Today I want to talk about some behavioral differences between East and West. I have often had trouble with my friends and some relatives about saying – “Thanks”. You see whenever someone does something for me and I automatically say – “Thanks” and all my Indian friends get mad at me. It was very surprising to me. They say, between friends there are no ‘Thank You’ and ‘Please’. I don’t know which Bollywood movie propagated it, but it really has sunken into a lot of people here.
So, this got me thinking. Was I like this in 1999? Did I get mad at people just because they were saying Thanks to me? I don’t recollect very well, but I could say that I was kinda adamant and believed in no Thanks and no Please attitude. So what changed? My stay in US? Or may be I just forgot that Bollywood movie? Upon thinking I could come to only one logical answer.
In his very interesting book – “The Five Love Languages“, Gary Chapman explains how we humans have 5 ways of expressing love.
- Words of Affirmations
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
When I think about it, usually in the west – the way people express love to each other ‘chiefly’ is – ‘Words of Affirmation’, ‘Quality Time’, ‘Physical Touch’. So, when people show love to you this way in West, you usually reciprocate in the similar fashion. Anything else like – ‘Receiving Gifts’, ‘Acts of Service’ are not very much treated as a way of showing Love – hence people usually say “Thanks” when they come across something like that. Whereas in India, it’s the other way around. People are not very vocal about expressing their love. They literally don’t touch (Who would want to, in this hot and sweaty India!). The concept of Quality time is no where nearby – as the only quality time any Indian can think of is spending time with TV. So, we Indians chiefly express love in the remaining 2 ways – ‘Gifts’ & ‘Acts of Service’.
So when my Uncle buys me an expensive watch for me, he is basically telling me that he loves me. When my mom cooks an extravagant Biryani for me, she is showing how much she loves me and she is happy the most when I eat a lot of it. So, when I say Thanks to these acts, both my Uncle and my Mom get pissed off. Our extreme opposite ways of showing love really gets people confused. Before I understood this, it was such a painful thing for me. I would dread to say Thank you to my friends and relatives.
Now the puzzle is solved for me. Phew. At least, thats what I think the reason for the behavior is.
2 thoughts on “Saying Thanks in India”
Hey..Nicely put thoughts!!…yeah I agree that means of expressing love are very different in India and West. And it would be very unfair to ask somebody to change their own ways and accept the others.
I have been looking on the web for how to “thank” my development team in India for their excellent work. This article is a great presentation and insight into the culture.