CULTURAL OBSERVATIONS, PART 1
This is something that I try to do everywhere I go. I make note of all surprising cultural observations that I come across in my travels. As a disclaimer, these may not be 100 percent true, as many are broad generalizations, and some of these were told to me by various people I met along the way, so take them with a grain of salt.
- Many people in Mumbai eat street food instead of cooking at home because they leave home very early and come home very late at night.
- Many kitchens in Southern Indian homes have a device attached to the countertop that is used for scraping the inside of a coconut.
- Christian homes in India have shrines to Jesus in the living room.
- In Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala, you address an elder family member or friend by their first name followed by “chachan” for men and “chaichi” for women.
- Indian people traditionally eat food with their hand, no matter how saucy it is.
- After the main course at a restaurant, you are served a bowl of warm water with a slice of lime or lemon. You wash your hands in the water and squeeze the lime/lemon juice onto your hands to get the smell of food off, especially onion and garlic.
- When I was in a restaurant and someone was celebrating a birthday, the song they played had the same tune as “happy birthday” but it started with the words, “let’s all sing the birthday song” followed by the usual words.
- On the back of many trucks, it says, “HORN OK PLEASE” in big letters.
- Diplomats, politicians, and high-ranking military personnel are driven in special cars with flags on the front center of the hood. If a passenger is not in the car, the flag is covered by a little sleeve.
- Cars are driven on the left side of the road and people tend to walk on the left side too.
- Indian drivers honk constantly, not out of anger or outrage, but just to indicate their presence to other drivers.
- Many traffic rules are routinely ignored, such as staying in one’s lane, signaling to change lanes, and stopping at red lights.
- The trunk of a car is called the “boot” and trucks are called “lorries”.
- People in Kerala shake their heads side to side when they talk. It serves the same purpose as a smile, indicating that everything is ok and that they understand. Sometimes this shaking is a response or greeting, accompanied by no words at all. People also do this elsewhere in India this but it does not seem as pronounced.
- In Kerala, many towns have Christian shrines in the form of tall towers with statues of saints inside them, behind glass.
- In the South, Indian men traditionally wear a long skirt-like piece of clothing called a lungi, and a white and gold one for formal occasions.