I’ve done a fair amount of traveling, and I’ve encountered a fair amount of stereotypes about Americans and/or foreigners in general. Sometimes they’re true, sometimes I have no idea where they came from. Here are the five main stereotypes/perceptions I’ve encountered in India so far that completely took me by surprise and left me scratching my head:
- Vegetarians are quite, passive, mild-mannered – I learned this one when someone at work asked me if I was a vegetarian, because I “looked like one.” Of course my first question was “What does that mean?” I mean, I’m not a vegetarian, but I obviously needed to know what that meant! Once they told me why, I started laughing. This really couldn’t be further from the truth, but I suppose I’ll take it as a compliment. It was only my first week there when they asked. This is me a few weeks later. I think they may have changed their opinion.
- Americans LOVE exercise – Whether its walking, running, or healthy eating, Americans love it. This topic comes up on a daily basis, because I walk to work in the mornings (about 5K) Everyone thinks I’m nuts. Every day I’m told “Indians hate walking. Indians are all diabetics and overweight.” Huh?? This basically goes against every other stereotype of Americans I have heard before. I don’t know that either aspect of this is actually true. This photo is failed jumping photo attempt #75…but I think it still looks pretty cool. I got some exercise in Coorg over the weekend and went on some really awesome treks. AND, this pic is a spoiler for #3 on the list, since I am wearing sunglasses!
- Only rich people wear sunglasses This one really surprised me and drives me crazy for a number of reasons.
- I have blue eyes which are super sensitive to brightness. I can’t see if it is really bright. I never leave the house without my sunglasses.
- Even if it isn’t sunny, there is so much dust and other little particles that I don’t want flying in my eyes.
- Sunglasses only for the rich means no awesome, color Ray Ban knockoffs on every corner. I was looking forward to that.
- All foreigners smoke – I blame the French for this one. People are surprised when I turn down their offered cigarette. “Don’t all white people smoke,” they ask.
- Why learn Kannada when you already know English? – Kannada is the official language in the state of Karnataka where Bangalore is located. Most of the north speaks Hindi, but the southern states have diverse languages complete with different alphabets. I currently know about 20 words, but the reaction when I use one or two is complete shock. A white girl speaking Kannada? Why? Don’t you speak English? I generally smile and say “Because I want to.” Why wouldn’t you want to learn the local language?
Here is the Kannada alphabet I had hanging in my kitchen in Boston to learn the characters before my trip – my roommates loved it (mostly at hearing me try to pronounce the characters):