Making Friends

Yesterday evening, when the kids went to bed, Daniela chatted wit Sammy. She asked him if he cried yesterday and he said yes. He also said that he felt like a stranger. He did take note of the fact that the Indian kids went out of their way to invite him to play with them. Today, it appeared to be different. He has made two friends; Rohan, a boy from Oregon (of NRI parents) who has only been in India for a couple of months and another boy, who’s name Sammy can’t remember. This inability to remember names is a common thread. Charlotte also has some trouble remembering names of friends at school. Daniela and I share this for that matter. Anyway, Sammy no longer feels foreign. This is very interesting. Sammy and Charlotte were essentially welcomed with open arms. I would have expected a difficult period as they had to penetrate cliques.

How much of this is India and how much is the fact that they are at an international school at play?

Many of the kids – Indians included – have lived in the US and many are American passport holders. Just because a kid looks like any local, does not mean that they themselves are not foreigners. Sammy’s new friend Rohan is an example. There are also kids from the UK and other places. There is a boy from the UK and a girl from Germany (from Schriesheim, about 1/2 an hour from our house in Rotenberg. Daniela and I both have colleagues who live there) in Sammy’s kindergarten class. Charlotte’s new buddies include a girl from Peru and a Sikh girl. Having so many kids from such a diverse background – everyone is either from somewhere else or is a minority – that it promotes acceptance of others.

Then there is an Indian trait that I have noticed. They don’t seem to have the concept of the acquaintance as we westerners do. We often hold people in our circle of friends in the “acquaintance” category and reserve the real friendship for a select few. Indians seem less prone to keeping others at arm length and a perfectly happy to regard people as friends that we westerners would hold in acquaintance purgatory. Their monkey spheres are simply larger it seems. When a new kid enters kindergarten, he is introduced as a “new friend”. If a westerner says that they have 50 close friends, other westerners will regard that person as shallow and probably lacking in any “real” friends. Indians probably have more “real” friends than that.

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4 responses to “Making Friends

  1. Quirky Indian

    You’re fairly perceptive. Yes, we can’t really differentiate between acquaintances and friends. For most of us, the lines between the two are extremely blurred.

    We’re also generally tolerant and welcoming, so I think the kids would not have found the experience too different if the school hadn’t been an international one. Of course, the “fair” obsession is also a factor.

  2. As far as the question of ‘real friend’ and acquaintences is concerned, would you see Americans and Germans at the same level? Often, you read in books that Americans tend to see people as friends more easily than Germans, so that could translate into a ranking on the acquaintance-> friendship scale from 1 to 10 like this:
    Germans: 1
    Americans: 3-4
    Indians: 10
    Does this make sense? Or are all westerns alike, compared to Indians?

  3. I think you have it about right. Americans are more polite than Germans and part of American politeness is being (relatively) gregarious with strangers. Americans are more likely to hit it off with new people and are more likely to use the label friend that Germans. E.g. I find elder Germans’ habit of using Sie with people they have known for decades to be mind boggling and probably use Du much more readily than many Germans are comfortable with.

    That said the differences between Americans and Germans pales in comparison to the difference in this regard between either on one hand and Indians on the other.

  4. The limiting factor is time. Humans and monkeys both spend about 20% of their time socializing, but humans can socialize more efficiently (and therefore can have a larger monkeysphere) because they have complex language. Talking with your neighbor is much less time-consuming than grooming him. It generally isn’t practical to spend more than 20% of your time socializing, because you need to be out gathering bananas.

    Do Indians spend more time socializing than Westerners? I would think they would have to, if their monkeysphere is larger.

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