Why Can’t Indians Do Personal Tasks Alone? From Job Interviews to Hair Appointments, Is Life Better Shared?

Why Can’t Indians Do Personal Tasks Alone? From Job Interviews to Hair Appointments, Is Life Better Shared?

I’m always amazed when I see Indians pair up to do tasks that, for me, are a one-woman or one-man job.  The first time I recall being a bit shocked was at my old hair salon in UB City.  I was sat in the back of the salon enjoying a pedicure when I saw a woman walk in into the salon with her 2 girlfriends who walked to the chair with her.  The woman with the appointment sat down and the two girlfriends stood just alongside her and proceeded to monitor what the stylist did, comment when they felt it was appropriate and generally participated in the one-on-one experience that is typically a hair appointment.  The first time I brushed it off as a one-off thing but then when I saw it again and again at the salon I realized that this isn’t a one-off thing at all…it’s an Indian thing.  I’ve actually felt bad for the stylist a couple of times because I’ve seen him there with three women telling him how to do his job but he just smiled and rolled with the punches, bless him!

And it’s not just women who do it.  I’ve seen cool looking Indian guys around 20 years old do the exact same thing at the salon.  Well, okay, the guys didn’t micromanage the stylist but they sat in the chair next to the guy with the appointment the whole time.  I have honestly never seen anything quite like this before.  Back in Spain I went to the salon with my best girlfriend dozens of times.  The first time was after we first met … we went to Tony & Guy in Barcelona with two champagne flutes and chilled Moët to see us happily through our 2+ hours at the salon in style.  We had fun!  But we both went for appointments.  It wasn’t me with my BFF who was monitoring my cut and highlights.

Well, today I saw the most unlikely two-some friend situation yet.  In a million years I couldn’t have imagined it, I swear.  I was waiting for an appointment today, sat in the lobby of a busy office building, people watching and playing on my BlackBerry.  One of the H.R. team walked out with a candidate, they shook hands and parted ways.  The H.R. guy went back inside and the candidate came up to the seating area, high-fived a guy who had been seated near me, and said something which I assume was like “went great, man” in a language I don’t speak.  The buddy stood up and they walked out.  OMG!  Haha!  That was the weirdest thing I have seen in a lobby in a good long time.  I assume the buddy was there for encouragement or as some kind of good luck charm but honestly…interviews definitely seem like a “big girl” or “big boy” activity best done alone.  Reminded me of the Tom Hanks film BIG when his best friend goes with him on the interview at the toy company.  But these guys weren’t 11 years old, they were in their mid to late 20s.

Here in India there is such a stronger feeling of family and unity than I have experienced anywhere else.  I’m still amazed by the large families who live together in massive homes or complexes…an ex colleague told me their family home was 22,000 sf and over 30 people live there.  And it still surpirses me when grown men and women in their 30s, with power jobs but who are unmarried, are still living at home.  This is somewhat common back in Spain too but it’s completely foreign to Americans who move out of the family home right after high school.  As an outsider it’s hard for me to imagine this life but at the same time I can picture how much fun it must be to live with a big family even now as an adult.  There would always be someone around with whom to talk to and share the fun adventures of the day and or a meal.  Although it must also be frustrating to never have a minute alone when you want a bit of down time or “me” time.  What I would hate the most was always having to be properly dressed when you run around the house or flat because I can’t imagine that girls can run around in a bra and underwear while getting ready for work in the morning.  That would certainly bug me because I don’t like to dress until the last minute when my hair and face are done.

In my mind I imagine that this tight family bond attributes to this desire to have someone close at hair appointments or along for the ride at a job interview, although this is just a guess.  Any insight on this would be most welcome, so please do comment!

I’m sure I will never take someone to critique my hair stylist at my next haircut…that’s my fun job and I love driving my hairdresser crazy.  And I definitely won’t take a human talisman to my next interview.  But I think there is something lovely about the sentiment and feeling of unity behind the actions.  Especially the way that families stay together and don’t all move off in different directions around the country or the globe, thus allowing them to remain a part of each other’s’ lives forever.

XOXO Angela

© Angela Carson, 2011

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Angela Carson
Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I’ve explored 35 countries on 4 continents, residing in 7 of them (currently Kuala Lumpur is my home). I even have a private pilot’s license and was shot at once by bandits!

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25 Comments

  1. Andrew
    23/08/2011 / 03:54

    I wish I took someone with me when I got a haircut there. The whole thing took an hour! It was so boring.

    • 23/08/2011 / 12:40

      hahahha DORK! Hope all is good with you, Andrew. I saw Peter this week and told him our funny party tales. Big hug, ange

  2. 23/08/2011 / 06:21

    Lovely insight through “foreign” eyes of a culture that is all too familiar, since I grew up within it.

    Keep writing you are doing a fantastic job! Since I live overseas now, will def pop by your blog every now and again to see whats brewing in my beautiful hometown!

    Great stuff Angela!

    • 23/08/2011 / 12:40

      Thanks Meagan! That was a very sweet comment. I find certain things quite funny (like the group salon visit) or shocking (like newborns on a moped) but I still try to find the “why” behind them…so thanks for seeing that in me 🙂 Subscribe to the email feature and the blog will just dump into your inbox 🙂 hehe –angela

  3. 23/08/2011 / 15:13

    Good observation Angela!!!! Coming to think of it, its so true!!!….faz

  4. anonymous
    23/08/2011 / 16:18

    True dat. In fact, I had a tough time trying to explain to my foreign colleagues (foreigners from many countries of asia, africa, s.america, etc..) why straight men hold hands clasped with the fingers with other straight men – that it is ‘innocent’. I had never thought about it till I returned back to India. I still cannot explain it. Except I am seeing a new phenomenon. Boyfriends clasping their girlfriends hands in public.

    When I went on a foreign business trip with my colleagues, for an outing we took a public bus once, and the boys (or young men) were being ‘jolly’ singing, etc.. and later all sat on each others laps for sharing the fun. The singing and especially the sitting on the lap was received with shock and horror from the other passengers, and the boys were told not to be obscene – i am sure they did not understand then, and do not understand to this day maybe.

    I cant explain it. I have been to many corners of the globe, but this is an india thing specifically.

    • 23/08/2011 / 20:15

      Ahhh the snugglers and cuddlers! I love them. But I am going to tell you a semi secret. I love them because I miss my gay mates from Europe. The majority of my closest friends are gay guys (I’ve actually turned them straight in my blog a couple of times so as to not shock mainstream india) … and whenever I see these guys they remind me of home.

      But yes, I know it is hard to explain … I can see that after only having been here a short time already. –ange

      • anonymous
        24/08/2011 / 15:07

        Well, I do know that cuddlers are extremely childish people – but to explain the extent of childishness to someone else is impossible. As for the critiquers, critiquing, commenting, and arguing is an indian sport.

      • anonymous
        24/08/2011 / 15:27

        Also, I can explain about my colleagues who were sitting on each other. It is common for 9-10 of us to cram into a car and go out, and this is considered ‘great fun’. In fact, my colleagues got very depressed when they did not have a group in their foreign trips, and if they were somewhat alone, as they had little to kill the hours with. That also explains whey they go the extra mile to bring their family with them for the shortest of trips. In our joyride in the bus, my colleagues wanted to recreate the crowded atmosphere in an indian taxi to enhance the experience. This did not go well with the other horrified passengers.

  5. anonymous
    23/08/2011 / 16:24

    I am curious. Was it a hair stylist or a barber that was being critiqued. I have never seen this in a moderate – expensively priced place, though I know it happens in inexpensive shops / areas.

    • 23/08/2011 / 20:12

      OMG it was at UB City in Bangalore at Mirrors & Within which is a very posh salon… not a barber shop. It’s really interesting to see these ladies in action. I reported to a lawyer once when I was a director of marketing and it pissed me off every time he would impose his WRONG ideas on me because he had taken that semester of marketing back at uni!! haha I imagine the stylists must feel something similar to my frustration at these moments 🙂

  6. 28/08/2011 / 13:11

    The very Indian culture is family and friends. We do nothing, and I mean nothing, without some support or the other. Probably the only place that we are absolutely alone is in the loo. But havin said that if we are in office together there r times we go towards the loo together and then go to our individual loos separately, so then we are alone. When we deliver our babies our moms are always there. If there is no mom dad’s are there. never r we left alone. Bra n panty is definitely only for the bath area. Until we get dressed we wear a strap dress around the house.

    So this is the beauty of the Indian nest. It is very rarely empty. Even Old age is taken care of by some one member of the family or the other. Of course a selfishness is slowly setting today where a lot of loss of culture is happening but that is an issue to be addressed.

  7. Kaybee
    02/09/2011 / 15:22

    Western people are very sexual and they have a way to sexualize even tiny human gestures. Also they remain cold and aloof and very individualistic. There are exceptions off course. Asian people are innocent and very expressive about their emotions. I guess it is perfectly normal and okay for 2/ more grown up straight men to hold hands or hug. The younger US generation are slowly getting more expressive and has termed such show of love “bromance”…I guess it has to do a lot of Asian influence….

    • 02/09/2011 / 22:33

      Hey, great comment! You are spot-on actually, at least for me. Generally speaking, I don’t want a boyfriend …and I don’t deal well with it when guys are super sweet with me. I prefer to stay detached and cold 99% of the time. I haven’t been to the U.S. in over 10 years so can’t comment on the growing acceptance of expressing feelings, but I have seen it on Scrubs 🙂 –ange

  8. Karthik
    15/11/2011 / 13:52

    In this country there is a strong bonding in every relationship made- be it family or friends. You spoke of a guy who was waiting in the lobby for his friend who was attending his interview, Imagine 6 of my friends waiting outside the Exam hall when i was writing my entrance exam & 3 accompanying me & checking my dress & appearance for my final interview for the first job. Thats the bonding that this country can boast of & its always been a pleasure to relish that.

    Cheers

    • 16/11/2011 / 01:27

      To be perfectly honest…. I love part of the bonding that goes on, I really do. It’s full of love and expresses the beauty of friendship. But some things, like a job interview, seem like something one should do on their own. If I had a candidate come in for a position on my team and wasn’t adult enough to handle it on their own, it would affect the way I view them. But it doesn’t mean I still don’t see the beauty behind the gesture. It’s just my American and Euro experience in the way….

      • Shankar
        23/11/2011 / 01:37

        Angela. To be a bit rude.. its just one more thing that Americans/Non Indians can’t understand about India which need to be sensitized to foreigners when they move to India either on a trip or for work 🙂 .. I am really happy that you are trying to make an effort to understand at least .. Keep writing..

  9. Rainbow
    06/04/2012 / 16:40

    I cant compose myself enough to write coherently, so, points to consider:

    -Dont you think its better to brave early morning dressing in exchange for 99.9 percent happy un-divorced families? Being with family keeps family together. Andddddd We’re not barn animals, we have our own rooms for privacy.
    – i run around in a bra and shorts all day, and my younger brother is exactly that, a younger brother,, so nobody minds.
    – Interviews and exams are important, and people go along with their friends or family for emotional support
    – I wouln’t mind accompanying an unsure friend to the stylist, its not a waste of my time if im not getting something done. 🙂
    – It is this culture that makes us happy people, even though our economic prosperity, civic ammenities etc might be of a lower level. What is the POINT of being alone allll the time and letting people into your lives only when your all polished and prepped up?

    Sorry if i have offended you, but i wanted to show you the other side of this story 🙂

    • 07/04/2012 / 11:44

      Hi, glad your shared your point of view. Wouldn’t life be boring if everyone, all around the world, were the same? 🙂 I appreciate the cultural differences in my new life in India and embrace some of them … but others will always be exactly that…differences. Not good or bad. Not right or wrong. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment, hope you will chime in again in the future. –ange

  10. abstractpsyche
    17/04/2012 / 13:29

    I never noticed it until you pointed it out. 🙂 guess, its because, the sharing makes things easier and nicer.
    I share my tea time / coffee time with a couple friends who’re always into discussing something or the other, one day its how the stuxnet is being tamed for a wider cyber warfare, the next day its about how Yuvraj is battling his cancer and how his absence is affecting the Indian Cricket Team, the next day its about the cute gal who comes exactly at the same time we go out for Tea/Coffee.. Hahaha!!
    I take my friend along once in a while for Interview Appointments, not for the talisman, but more like some good company when you drive through the traffic and wait in the lobby or to discuss after the interview.
    And every time I visit a Hair Stylist, I always have a gal accompanying me. Its much more faster and fun, since they know the exact terminology and all I can say to the hair stylist is “Josh Duhamel’s” hairstyle or show a pic of some hairdo I picked online.. hahaha!

    Looking from a Non-Indian perspective, look at it this way, we usually share only with our BF/GF or the family (or families if they’ve been multiple divorces and re-marriages and lots of step-brothers/sisters and share with them until & unless they’re part of the close cirlce), and ofcourse the close friends. Imagine widening your arms to a much more bigger circle that includes different friends, relatives, cousins etc., share the love don’t enclose it in a lil jar. Unless the jar later evolves into a wish granting genie lamp.. 😉

    • 19/04/2012 / 13:43

      hahahaha …. I think we’d all love the genie lamp but yes, I do see your point. Thanks for sharing. Still cracks me up at the hair salon though, not right or wrong, it’s just different and I find it funny to see people “managing” the expert stylists as if they know what they are doing more than they stylists 😉 –ange

  11. 26/04/2012 / 17:18

    Well, I have an alternative explanation. We always have a waiting time(I’m sure by now you are aware of the famous Indian punctuality) and it will be good to have company while waiting for our turn. I have waited for more than 6 hours for a half an hour interview.

    The friends giving directions to the hairstylist is a typical Indian thing where everyone has an opinion.

    • 26/04/2012 / 17:29

      Hi, thanks for adding to the conversation. That is indeed an alternate perspective and does make sense. I can’t believe you waited 6 hours once for a job interview. That is insane!!! I wrote about Indian punctuality recently: http://angelacarson.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/indian-standard-time-friend-or-foe/

      Still cracks me up at the hair salon when I see the poor stylists doing their best to maintain their smile as non-professionals show him how to better do their job 😉 I just can’t get my head around that one but I do like watching it so glad it happens 🙂 -angela

  12. Rainbow
    04/05/2012 / 07:00

    About the stylists, they are rather poor 😛 Its nice to have opinions of other people.. cozz if you trust your stylist, you will most likely come out with “I’ll give you a few layers at the back” no matter what you ask for.

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