After living in a country for a long time you tend to pick up habits from the local culture. Obviously when you are in that country you don’t notice your adaptive behaviors since you are surrounded by others doing it on a daily basis. Although since moving back to the US we have slowly started to become aware of some of our “Indian-isms” that followed us here. And honestly I’m not sure that we would even want most of them to go away. But it is interesting to look up and realize all of the things that we do that those around us probably don’t do! I am sure there are many more that we had initially that have now disappeared and many that we still don’t even notice!
- Spice! We have become addicted to spice and just can’t seem to get enough of it (in the correct form). To make up for the lack of spice in our everyday western foods, we tend to use a lot of cracked pepper or pepper flakes. Not the same obviously, but we do what we can! When we eat out, we always ask for the spiciest curry and so far we haven’t found anything we couldn’t handle. And by the way, you just can’t seem to find any real India Indian food here!
- Eating with our hands. Paul eats ALL of his food with his hands (Can we really blame this on India?? I am not so sure, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now!) but I tend to just eat things that would be eaten with bread or roti with my hands. I find myself subconsciously putting my left hand down in my lap or away so that I only use the right even though no one here would know the difference (besides Indians).
- Buying “western” groceries in bulk. I could only find things like black beans occasionally in India so I would buy everything on the shelf just in case they weren’t there next time. I find myself almost doing that here with things, but then have to remind myself that they WILL be there next time!
- Going to the market. I don’t actually go to the market anymore, I go to Trader Joe’s, but that is what I say when I have to go. Not sure if I actually miss shopping at Pali Market or not Although I do miss my veg walla(s) – it was always so nice to see them, not have to haggle and see them pick out my staples for me. No one at Trader Joes does that for me!
- Water. Paul dries every wet dish completely because he’s worried…hmm worried about what? He forgets that he can drink tap water here and that he won’t get sick if there are a few drops of water on his glass.
- Jala neti or the neti pot as people call it here in the US. We still do jala neti every single day. I love it and hope to never give it up! I wish everyone would do it. I know it is one of the simple things that helps keep us healthy.
- Delhi belly. Paul always thinks he has Delhi belly because of something he ate.. well it is the food, but it is more likely to be the 8 chocolate bars that you ate today dear, not bacteria!
I guess I should preface this section by saying that more than anything I miss having a full time maid who cleaned my house SPOTLESS 6 days a week, watered my plants, fed and took care of my cats, etc. I guess having to look after myself one day a week and during holidays took it’s toll though
- Dishes. I have a dishwasher but I still do 99% of the dishes by hand, 3 or more times a day. I just can’t seem to get into the habit of doing dishes in the dishwasher. This one is extremely weird because I didn’t really do the dishes in India, Collette did! ha.
- Hang drying clothes. I still hang dry almost all of our clothes even though we have a great dryer that can dry things without shrinking them and at a variety of temperatures. It actually probably is better for your clothes and the electric bill, so I won’t try to change this one just yet!
- Floors. I can never seem to get my floors as clean as they were in India. I sweep and mop at least the kitchen every single day, but it’s still not up to the standards I had in India! Can I bring Collette here to live with us? I daydream about it often!
- The head nod. Paul still does the head nod when he speaks to anyone from India or about India. Cracks me up! I just get the accent back. The funny thing is that the Indians we do that with don’t even notice that we are foreigners doing it. Maybe they do later, but they never seem to notice at the time.
- Hindi. I still say “jaldi jao” “bus” and “chalo” when I need to say “go fast” “enough” or “lets go”. A friend thought jaldi was Cian’s middle name the other day because I kept saying it to him. At least Cian will know a few hindi words when he grows up! For the first few months I didn’t know how to tell someone to go straight without saying “sidha”.
- More Hindi. I will randomly start speaking in Hindi if I happen to see an Indian. I won’t actually even talk to them, but will switch to Hindi in my conversation to Paul or Cian. Pani chahiye? (do you want water?) I see myself do it, but then I’ve already done it, so I might as well continue!
- Repeating words. Jaldi jaldi. bus bus. This is a big India habit and I mostly only do it with Hindi words now, but sometimes I catch myself doing it in English too.
- Indian-isms. In India things are said in a particular way and after 8 years of closing an email or letter with “Please do the needful.”, you just can’t remember how else to say it! I have not actually written any of these things, but I do have to think for quite a while how someone in America would state that. Some of our favorites: time pass, the needful, like that only, kindly revert, and out of station.
Clothing & Personal Hygiene
- I still take off my shoes when I go into our house and almost all houses. (unless it’s super dirty at my house and then I have to put on house shoes!) Cian does this as well. People are always shocked to see him enter a house and take his shoes off!
- Ahh scents! I forget that I can wear perfume and scented lotions again. I couldn’t for 8 years due to the mosquitoes. Maybe now I can work my way through the massive stock I acquired through the years!
- I cannot wear socks. I just hate wearing any shoes that require socks. I literally wore socks for less than 1 month every year for 8 years and that was only when I traveled to the west in the winter. Cian also seems to have acquired this habit. He can’t stand socks, except his Irish rugby socks. He also doesn’t even like wearing shoes and didn’t wear shoes consistently until he was in the US for about 4 months! (see photo) I can tell you that fellow parents did not like to see me letting him roam around shoeless. oh well!
- Revealing Clothes. I was covered up for 8 years in India. I feel naked now if I wear a tank top that has thin straps (not even bikini straps!), wear a short skirt without leggings or wear a low neck shirt that might show cleavage! I just can’t get over how skimpy clothes are here. Where is my burka?!
- Kurta and leggings. This was my dress for 8 years. It was comfortable, cool and close enough to the Indian style of dress that it was appropriate. But here it is not that fashionable. Leggings are worn (incorrectly i might add!) as pants by many in LA and baggy long shirts are not in anymore sadly. I am slowly building up my wardrobe with western clothes, but I really do miss the comfort of my kurta and leggings.
- Shorts. Paul forgets that he is ‘allowed’ to wear shorts when ever he wants. He is so used to only wearing shorts at the beach or the pool that he forgets that in LA you can wear them to the grocery store, to the park, to Cian’s school, anywhere!
As a friend said to me yesterday, you can take Karilyn out of India, but you can’t take India out of her! It just gets under your skin and won’t let go!
I’d love to hear some Indianism’s that my other repatriated expat friends are dealing with these days. Phir Melange friends.