joy — sugar — removed. In the US, I always assumed that hot chocolate made with what seems to be unsweetened cocoa powder was an anomaly. The invention of fancy cafes who couldn’t figure out how to convince people that buying their hot chocolate for double the price was worth it. But now I discovered it is a world wide regime… and it makes me sad
Being different… 100% of the time
I can not escape the fact that I am white, that I have an English accent, or that I just don’t know have a clue about the culture, which is fine, but sometimes being so different that random people on the street stare at you through the windows of the car gets a little tiring.
At the same time, I have had some great staring competitions with people. I also get to play little games like “Count the return smiles” and “free enthusiastic waves!” When the windows are open, I can sometimes even exchange a few words in stopped traffic. I will admit… it makes every car ride more interesting.
Forgetting how to English
Shout out to anyone who cares to listen, if someone asked you where your socks were, would you say “just sec, I’m finding them,” or would you say “I’m looking for them”?
For some reason, I can’t remember which was correct. I have this vague feeling that I found the usage of “find” vs “look” odd when I arrived, but now I just have no clue.
I “struggle” with these things every day now, but I don’t hate them. Quite the contrary, if a day goes by without encountering one of these, I feel like I’ve lost a day. Because every time one of these little battles shows up, I think again, I’M IN FREAKING INDIA! and I smile.
In my approximation, these are like a bunch of two year olds — between the wet underwear, hissy fits, and now fully developed teeth, they are hell to deal with sometimes, but you love them all the same!