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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Some Expat Musings

Sometimes stuff strikes us.

You know, like a fact that you know intellectually, but you have trouble grasping. Like I keep turning to Ryan and saying, "You're my husband!" or "We're married!"

And right now I just got struck by, "You really did it, you're an ex pat now." Yep, it still hasn't sunk in...

Part of it is that I was anticipating it so long... another huge part is the fact that before moving to India I'd never left the US before. Not at all, not Canada, not Mexico, not even a tiny vacation.

So months later, it's still kind of surreal.

But it's also pretty awesome.

Guess what guys? I still owe you a lot of posts I was supposed to write about *before* I left India! I'm not sure when I'll get to them, but I was looking through old photos and I'm like "I was supposed to write about this, and this, and this"... and of course I've never told you the story of the actual move from America to India!

I suck at this, huh?

Ah well, I'll get to it. After all, I'm in India now, so that means I can use IST: Indian Stretchable Time. Right?

Okay, so why don't I tell you some Indianisms? You know, things that are different about the way people talk or think?

I'll start off with one that was really funny.

"Backwards".  As in a person who is "really backwards".  The first time I heard this was in reference to a woman talking about not showing her husband something revealing because she was "really backwards".  Then I heard it to describe Ryan's cousin; her grandmother called her backwards. Then, I was in the mall and Ryan was encouraging his mother to go into an expensive store to see if there was anything she liked and she said "No, I'm too backwards"... And this time, I had to ask what it meant.

See, in America, when you call someone backwards, it's an insult that means something like 'unsophisticated' or 'messed up'. For example, 'hill billies are really backwards' or upon hearing of an injustice "That's backwards!" But somehow I doubted that was what Indians meant by it.

Apparently in India, it means "shy!"

I laughed a lot over that one.

Another one that had me scratching my head was the word "only" at the end of sentences. For example when I was out with my in laws, I finished eating a snack at an open air mall and was trying to decide where to put down the metal plate they'd given it to me on. My father in law said, "Put it there only," gesturing to a table. Now, I could see that other people had placed there's elsewhere. If you said that in America, what you would mean was "That is the only acceptable place to put it." But that was obviously not what he meant.

People use this all the time, but for some reason I can't think of a second example to tell you. But I realized (and it took me a while) that it was the equivalent of saying "just" at the beginning of the sentence. So my father in law was saying "Just put it there."

Okay, another one. So let's say you're hanging out with someone and you express an opinion. They might say, "Even I say so."

In America, this would mean one of two things: you either are pointing out how obvious the statement is, and therefore elevating yourself, sort of like "duh" or you're sort of putting yourself below the other person... it's hard to explain this without giving a tone, but basically sort of "Even I do that!" like "I thought you'd be above me on this, but I'm surprised we're agree." I guess sort of like if you found out a celebrity did something and you are pleasantly surprised, because also do that.

But in India it's different. It's more like just "I agree". When they "even" they actually are putting themselves on an even playing field. I hadn't realized that when we use even we're either elevating ourself or the other, but when I was trying to figure out what was different, it came out.

Oh, and another funny one. Here, humans eat biscuits and dogs eat cookies. (They understand if you call something a cookie for humans though, or if you called it a biscuit for dogs, but it's just funny that by default it's the other way around.)

Actually, the other day Ryan was eating a wafer cookie, and he had just eaten ice cream so I said, "Ryan, you just had ice cream, do you really need a cookie?" and his mom laughed. I thought she was laughing to see me lecture Ryan, but then later I called it a cookie again and Ryan grumbled, "It's not a cookie! It's a wafer!"

I told him that to me, it was both. It was a wafer cookie; wafer was the kind of cookie it was, but it was a cookie. He told me no, and I said, "Ryan, I am American, and to me it's a cookie!"

He didn't argue with that. :)


  1. Pam...Change on the blog....from Ryan (my fiance) to Ryan (my husband).....

    the write up was amazing piece....

  2. Interesting blog you have here. I have never come across anyone saying.. cookies for dogs though.
    anyhow, I enjoyed reading the post :)


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