Friday, October 20, 2006

Culture Clash: Control

One of the things that I’ve realized since being here is how much I used to be in control of my life. In America, control is core value to how we operate. We expect to be in control of ourselves, our schedule, our finances, our environment, our future. We hold others’ to those same expectations, which leads to the frustrations and finger-pointing when things go wrong, even by accident.

That does not seem to be the case in India – probably in many parts of the world. Here, I am not in control of much of anything. The power goes out all the time, and there is no one to call, no one to blame, no one to fix it – it’s just me and Steph figuring out what to do with an unbaked lasagna and a gas flame.

The grocery store might not open until 10:00, and even then might be out of bread. The dry cleaner might lose some clothes, and if he does it doesn’t appear you will get them back, and it doesn’t seem effective to threaten not to pay the 5 rupees he would of charged you to clean them.

The internet is down all the time, and people just look at you funny if you ask them to prorate the cost for the times it wasn’t working. If you call too often to complain, they will probably just stop answering the phone, because they know what we don’t – things like this are often out of our control, and it is best just to wait for them to right themselves.

I am not trying to generalize or complain; it really has made me take a look at how much I, someone who is proud of not being a control freak (don’t laugh!), expect to be in control.

Here, I am in control of little to nothing, but nobody else is either, and nobody really cares. And, when I’m not really, really frustrated by the situation, I kind of like the freedom.

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