Saturday, June 24, 2006

Desis Rude?

We all tend to have a bit of laugh at ourselves time to time, but recently Mumbai was accused of being the rudest city on earth. While it's an Indian city and not a Bangladeshi one, I am entirely sure had Reader's Digest done the same survey in Dhaka we would have ranked alongside Mumbai. Same customs, similar people.

First, here's the survey. I do not agree with it at all, even though Toronto is 3rd on the list of polite cities. It is the most bogus piece of trash I have read from that magazine. Here's why.

  • New York is ranked the most polite city on earth.

    No matter how you try to spin that, it's plain wrong. There is no way NYC is the most polite city on earth. Hell, no. I am sorry for you if you live in New York. Really I am. I once asked a POLICE officer where the stadium was (we were on our way to a ball game). He looked at me, and said, "Well, as this sign here says in ENGLISH the stadium is this way..."

    Toronto rules.

  • The criteria used was too Western. Naturally all the Western cities ranked up there (most polite) while Asian cities were rude. Let's see these 'criteria'.

    - whether people opened doors for others in public buildings.

    Do you know the population of any city in Asia? And how many of them are on their way to some public building at any given time? If you remain standing holding the door open for everyone you will never get in. Besides, those doors are of really old buildings and made of real wood, often years old. They are heavy. We push our own doors.

    - whether they helped pick up papers dropped on a busy street.

    Ever watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? Rani drops her books and SRK is right there to help her pick it up, along with his 'dosti' bracelet. Seriously, the definition of 'busy street' in Asia is different - it's really busy. As soon as you drop something, it's trampled by millions of people. So we don't drop it in the first place, and if we do, we don't pick it up as it's damaged beyond repair. No wonder we desis are efficient.

    - whether a shopkeeper said "thank you" when a purchase - big or small - was made.

    Well, the last time a few British came to India to do a little bit of trade. They came to Bengal too, under Robert Clive. Some company called the East India Trading Company. We said thank you. They liked it so much that they remained for 400 years. So we don't do it anymore.


    BBC: Mumbai disputes 'rudest city' tag

    Anonymous said...

    hahhahaha..i luv the last one!
    NYC the politest? prfffff

    Priyanka Bhatia said...

    we do not open doors as most buildings are too old to have any.

    Aisha said...

    Its funny you discuss this because I took a course on cross cultural differences and how Americans (and other cultures) are very ethnocentric thinking their way is the right way. Perhaps opening doors in another culture may even be considered rude. I know in Islamic cultures a man smiling at a woman as he holds the door open for her and watches her walk by could be very demeaning to the woman as well! This survey sounds like it judged polite/rudeness based on Western standards. Readers Digest in particular is very notorious for that.

    Zehra said...

    toronto might have been third on the list of polite cities but i have certainly had my share of some not-so-pleasant experiences, like rude customer service or strangers at the grocery store(who jump up the line and then get mad at me for saying something or people completely blocking the entrance of an aisle thereby preventing others from getting anything and then of course getting mad at me. but maybe it's just me- i either expect too much from strangers or my toleration level is really low (like a true torontonian...haha). anyway, good post!

    Isheeta said...

    lol, agree with anon, the last bit was awesome!!!

    Abu Sinan said...

    I had a good laugh at the last bit. Spot on! Irish are well known for their hospitality and it got them 800 years of the English and still counting.

    Anonymous said...

    Readers Digest is one of the most BS magazine. Always looking for a good tear jerk story and spinning stories out of context.

    Its the most widely read magazine by old ladies in nursing homes.

    DHH said...

    I agree, Reader's Digest is a magazine for the very very average mind.

    There is absolutely no way that New York is the most polite city in the world. There is absolutely no way Paris is ranked one of the most courteous. Have those surveyors been to a bank or a department store in Paris? Parisians do not know the meaning of the word "service".

    Did that magazine surveyor come to Tokyo? The Japanese are the most polite people in the universe. Tokyo is not even on their list so how can they make these smug conclusions on incomplete data?

    You cannot base the meaning of "politeness" on picking up papers and opening doors. The Reader's Digest criteria is so crude.

    Anonymous said...

    you guys fail to understand that reader's digest has said NYC is the most polite city in the world to create controversy - i.e. to sell more magazines.

    everyone knows NYC has a history of being impolite.

    it's a very simple marketing technique and it seems to have worked!

    Anonymous said...

    It's interesting to see the reactions people have had to this issue.

    I'm a 21 year old mixed race male (english-indian) working in mumbai for the summer, studying in toronto, and have lived in mumbai for 17 years.

    NYC polite? Nice try readers digest...didn't fool me.

    Mumbai, rudest? If they'd put a few more indian cities in there, they'd all have ranked in there with mumbai. Agra might have taken dead last tho.

    All this chatter about 'it's not our culture', 'our cities are too big' etc etc is absolute nonsense.

    When you hold the door open for somebody, nobody expects you to be a doorman. It's a very simple, reflex action (in considerate people) to trail your hand behind you and maybe slow your pace for a moment until the next person gets through. And it goes on. And you lose the rudest city in the world status.

    People spit out of their cars, rickshaws, buses, onto the (once) pristine white marble of office buildings and residence buildings.

    Driving on indian roads:
    I was with my family renting a car in Philadelphia. A lady just back from india remarked how we indians were the 'best drivers in the world' because we managed to have a relatively low number of 'incidents'. well, we wouldnt have to be professional defensive drivers if we weren;t bad drivers in the first place. the blatant lack of consideration, community and common sense is blinding. "If you dart into a traffic jam and gain 10 feet, you'll just block somebody else and add to the mayhem'

    Explains why i very self righteously drive a very large, now slightly aging SUV which i gleefully use to police my immediate driving space. Right of way denied? I'll claim it for my own, as the inconsiderate fool of a driver of a new honda accord found out in the parking lot of the inox theatre in nariman point. I estimate 40,000 rupees to replace that bumper. Hypocrisy? i think not.

    The list goes on...and please, don't let me hear that we mumbaiites come together when it matters like the devastating floods of last year.
    1) it's a crisis. nobody behaves like they usually would. and it only happens once every 10 years.
    2)the root cause of the flooding is the inherent flaws of the country. society, family, attitudes...etc. Nobody can be pinpointed. We are all to blame. Not 'the culture'. The indus valley civilization had the first planned large scale sewage system in the history of mankind. Most of mumbai's sewer system today, 6,000 years later, cannot compare to this. The original cultures are fine. The people are not.

    Anonymous said...

    reader's digest people are always attacking soft targets like india. in this case mumbai.

    i dont think they would dare say anything bad about karachi or islamabad or kabul! haha

    The Bengali Fob said...

    Mezba, I read that article too! And I was thinking the same about NYC! Some of your points make sense, but so does Anonymous' (the 21-year old mixed guy).

    But I'd like to point out to the Anonymous person that the reason why people in our native countries don't behave properly is becuase it's a do or die world. Everyone is on their own. The government won't help them, the police won't, no one will, so you're on your own buddy. Blame it all on the governmetn folks. And the multinational companies, and IMF, and WOrld Bank for using our spineless politicians to ruin our native countries.

    If I had no food, or was paid very little for working non-stop, I don't think I'd open the door for others either. Think how grumpy you'd be for the injustice you have to suffer. Now think how more than half the people in our countries feel.

    The Bengali Fob said...

    Read "The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order" by Michel Chossudovsky! There's a section on Bangladesh and India. Everything is the IMF and World Bank's fault. Yes, even the floods that occur in Bangladesh are their fault. REad the book and see. It's in your local library.