Polite or Pushover? 93


I try to be polite. I will hold the door open if someone is walking behind me, I smile, I say please and thank you and I try to have an aura of politeness floating around me in public. My husband told me this behaviour is not wise, you should have an aura of “leave me alone”. I really thought that was rude, it’s best to be polite and continued to polish my politeness.

Now, sadly, I have to tell you about a recent event which made me throw that polite aura out of the window.

When we moved here, one of the guards helped us move in and I thanked him profusely and from that day onwards, I always said hello to him and he would stroke Alfonso. I thought he was a really nice guy. Several days ago, after days of being in bed with dysentery, I decided I would take Alfonso for a short walk, hoping it might make me feel better. When Alfonso had been to the bathroom, we returned to our apartment building through the secure entrance. We were about to walk into the building when a man I had never seen before came from behind a wall, he was dressed in the security guard uniform all the guards in India seem to wear and he was walking straight towards us. We looked at each other and I smiled as he approached, thinking he would walk straight past us.

The man snatched the lead from my hand and in a monotone and nervous voice he said, “how much money?” in Marathi. My limited Marathi understood what he was asking because I hear my husband saying the same thing when we go to the market. I tried to get the lead from him, he was now holding it with both of his swollen hands, his face covered with sweat and his eyes darting towards the main gate where the other guards were sat, in deep conversation. “Let go of my dog”, I shouted with a huge tug. He grabbed my arm, which seemed to shock him, allowing me to get Alfonso out of his grip so I could run to my apartment in hysterical tears. 

My husband arrived home from work soon after, finding me in a state. I had never seen him so angry as he stormed downstairs to confront the new guard. I really didn’t realise my husband could shout so loudly. I was shaken up for hours. It turns out that this new guard was the brother-in-law of the guard I had been polite to and this had been planned. I assume they thought, like many people do, Alfonso is imported and worth lakhs of rupees (thousands of pounds). In fact, Alfonso was born in Nagpur and the same price as many other breeds of dogs here in India. To the guard, I am certain my politeness was seen weakness and so coerced his nervous brother into taking Alfonso. They have suffered the consequences of their actions, and so have I.

I feel so much empathy  and compassion for those who are struggling, like I am sure those guards are, but I am going to have to step back if offering a smile makes me look like someone who can be taken advantage of. This doesn’t mean I would ever be unkind to a stranger, just means I will try to remain neutral. 

I had always tried to live by the philosophy “give a stranger a smile because it might the only one they see that day”, but now I feel deflated. So, if you happen to see me out and about and I look unapproachable and guarded, don’t be offended. I’m now going to take my time before trusting someone new. I firmly believe that politeness is a virtue, but it seems that politeness is too easily misinterpreted as weakness. Or maybe it’s just because I am a foreigner? Or maybe it’s just because I am a woman?

***

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About Lauren Mokasdar

Lauren fell in love on the internet, took a one way flight from England, got married & started a new life & bicultural family in India. She writes about finding happiness & balance between two very different worlds, when her baby takes a nap.


93 thoughts on “Polite or Pushover?

  • kreacherspeaks

    I am so sorry to hear this Lauren! But I would suggest that you continue being the way you are. You will find idiots like this everywhere. However, you need to be careful too. Being nice and being a pushover are two different things. I am very sure you will soon be able to read into peoples’ vibes and their body language and then make the right decisions about how you should behave towards them.

    I love holding doors open for people, saying please and thank you and flashing smiles. Just not to everyone. I hope you get back to normal soon. Take care!

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey dear,
      Yes, well it is very hard to change but I also want to be sensible. I guess with time I will be able to pick up peoples intentions more accurately. Unfortunately many people think being nice and a pushover are the same thing :(. Thankfully, not all people!

      Take care xx

      • kreacherspeaks

        I think it is a question of time before you fit in mentally and emotionally and understand the vibes of the people around you. Until then, please be the way you are and concentrate on the amazing times this country is bound to show you 🙂 Say hi to Alfonso from me!

        • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

          Yess, everything is getting easier with time, same should apply to this!

          Alfonso says hi, he is currently blissed out in front of the cooler xx

  • Susan

    Hi Lauren,

    Big hugs to you! I feel for you because I know where you’re coming from. First, I’m glad that you and your pup are okay. I like the way your husband handled the situation, too.

    You are absolutely right that many people interpret kindness as a sense of weakness or even stupidity. It’s not just adults who do this, either. I see it very often in my middle school classroom, and it’s a constant battle with my students. They like the fact that I’m not mean and am understanding, but they push my limits constantly. I have always said that it’s easier to be kind than not.

    I don’t blame you for being more guarded and for not smiling or making eye contact with men. I’m sure your husband can advise you about how to act and how to remain neutral.
    I’m sorry this happened to you! I know it’s disheartening.

    Take care, Susan

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Susan,

      Oh dear, I actually remember being in school and the nicest teachers always got the hardest time. Thinking about it, even in university it was similar. Such a shame, I hope they feel a little regret when they grow out of it lol.

      I am still finding myself smiling but I am just trying to be more savvy and know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. “please” and “thank you” are going no where lol!

      I hope you are well and enjoying summer!!

      Lots of love xx

  • ango

    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing this story cuz i now want to b more like the stranger who treated u with kindness and @ the same time keep my guard up.

    P.S- how’s weather? Bearable?

  • VK

    Sorry to hear about that and also about your illness. Please do take care. You do not live in a polite society. You are living in a country where life is tough and brutal and that also manifests itself as aggressive and mean behaviour from many folks. Try to find your own circle of people who are likeminded and you can be yourself there. But outside , please be very careful and skeptical. A thick skin and sense of humour will not hurt as well. And never feel guilty if u are not nice to everyone – You unfortunately dont have thatt luxury in India

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey VK,

      I hope you are well! Thanks for your advice, I am trying to get a better feel for what is appropriate and when. Thankfully I have started meeting more people and making friends, which is a relief. Hopefully something like this will never happen again.

      Take care! 😀

  • Manda Varzil Babu

    Being kind is nice always but at the same time trusting everyone is not correct.. Take care of yourself. Well thanks for sharing this

  • Antonina

    SO sad to hear about this disgusting incident, Lauren. Hope nothing like that will ever happen again. To be pleasant or to wear a protecting mask of coldness – I had to deal with this dilemma all my life… But, strangely enough, in India it’s easier for me to be myself.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Antonina,

      I actually was thinking to wear that face covering many women wear to protect their face from the pollution, so instead of a mask of expression, a literal mask! It’s actually useful in this heat too!

      I hope you are well xx

  • suzan

    Also smiling and making eye contact with men is considered flirty in India…..not with all men of course, but most. Being nice does not work in India. I have also learned that. people expect rudeness, sadly. Especially if you have household help, being sweet and nice does not work. You need a thick skin!!!

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Suzan,
      Yes, I have heard that it can be considered flirty which is a shame. I am always very kind to my maid and we chat as much as we can with the language problem, she does sneak some food sometimes but I cannot really grudge her that!

      I hope you are well! 😀 Take care

  • Rajat

    U Got to understand the cultural difference. Smiling in Europe is very much ok with strangers but in India it’s frowned upon with unknown people. But I would love to have that culture over here

  • Sarwat AJ

    You came to a major lesson of life,”I firmly believe that politeness is a virtue, but it seems that politeness is too easily misinterpreted as weakness.”
    and being woman and polite is correct too.

  • cynthia haller

    OMG! Glad you and Alphonso are ok.
    Sadly I have been in India long enough to know that politeness and smiles are abused here. This is extremely sad and disturbing how people will take advantage of such things. And this whole “snatch the arm when someone offers a hand” attitude is something I really still finds are to digest.
    You really need a thick skin to cope with India.

    I wuld not let that incident with the guard slide and report it. These security guards can be a real menace and some take to comit more serious us crimes. One of the one in our building comitted the rape of a resident two years back.

    • Nicola

      So awful and scary that the very people whose job it is to protect you in your home are the ones you need to be wary of.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Cyn,

      It is extremely sad 🙁
      I really cannot believe that happened in your building, I am so so so sorry to hear that. The guard was sent away by the society president, my husband was telling the guard the police are coming but he was gone before they could be told.

      Oh dear, so sad!! 🙁 xx

      • cynthiahaller

        Thankfully in that case that guard was so sure he would never be caught that he went home after his shift and that is where the police found him. How he thought he would get away with it leaving the half conscious victim naked in the lobby after doing his dirty work is baffling. When we heard who it was it didn’t surprise me because that guy was always sending me creepy vibes, he actually looked deranged.

  • Agate

    I am sorry to hear what happened. I have three pugs back at home and I feel homesick. So this just made me angry. I am glad you both are alright.
    My husband always says that I should ignore strangers or sometimes even ask to leave me alone. I haven’t had major problems, but people really take a smile for granted. They think it’s a pass to continue interacting in their own manner.

  • Jocelyn - Speaking of China

    Aw, Lauren, sending you hugs first of all! If something like that ever happened to me, I would have been rattled myself. People have described me as a “pushover” b/c I tend to be super nice and apologetic, so I’m sure it could have been me if I lived there.

    I know that I’ve had to dial my personality down a bit in public here in China, because people are not always as friendly here…and sometimes my smile here can also send the wrong message to strangers.

    That doesn’t mean you have to completely change who you are, though. You can still let your personality shine — perhaps it’s a matter of reserving your dazzling self for people you can trust, like family or friends.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Big hugs, Jocelyn!!
      I must say sorry 100 times a day, if I accidently step on a snail or walk into a chair, I say sorry profusely. Being apologetic, I can see how it screams pushover. I know we are not, but it’s so easily misinterpreted. 🙁

      Thank you so much for your very very sweet comment <3 lots of love xx

  • Yachna

    Being from India my suggestion is be nice (smile and hold doors) only to people from your own socio-economic class. Don’t smile at men or they will misread it and think you’re in love with them and become sickly obsessed with you making your life living hell. Maintain a stoic look with people like guards, vendors, technicians, rickshaw pullers etc. be yourself when you’re around people who are your type In terms of education, class etc. if youvdontvwantvyo draw unwanted attention. Sorry you had to go through this experience. when in Rome….

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      It’s really sad isn’t it?
      I actually want to start wearing sunglasses to avoid eye contact because it doesn’t sit well with my to treat people differently according to class, but many people have told me the same.

      I always smile at kids but that seems to freak them out, who is this with foreigner woman lol.

      I hope you are well, take care xx

  • sindu

    thats y people never volunteer to help one another even in times of serious need…..it cud easily back fire… needless to say people here love taking advantage of those who always smile and b polite…

  • Sharell

    Oh, that’s awful. How scary. I also like to be polite to people, like you, and that also involved my smiling at the watchmen and greeting them every time I passed them. My husband directly told me to stop it, as it could be misinterpreted. I do feel rude not acknowledging them and being friendly. But I like Yachna’s advice above. It’s the sensible way to behave and unfortunately necessary for self preservation because people think differently here.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Sharell,

      Lovely to hear from you!
      It’s so sad and I feel so rude if I just walk past, I feel so many people are not acknowledged in his society, but then look what happened. It’s a shame, I am still working on the balance! I hope you and your hubby are well!

      Take care xx

  • LoveMeow

    Hi Lauren, I am very sorry for what happened. When I first went to India, I felt people are rude and unkind. But I realized this was just because people are cautious of danger ie. unknown people. I live in a street with many guards around, and I always smile at them and say hi, because they help me around my house to lift stuff (I live alone), and they also keep a watch on my house! They have all been nothing but kind to me! But you should always be cautious of strangers, try to stay away from unknown people, always less cash in your purse, then there usually wont be trouble. I do hope you are feeling better now 🙂

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear LoveMeow,

      I am really glad you have had a good experience with the guards in your street! That is great! I guess the most important thing is to be aware when things don’t feel right and have a feel for when something is inappropriate.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us!! Very glad to hear it 😀

      xx

  • Amanda McMahon

    Unfortunately, I felt I was changing so much of “me” while IN India that I was no longer me. It was depressing (I was pretty depressed for a while)… that and being isolated made it so hard. My personal definition of being nice and friendly was taken as being a flirt or a push over. Acknowledging people, to me, was a nice thing… to others it made me a carpet. Living there, you have to find a balance. I hope you can remain true to you!

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Amanda,

      Yes, that is really depressing, I have had that same feeling. I guess I am still in the early stages, but I hope I find that balance soon because it’s distressing not being yourself and being uncertain whether you are being socially acceptable.

      Take care xx

  • mariadeng

    I’m so sorry to read that you had to endure that Lauren, that is something that no one should have to experience. Just know that deep down inside, you are a wonderful person, and those who are as wonderful as you will see the kindness that you show is genuine. Sending you big hugs!

  • Mani (A New Life Wandering)

    I have never ever thought that kindness seems like a weakness and I don’t know how people do. Sorry this happened to you. I used to say thank you all the time in India too, and then I learned that people don’t really say thank you, mostly because whatever you are saying thank you for, was an expected action. I like being polite too, this situation sucks. I hope it doesn’t happen to you again.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Mani,
      It’s hard isn’t it, how to strike a balance? I hope with time things will fall into place!! I hope you guys are well! Lots of love xx

  • ldr13

    That is shocking I cant beleive someone could have the nerve to try and take alfonso. Glad you are both okay I would have been very shaken up too xx

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      All sorts of thoughts went through my mind! If he would have used any more force then I am sure that he would have had a broken nose, no way am I letting go of my dog!
      Take care honey xx

  • Shobha

    Sorry to hear about this scary event, and glad to hear that you and doggy are safe. I hope you r remain friendly and open minded but do be careful.
    I guess not smiling at others helps build a safety wall of unfamiliarity, so being formal like the Victorians is what is needed to live in India. But at the same time one can find such friendly people there too.
    I hope you reported this to the local police station. Kudos to your husband for a strong approach to defend you.
    Each country has its problems – here in the US, esp in some parts of NYC one dare not go out alone in the dark. But lots of other cities/towns are safe here. Just be careful and be safe.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Shobha,

      Thank you so much :), I hope to find the balance soon! I am very proud of my husband and he always makes me feel safe 🙂
      We were going to but he was sent away before we could.

      When my husband lived in the US, he wouldn’t like to go out after dark. In the UK, I also didn’t always feel safe.

      *sigh* the world 🙁 xx

  • Kimberly

    Oh my, Lauren, you have been through so much and now this!

    Being nice and polite are not signs of weakness, but there are people who will take it as a sign you are not streetwise and will see you as a potential victim. Predators work that way looking for anyone they can take advantage–like a snake looks for another animal’s egg.

    It’s not you; It’s them. The problem is there are so few you’s and there are many, many them’s.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Kimberly,

      Yes 🙁 it was a case of one thing after another. It’s so sad that we have to even consider ignoring people isn’t it.

      Lots of love xx

  • DTIngole

    I think you had experienced the same problem earlier. After complaint If the securities guards are not replaced they are more susceptible for the problem. Better not to argue more. Have additional front door security door. Time is the solution.

  • anenglishwomaninmumbai

    That sounds horrible! Maybe you need to get Alphonso a big tough dog friend? A big dog is good protection, plus carry some mace spray in your bag (actually perfume or hairspray does the same job quite well) and take some self defence classes – that is good advice for any woman in any city anywhere in the world! It’s true that smiling at men is more than often taken as flirtation in India and should be avoided with strangers. However, the security guards are people you see every day and should be there for your protection – don’t feel sorry for that guy – he should be doing his job not stealing! Don’t stop being you and don’t let this incident leave you disillusioned – take it as a lesson learnt and take steps to protect yourself in the future – I’m sure your husband can teach you some good hindi slangs to use for people like that 😉

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Haha, we have discussed this, getting a guard dog for the dog. I want to have a second dog to keep Alfonso company anyway, at the moment he is never alone because even when we go out, he either comes with us or my mother-in-law happily looks after him. But when I visit England, he has to spend some time alone, not lots of time but a bit and I wouldn’t like that.

      Thank you for your comment because I have put some hairspray in my bag already!!! That is a great idea, until I can get some mace. I was thinking of getting that anyway!

      I hope you are well dear! Lots of love xx

  • SP

    I’ve had similar experiences in the US in 20 years of living here after moving from India. The one difference is that I have not had a serious physical altercation yet. I stopped smiling and when you do that, the world becomes a more hostile place. It affects you more than others. Sometimes these experiences have to do with who you are where you are. India has a tendency to look at white people as if they are all rich, which is a racist way of looking at people. This guy might have seen this as an opportunity to profit.
    Once bitterness sets in, it’s tough to get rid of. Keep smiling.

    • SP

      I should have added that when you smile at people, make sure to do it in a distant and business like manner. Almost like a boss in the west would inquire about the well being of a subordinate. Keeping your distance is very important. Watch the Indian women that are polite. They do this pretty well.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      You’re right, SP. It’s hard to shake off bitterness. I don’t feel it yet but I want to avoid something like this happening again.
      I too believe that bitter people hurt themselves more than others.

      Thank you so much for the food for thought!! 😀

  • ourgloballove

    So sorry to hear that this has happened to you. How scary! I’m glad your husband went and confronted him. People cannot be let to think that such behavior is acceptable. And unfortunately, I have realized too that India takes a special kind of politeness. You can still be polite, but it might not meet the same standards as in the west. Sometimes a slight smile and a head wobble will do for the doorman, security guard, etc. Otherwise, they tend to think that they can take advantage. Maybe not right away, but eventually they will come around asking or expecting money in some form or another. So maybe you don’t have to stop being polite altogether, but you just have to modify it to meet Indian standards?

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Jess,

      I really need to use my head wobble, I have been wobbling since I came but I think that is a good way to acknowledge someone without being too smiley smiley. Oh but its hard not to be smiley smiley. I am hoping the balance comes soon!

      I hope you are all well! Take care xx

  • bandoobandya

    I subscribe to Yachna’s suggestions.

    Rest assured you weren’t wrong.Many people feel we are rude to our subordinates.This is what happens when we are kind and nice to them.We have had experiences for generations here in India and so devised the policy of being,if not rude,a bit indifferent.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      It’s a shame that so many people feel like this and so many things have happened to make people feel that have to be like this.
      I hope it changes soon 🙂

  • Henna

    I am so sorry to hear this! But I must say India has made me to change my behavior too. When i first came and started living there and observed things and people, I was for example shocked by the way my mother-in-law was treating the maid. I am not talking about anything serious, but things like – the maid did not have warm water in her bathroom and so on. But coming from such a different backround I simply could not understand that she was not allowed to do certain things.

    But later on I learned from many different experiences that sadly, many people take advantage of your kindness and don’t waste time looting you or stealing from you. And being a woman dealing with men is not at all simple and even safe. Sometimes being even minimally friendly or polite will lead into really outrageous situation, where some guys start telling dirty lies about you! Try to be polite in a queue and you will never reach the counter. People will push themselves over you even if you are holding a tiny baby in your arms.

    So I have had to learn a new way to be. I rarely, if ever answer to strangers and don’t even look around that much while walking on the streets. I have learned to be more strict and give stronger feedback to people who are trying to cheat or do something that is out of the line. But luckily I have noticed that I can switch back to be more open and polite, smile and chat with people when I am abroad. So not all is lost. 🙂

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Henna,
      Aww I am so sorry to hear that. I had a similar thing with our maid when I first came, I couldn’t understand why she would sit on the floor. I told her to sit at the table many times when she was cutting veg but then she was uncomfortable, she is a sweet woman.

      I was very upset when a woman literally pushed me out of the way to get to the kulfi at a wedding.

      It’s very sad that you’ve had to change so much but I am glad you can return to yourself when you are comfortable to do so. I hope you and your family are well! Lots of love xx

  • hotmadrascafe

    I am sorry to here this….
    But here is very very important piece of advice.

    DO NOT be polite with people who do laborious job in India. I know I sound terrible but unfortunately it is true. These people will not understand your politeness and interpret it differently. While being in India you need to differentiate people based on their class and be accordingly. Its sad but true.

    • Amanda McMahon

      For almost 2 years I walked past and smiled at one guard near a shopping/medical building. He would wave and nod as well. He smiled every day…on the sunniest of days, on the wet days… he was missed on his 2 days off each month. His smile kept me sane. Seriously. When I left I went to him and told him I was leaving India (in my limited blend. Of Hindi and Marathi) and gave him money because he was always happy.

      I never felt tthreatened by him (really ny few others working, instead it was those who were not working… just people watching)…those people I would not smile at but had a very stand offish look. But having That look too much can definitely bring someone down.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      That is very very sad, many people have told me the same, online and offline.
      I don’t know if I can stomach doing that.
      Oh dear, I hope I find balance some day soon!

      Take care

  • friend

    @Lauren

    I would suggest that you get and additional steel door for your apartment and keep it locked all the time, only when you are satisfied that there is no problem, open the door. Since you live alone, I think you guys will have to think hard about your safety. In apartments often there is no getting away from the guards, you need them for various purposes. Often they are the only people around to help you out for eg. if there is no water in your apartment, or there is some electricy problem especially when your husband is not around, otherwise let him do all the talking. Therefore, maintain a dignified, aloof but polite communication with them. Most guards are good people and know their responsibilities but there are rotton apples everywhere. Do complain to the management of the apartment if any employees misbehaves with you.

    You stand out because you are a foreigner. I suggest you get to know some of your neighbourers. Not all but one or two around you, whom you can bank upon in times of need. A simple hello will do so that there is a rapport build between you and your neighbourers. Ofcourse, use your discreation about whom to approach. You might become friends with women of your age. Unfortunately, people to do not communicate in apartments these days and next door neighbouers have no idea about each other. This is a dangerous situation. Being foreinger and a women things are a little tricky for you so take precaution.

    I also suggest that you speed up on your language hindi/marathi preferably hindi so that you can not only communicate but also understand what is happening around you. Get a good idea about your apartment and also the area around it. Slowly, you will have to get out of your dependence on your husband. This very important for you.

    In India, there has always been an ‘opressor’ and an ‘oppressed’. The roles keep on changing because everyone is getting oppressed by someone else. There is fierce competiton for scarce resources. The day a child openes his eyes, he understands that he would have to run for his life to survive here. This happens in relationships as well, where you have to behanve in a certain manner. If you don’t it confuses people. Strangers understand kindnes in India but you have to learn the way to express it. The people from labour class drive a hard deal because if they don’t somebody will exploit them and pay them little. It is important for them to play their cards right. That is why they sometimes come across as arrongant. Sadly, in India we don’t have a choice, you have to play this game of one upmanship in every sphere of life whether personal or professional.

    Take care, I do sound like a concerned granny, don’t I??

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Friend,

      I hope you are well! The positive part about this incident was that we got to know many of our neighbours, including a girl who is now my friend and a doctor. Thankfully I now know who to go to if I have a problem!

      I have learn quite a bit of Hindi and Marathi lately (turns out I will probably be speaking a hybrid of the two because that’s what everyone else here seems to be doing lol! I’ve also got more independence by borrowing my mother-in-law’s driver, who is a very good man, and doing certain things for myself. The last couple of weeks have been good for my confidence (I guess I will write about this in a post soon), this event did tarnish it though.

      I understand that competition in education. job etc. is so intense in India, stresses me out even though I am not directly involved in this. Very upsetting, I guess it’s hard when a country is so vast. I hope this improves soon!

      Thank you for the insightful comment, as always, dear granny 😀

  • Tina

    At first I thought that you were going to write that the security guard thought that you were a hooker and wanted to pay for your services 😉 anyway, at least he asked how much you wanted for your dog, instead
    Of just running away with him…

  • Radhika Angie

    Sad but true my dear friend, here in my part of India a smile from a women especially a foreigner translates to unsolicited sexual harassment. Hubby got upset with me when we first got engaged because I was always smiling outside, I was dang happy, but to the guys on the street I was a prostitute, this is how our sad but true local prostitutes get their business, They are mainly poor eastern european girls but those on the street only know the smile. I was so disheartened and upset by his order to refrain from smiling. At first that is, until I began to understand the comments that were floating towards me when I forgot and smiled towards a stranger. One day the guys who work for my family overheard a couple of idiots as I passed on a rickshaw yelling rude comments towards me, like you I was shocked, my boys took care of them pretty quickly though and to this day if those idiots see me they bow their heads in shame and quickly greet me as Bhabi Ji (sister in law) unfortunately politeness in this culture gets you nowhere! I am acutely aware of it when I see other foreigners and always try to remember to be polite towards them <3

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Radhika,

      So sad isn’t it 🙁 so sad! I am glad those horrible men were sorted out, urgh!! Sorry that happened and then had to stomp on your happy 🙁

      Lots of love xx

  • allycebg

    That’s terrible he would try to take your sweet fur baby! For sure he deserved that shouting from your husband.
    I’m also finding public behaviour of people here to be quie a rude (pun intended) shock coming from Canada where the most common public word is sorry. Actually it makes me pretty darn annoyed how lots of people don’t have any regard for others around them at all. That being said, it depends on where you are. In our complex everyone is very polite to each other but just a few hundred meters away in the town area people will literally walk right over you.
    I feel pretty much resigned to being stepped on, whacked with bags or goods in public places, having doors shut in my face and having to fight to keep my place in any queue. That doesn’t stop me from having lots of rants like I just did about it to my husband, who just rolls his eyes and reminds me it’s not canada here. It’s step or be stepped on unfortunately.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Allyce,
      I too have had doors shut in my face and been pushed out of a queue, I guess we are just used to this behaviour. It’s taken me a lot of time to get a bit more fierce, especially because of the queuing. I remember when I was missing my connecting flight from Mumbai to Nagpur and I pushed in the luggage X-ray line and was shouting “sorry, I don’t usually do this, I am from England” lol!
      *sigh*
      I have had a couple people be very very polite here though, so it makes up for it I guess!

      I hope you and your husband are well! Lots of love xx

      • Allyce

        Hi Lauren,

        We’re both good thanks.
        I do that too sometimes, “sorry, I’m from Canada” lol. I’m ok with holding my own in a queue but I often get stuck places in crowds. It takes me twice as long to get out of a crowded area as my family because I hate pushing people.
        It makes me annoyed but the only thing that really bothers me is second guessing myself. Worrying about who I should smile at, who to be nice to. Not feeling free to just be myself.
        You’re right though, those nice people you come across make a big difference.

        Allyce

        • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

          Dear Allyce,

          I have been pushed out of the way at a wedding, a lady was pretty desperate for kulfi. It really does suck to have to change yourself in public, but I guess we have to be wise and “when in Rome” it. 🙁 There must be a balance somewhere!!

          I hope you guys aare well!

          Take care xx

  • Pralhad

    Hi Lauren,

    Just came across your blog and found your story interesting. I must say I am impressed by the way you look at India and people here. Unlike, what I knew about English people from my readings about English cricketers, your story made me a bit positive toward English people.

    Although, you might have had many advices about the incident you mentioned above on how to protect yourself, I am not gonna advise you on the same. I know you might have had bad experiences or perverts trying to stare and pursue you. But, you know even if I feel ashamed it happened to you, I can give you a few reasons it happens to foreigners which I don’t mean to justify but they are true anyway.

    First, India isn’t very used to foreigners and will take much more time until it happens.
    Second, India isn’t very open to dating and sex which you must be knowing by now, reason for people’s sexual urges and harassing women from anywhere.
    Third, to be aware of all the chivalry and social behavior you need some sort of academic and/or social learning which large number of indians lack and it will take at least 30-40 years until new generations become aware of international standard easily.

    I am not supporting what happened to you ,but I am trying to send a positive message to the rest of the world through you as you tell them about your experiences. And I hope there will be more positives than negatives.

    I wish you very best in your life. Enjoy every bit of it.

    -Pralhad

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Pralhad,

      I hope you are well, I am glad I could change your opinion slightly about English people. I don’t really know anything about English cricketers myself. Thank you for your very kind words, I know a lot of my “trying to be nice” is misinterpreted, which is sad but I think this will change soon.

      Have a great day and thank you again,

      Lauren

  • Roshni

    Hi Lauren, it probably didn’t have much to do with you being a foreigner but more about your being approachable (sadly)! It’s sad that many Indians see politeness and warmth as a weakness and a means to trick someone, whom they perceive as a ‘lalloo’! I’m not saying that you are and this is more a criticism of those who cannot see the good in others!

  • Jen

    Hi Lauren,
    When I am in India I also find it difficult to get used to men taking a friendly innocent smile or chat as anything more than that… Even my husband who is Indian (but grew up in America) had a difficult time with innocent chats being interpreted the wrong way. He once asked a female for directions in the mall and out of nowhere her husband or boyfriend flipped out and wanted to fight him!..It was crazy!! hahaha. In India we are both more careful speaking to strangers who are the opposite sex now… Coming from the West, this type of thing does take some time to get used to…lol

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Dear Jen,
      OMGOSH, I am so sorry for your husband’s bad experience!!
      It really does take time getting used to, I guess in the West women have male friends without any complication but here, it just doesn’t happen!

      I hope you guys are getting the hang of it now 😀

      Take care xx

  • VK

    Lauren – I feel really bad that you have been going through all this in my wretched country. I have told you before and at the risk of offending you, tell you this again : Please carefully reconsider your future along with your husband and think long term before you decide to start a family. You have sacrificed a lot for your husband (You have given up on your career in spite of having I believe a professional degree). it is time he gives you the consideration you deserve. Please try and settle somewhere else ( England for example will not be a bad choice ) where you can stay comfortably and live decent lives as civilized people. Of course this will imply that your husband will not be in the same city as your family but trust me it will be better for everyone (including your in-laws) in the long run. Obviously this will not be pleasant in the short term for his family but you have to think long term.
    If for whatever reasons you do decide to stay in in India , please please at least plan your finances with your husband properly.
    To live a decent life in India you need lots of money..There is no social security , government facilities are non existent. I can go on and on.Please try to imagine your life thirty years down the line (as difficult it is for someone of your age to imagine) and care/plan for yourself . I do not know anything about you or your husband’s financial state. If you have or are confident of earning really really well…then by all means stay in India .

    take care and I’m sorry if I said anything that hurt you but I only wish you well..

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey VK,
      The good times are outweighing the bad times. It was my choice to move to India and I don’t consider it a sacrifice and don’t worry he asks me often whether I want to go back, he is very considerate (thankfully!). I would be lying if I said that this incident didn’t make me think about the future children we may have, by that time we may consider extra security. Time will tell, I hear that everything changes once you are a mother, but for the time being, I am happy in India.

      Yes this was very traumatic, but I have been subjected to far more traumatic events in the UK, but that’s a story for another time :).

      I hope you are well! I know that you always have good intentions towards me and I thank you so much for it!!

      Take care!

  • Eva Xanthopoulos

    Lauren, this truly is terrible to hear! *hugs* It’s beyond me why anyone would want to take advantage of a kind soul like that… No matter how desperate they are for money. This post makes me especially sad because having a polite aura like that is a rarity these days. It could be because others learned the hard way as well. 🙁 To be perfectly honest, I was much like you and still am for the most part… with an exception to men. It seems that smiling and simply being nice is an “invitation.” I don’t like being sexist like that, but my experiences have proven to me time and time again, that this is the case.

    You have a beautiful heart! Never lose that… No matter how many people let you down.

    <3

  • manjumodiyani

    Hey Lauren. I am your new reader! 😀
    Really happy to be here. You have a lovely blog.
    Well you see, in India, you don’t just smile at random people even if you have a good intention. The culture here is way different from that of UK in this regards. Different people interpret your smile differently. But I am sure, none of them take it the way you intended to give it. Good that you are neutral when it comes to strangers.

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