Being Direct is Normal in India and Insulting in the West – 11 Nov 09


I was talking about knocking before entering yesterday. This is of course only a question of manners and I believe most people will understand that this is just not usual here in India. Another thing which can create more difficult situations is that people here are often very direct. For me, this is a good thing and it is much easier to be direct if you want to say something than beating around the bush or trying to find a way to say it indirectly.

I have experienced that in the west many people have difficulties in saying if they don’t like something. It is pretty usual and they don’t want to say it because they believe it could hurt the other person’s feelings. And funnily enough it also does!

The other day a friend of my father made stove out of bricks and mud which should be used in winter for cooking chapatis on the open fire. When he was done he asked my grandmother if she liked it and she said that this was the ugliest fireplace she had ever seen. We all had to laugh and the builder of the fireplace admitted that it was aesthetically not beautiful at all.

He didn’t mind her saying this. And he shouldn’t because he asked for her opinion. In the west I often feel that people are too careful to say it if they don’t like something and then they pretend to like it. In my opinion this only makes problems and it doesn’t help the other one who wanted to know an honest opinion. If he only asked for getting a compliment then you helped him but if he finds out two years later that it is actually everybody’s opinion from the beginning that what he is doing is nonsense, it will make him feel much worse than if you say your opinion from the beginning.

8 Replies to “Being Direct is Normal in India and Insulting in the West – 11 Nov 09”

  1. Your right about the West, the problem is if you are direct people take it so badly and it usually creates an arguement and the opposite effect. Sad, because it means people can’t be really real sometimes……….

  2. In India the men can directly say what they think,,the women ,they have not this right.The castsystem is also a very big handicap for the lower castpeople,so nobody has the same rights!!

  3. My friend and I are sitting here reading this entry and we are laughing so hard. We are from Norwich, England. I love the story about the stove. Of course you would never call someone’s work ugly here unless you are an unlikable employer. Now we are promising each other to be more honest in the things we say…or more direct as you put it. We agree with you and find this very helpful!

  4. After leaving India for the 2nd time I was starting to wonder about a surprisingly large difference I experienced there. It seemed often as though Indians said what they really meant. Can you imagine? All of those years of pre-teen anxt with your mother, telling her that you hated her and wished she were dead? What would it be like if she believed you?!?

  5. I fought with my mother a lot growing up. And I said things out of anger. I very much did mean them when I said them. And when my anger passed they meant nothing to me, and I could not imagine meaning them. But they still hurt my mother and cut her very deeply. And she could not get over them so quickly. But we always talked things through. There is always time for reconciliation. Even if the two of us could not see eye to eye on something we always returned to a place of loving one another. It is funny how Americans do not expect you to take them seriously in anger. I like this about where I come from.

  6. This is true– Indian communication is direct about opinions and feelings, as such. But we also talked about how Indians will often promise a certain plan or time for something and it will fall through completely. Like if you wanted to get something fixed or buy a certain item, you might be told when it will be ready for pick up… but don’t count on it! In the West, however, this would be unreasonable.

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