When in Bengaluru



Communication in India is very unique. When I first arrived in Bangalore, I had difficultly trying to understand all the accents, expressions, and body language. I’ve managed to figure some things out, but others will probably remain a mystery to me forever. Interestingly, in some ways, Indians are very British. The colonial influence still persists in the British style architecture, the way the government is structured, and the English words people use.

Tea is prepared with milk and sugar.

Flashlights are torches. Elevators are called lifts. Eating cold food, such as ice cream, is NOT something you do when you have a sore throat. Hot food only. And apparently some people actually catch colds from eating ice cream. They also wear sweatshirts and ski hats when the temperature is 75 ºF (24 ºC).

At restaurants, the check is referred to as the bill.

Silverware is used relatively infrequently. Hands are the preferred eating utensil. Food is eaten with the right hand. Many small restaurants have a sink on the wall for customers to wash their hands after eating. Larger/fancier restaurants have restrooms that are called washrooms. 

Cookies are biscuits. The term “batch” is utilized to refer to an academic class. For example, the Batch of 2017. You don’t skip a class, you bum it. Students write exams, and earn marks rather than points. Christ University has a strict attendance policy. A student must maintain a minimum of 85% attendance in a subject in order to write the final exam. If too many classes are missed, the student is not allowed to take the final and must repeat the entire class. Attendance is difficult here, though. All students are scheduled for class from 9 am to 4 pm or 6pm, generally with an hour lunch break from 1 – 2 pm. Uniformed guards stand at the entrance to every academic block. Five minutes after the start of class, the guards close the entrance to the block. Students who arrive after the doors are closed are not allowed to enter the building, and do not receive attendance for their class. Everyday I see students sprinting through campus, trying to make it to class on time.

Professors are called "sir" or "m'am."  “People in India don’t drive on the left side of the road – they drive on what’s left of the road.” All the cars are manuals. The steering wheel is on the right side. Many cars don’t have seat belts in the back seats. Or rather, they contain seat belts, but lack the actual buckles.  Rickshaws are called “autos.” Traffic consists of a jumble of yellow and green autos; motorcycles and scooters carrying one to five passengers; Uber cabs decorated with bright orange decals of the monkey god Hanuman; tractors driven by barefooted men; itty bitty three-wheeled trash trucks; brightly colored buses with tassels hanging from the mirrors; wooden carts pulled by skeletal oxen; bicyclists riding dusty metal bikes that look like they’ve been around since the 50’s; street vendors pushing carts of fruit, the metal scales jangling; and cows grazing along medians or lying in the street. Trucks have “Sound horn” painted on the bumpers. Government signs above the roads read “Don’t sound horn.” People are much more likely to adhere to the bumpers. Honking and holding your hand out are the two main forms of inter-driver communication. When you want someone to let you switch lanes or cross traffic, you hold out your hand. When you’re behind someone, you honk. When you want someone to pass someone, you honk. When the light turns green, you honk. When a pedestrian is in your way, you honk. When the person in front of you slows down or stops abruptly, you honk. When a cow crosses the street, you wait patiently. “You get the point?” is a common alternative to asking “You know/understand?” Zebra crossings = cross walks. But no one really pays attention to them, so they’re basically glorified street decorations. The best way to make someone stop for you is to utilize the “power of the common man.” When crossing the street, you hold out your hand with your palm raised towards the oncoming drivers. People will stop, or slow down long enough for you to dart out of the way. For the most part, you have to cross the street in stages. You cross one half, wait in the middle of the road for an opening to come, and then cross the other half.  Gas is petroleum. And you go to the petrol station.

Trees are used as telephone poles. Instead of cutting down a tree, making a pole, and then installing the pole, bundles of wire are simply wrapped around living trees. Walls are also built around trees, leaving holes to accommodate the branches. 1 Indian lakh = 100,000 Indian rupees, which is commonly written as ₹1,00,000. 1 Indian crore = 10,000,000 INR, or ₹1,00,00,000. Cell phones are referred to as mobiles. Pronounced “mo - bile.” Having an iPhone is a very strong indicator of social status. Apple is expensive, particularly in India, and very few people have Apple products. “Chuck it” is another was to say “Forget it.” The Indian head bob consists of tilting your head right and left. Nodding up and down means “yes.” Shaking your head back and forth means “no.” But the head bob is somewhere in between - “ok,” “fine,” or “so so.” A little spasm of the neck that confers understanding, acknowledgment, attention, mild disapproval, all of the above, or something entirely different. It’s also been described as a habitual movement, an unconscious behavioral tick. I love watching it, and trying to decipher what it means.

Tilting your fingers sideways when you do the peace sign is "cooler" than holding them vertically. Vertical peace signs are too mainstream.