Salt on wounds

I know I know that right now is the worst possible time for this story. I know we’re supposed to be all “ABCD-FOB Bhai Bhai!” but this is just too funny to pass up.

He said it, I just blogged it.

A mobile phone game … will be used to help international students cope with ‘culture shock’ and university life in Britain … The game – called C-Shock – is the brainchild of University of Portsmouth academic and games technology expert Nipan Maniar who, himself, arrived in the UK from India five years ago as an international student…
Nipan said the game would act as an ‘e-mother’ or ‘mobile mummy’ for new students. [Link]

When you hear e-mother you imagine a sort of Tamagotchi in reverse right? Something that nags you to eat enough, sleep enough, and call home? [Actually, you don't need a mobile game for that, just a mobile]

“E-mother” could be expanded with modules to help explain how you do your own laundry, something my white American roommate could have used freshman year. (When asked how he had survived in summer camp he said he just looked clueless until a girl took pity on him and did his laundry, so he had never done a single load on his own. We mocked him mercilessly).

But no, Maniar means something else. He means the culture shock that comes from seeing people kiss in public and from seeing students (especially girls) drink:

The game’s opening scenario is a student’s first day at university in the UK. The student is shown a map of the campus and is given tasks to find specific locations. Clicking on images along the way warns the student about what to expect in terms of culture shock – for example, it is acceptable for students to drink alcohol and it is okay for people to display affection in public. [Link]

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p>He’s basing this on his own recent experience:

He said: “I found some aspects of British culture very novel. When I first saw a couple kissing in public, for example, I was really shocked. And things such as interacting socially with others, say, in a pub, were very different to what I was used to in my own culture in India. Alcohol is banned in Gujarat where I come from, so the drinking culture came as a shock too. [Link]

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p>Now maybe some readers might not understand why this is funny. Yes, culture shock is a very real thing and there are real cultural differences that have to be bridged. But of all the areas of cultural difference, this researcher picked the two which are to me the most minor, but also the most stereotypical.

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p>I also don’t understand why he’s calling it e-mother rather than e-buddy, or e-yaar. This sort of cross-cultural translation is usually done by friends, not by mothers sitting in the homeland. Why not be honest about it? Have it say, after a couple of pints “Dude, you’re going to puke and I am not cleaning that up.” Or, “Mate, that’s the cheesiest line I’ve ever heard anybody use in their life. Here, watch how it’s done. This is how you chat up a bird.” Or “Stop studying so hard, and let’s go grab a curry – that’s what uni is for!”

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p>Now that would truly be an introduction to UK uni life. As for the rest … most Indian students studying abroad have seen American movies and TV (my cousins watch far more than I do, the TV is never off!), I think they can figure it out.

76 thoughts on “Salt on wounds

  1. Blaarrgh. You guys are making me want to vomit.

    Look, love is great and all, and sure, you want to touch the other person and stuff, but crap, I really hate the ridiculous, over-the-top, gung-ho, we-just-can’t-get-enough-of-each-other-ness that some people inflict on the public. You want to grope each other, that’s great, but why in public? If you have an exhibition fetish, then how about something a bit better than annoying giggling and coy cuddling? Let’s see some penetration or something.

    And I’d like to mention that without fail, the people who indulge in this kind of wacky saccharine “romantic” public behavior tend to have really unstable love lives, and if their PDA is insufferable, the stormy melodramatic aftermaths are far worse. Please, for the love of all that is good, if you recognize yourself in this, just stop.

    Your friends will thank you.

  2. Some brown poets to check out:

    Suresh Dalal Vijay Seshadri (awesome!)

    and, from the ode skoo (like turn of the 20th century and pre-Partition): Joseph Furtado Nissim Ezekiel (not sure if I got the spelling right)

  3. I wonder how this thing accounts for the cultural differences within America (if at all). If some Indian kid moves to the midwest, he/she will find that social norms there are different from those of New York or California.

    Maybe I’m being too hard on e-mother. I guess as long as the new kid on the block has some sense of the status quo, they can pretty much get along anywhere.

  4. I think level of ‘culture shock’ depends on where you came from. If you’ve moved from a metropolis like Mumbai or Bangalore, the cultural adjustment to life in the UK/US is not as stark as if you’ve moved from a less-exposed place, say Thiruvilla, Kerala. [Not that there are no women who drink in Thiruvilla... it's just that they're probably viewed as the anomaly rather than the norm.]

  5. I was also shocked by a grown (about 18 years of age) boy (young man) sitting on the lap of his mom and embracing her and them tickling each other in the cyber cafe which they owned. I also pretended to be absorbed in reading/writing an email. Funny. Their behaviour was “borderline” to me. But looking back I just think it was their way of showing affection between mother and son, perhaps in their family or town that was normal or something.

    Another jewel by that doyenne of Indian culture Pardesi Gori or PG as she goes these days. We can always rely on her to bring out the most obscure, make-believe incidents to prove the inferiority of Indian culture. Get help lady.

  6. Sounds like this kid would face culture shock if he moved to Bangalore!
    Sounds more like he would face culture shock if we came out of his house in India. Or if he turned on TV.

    That’s hilarious! It’s true though – I read a lot of blogs of people living in India, and while of course they can’t account for everyone’s behavior/viewpoints, all these people talk about drinking, going clubbin’, showing affection, all that good stuff. It’s not something that’s obscure or rare in India these days.

    But then again, to present the other side, I do have cousins who grew up in Gujarat. They were totally sheltered – the picture-perfect good mama’s (and daddy’s) boys. They went to school and work, came home, went out rarely, or if they did, it was with the family. So I could see them feeling major culture shock here (US, not UK – can’t speak to UK). But then, one of them did move over a few years ago and from what I hear, he had no problems adjusting. Haha, left his parents completely in the wind – they were the ones more shocked, I think.

  7. So I understand that this is funny for all of you enlightened western ABCD souls but if the guy is trying to do something that helps an immigrant adjust to a new culture with a tool that has the ancillary benefit of seeking to remedy the intense tearing separation and identity crises one goes through (as a new immigrant) – all the best to him. It’s not like any of you ABCD’s want to associate with any new FOB and help him/her out anyway so why criticize someone who is???

  8. It’s not like any of you ABCD’s want to associate with any new FOB and help him/her out anyway so why criticize someone who is???

    Seriously?? That’s a great generalization. I’m sure that will get you very far.

  9. This macchaan is making an ulloo of everyone.

    If I could vote for it, this would be the funniest line on this page. Naturally, we would need an E-yaar to translate both north- and south-Indian slang in the same sentence!

  10. I wonder how this thing accounts for the cultural differences within America (if at all). If some Indian kid moves to the midwest, he/she will find that social norms there are different from those of New York or California.

    It’s for students coming to the UK. Hence the bit about drinking, which is legal there at 18 and even a bigger part of life.

  11. Hence the bit about drinking, which is legal there at 18 and even a bigger part of life.

    Bigger, yet more tame and diffused I’d say. Probably better for it.

  12. Bigger, yet more tame and diffused I’d say. Probably better for it.

    I’m not so sure. My British friends say that people (a) drink to being drunk more often and (b) are completely blotto more often there than here. We’d probably have to find some stats to make a proper comparison though.

  13. Agreed on the need for stats. But for the sake of baseless assertions, I blame the prevalence of (a) and (b) on mass peddling of a tasteless assembly line product, not unlike any other tasteless assembly line product which we generally overconsume and kill our collective cultural tastebuds. Nonetheless, sancitimonious age requirements gots to go!

  14. It’s not like any of you ABCD’s want to associate with any new FOB and help him/her out anyway so why criticize someone who is???
    Seriously?? That’s a great generalization. I’m sure that will get you very far.

    I am not sure I disagree with the first statement above. It is a generalization of course, it is not meant to say every ABD is like that. But it holds for a vast majority of ABDs.

    And “get you very far”? In what?

  15. If some Indian kid moves to the midwest, he/she will find that social norms there are different from those of New York or California.

    I think the culture shock for someone from India is the same, regardless of where they first end up in the US. The social norms in the Midwest are not significantly different from those of either coast to someone who is a total stranger to the US in the first place.

    Oh, and I note that the one constant in any SM discussion is coastal bias against the Midwest. ;)

  16. Oh, and I note that the one constant in any SM discussion is coastal bias against the Midwest. ;)

    Yes, but we still hold meetups in Chicago.

  17. I think the culture shock for someone from India is the same, regardless of where they first end up in the US.

    I know you speak broad-brush, but the details are also interesting, and perhaps significant. I don’t think someone moving from a college in Mumbai to, just for example, NYU – experiences anything like what a student from, say, Gorakhpur, experiences in, small-town Texas. And, although we go over this every few days here at SM, the East and West coasts are different from the Midwest and the South, in significant ways, and to expect this not to reflect in the experiences of the freshly-arrived is naive.

  18. the East and West coasts are different from the Midwest and the South, in significant ways, and to expect this not to reflect in the experiences of the freshly-arrived is naive.

    I can’t speak for the South, having never lived there and having visited only infrequently. However, having lived on the East coast and the Midwest, I think the so-called cultural differences between the areas are grossly exaggerated. Yes, there are minor differences (and I don’t discount the possibility that a person from urban India and a person from small-town India will have different perspectives), but the Midwest is not different “in significant ways”, IMO.

  19. but the Midwest is not different “in significant ways”, IMO.

    Dunno – I live here now, but I find it different in ways that irk me … Basically, outside of the big cities, tolerance declines faster than it does in the Northeast. That’s grist for another post though.

  20. Basically, outside of the big cities, tolerance declines faster than it does in the Northeast

    That may be true, and I have little anecdotal evidence either way, having mostly lived in urban areas in the East and the Midwest. I actually like the Midwest better, for various reasons (except the weather…good grief).

    However, I did live in a very small Midwestern town (for college), and I didn’t find its social mores that foreign to me, as a desi person from the East coast. Also, I didn’t run into any intolerance or discrimination, but that was a pre-9/11 world, and college towns are different from other small towns.

    I also realize my experience of small towns is probably the norm. I grew up in a smaller city in Canada, where I was the only Indian in my entire elementary school. I probably just dated myself by admitting that! ;)

  21. I moved from Bangalore to a small town in Texas a couple of years ago, where I am currently. Frankly, some transitions are progressive, others are just plain backwards.

    For instance – the transition in terms of clothing(or the lack of it) was significant enough to be called a culture shock . But other things like the conservatism, religious beliefs etc were just so ridiculously backwards here. I completely agree that it depends on which part of India you are from and where exactly in the US you arrive at.

  22. Of course there will be some level of “culture shock” travelling between India and “the West” or vice versa.

    My biggest culture shock was always on the bus between Mathura and New Delhi. To go from such two different headspaces in such a short period of time (3hours), was a real body/mind/soul trip.

  23. And I’d like to mention that without fail, the people who indulge in this kind of wacky saccharine “romantic” public behavior tend to have really unstable love lives, and if their PDA is insufferable, the stormy melodramatic aftermaths are far worse. Please, for the love of all that is good, if you recognize yourself in this, just stop. Your friends will thank you.

    This friend won’t.

    It reminds me that joy and affection are still worthy goals in such a dismal, war-torn world.

  24. The most drastic culture shock I had experienced was within Bombay itself when I was admitted into med school in a very conservative part of the city. Most of my classmates came from the distant suburbs and at first I had absolutely nothing in common with them . Of course, eventually I did make some lasting friendships but the people I did get to know, were more of trend setters amongst their own peers/ family (living independantly, did not succumb to parental bullying to marry and such). I have lived in the mid-west and deep south in the US and found it to be very very conservative/ traditional. Liquor shops that close on sunday so people could go to church, WTF! My dad was quite upset (and amused) when he found out about that. People have dress codes and really care about how they appear to others (in terms of being conformist).

    ETA- In Bombay, I grew up in a liberal environment/ part of the city that can only rival certain areas of manhattan and maybe some cities in western europe.