Going off topic

Our driver has a curious habit. If you ask him a question, he’ll often answer something different.

I see that many people don’t wear helmets when they ride outside the city. Is the helmet law a Bangalore law, a Karnataka law or an all India law?

No Sir, they have become very strict about the helmets.

Right, but is it only in Bangalore? Most riders in Bangalore who are not riding pillion wear helmets, but outside the city, only half do.

It used to be that you didn’t have to wear a helmet, but now they are very strict and if a policeman catches you…

Okay, so I know that the police are strict about helmets in Bangalore. What I don’t know is if there is no helmet law in Karnataka as a whole, or if the police just don’t enforce it. It’s not just Wrenzo. I’ve seen this lot in India. People will answer with whatever is bothering them, give an answer based on a highly filtered interpretation of the question or just plain answer at random it seems. Initially, I had assumed that it was because English is a second language for most people here, but that is not the case with our driver.

Perhaps the next time the RTO officer asks about Daniela’s job, I should answer with an observation about the weather.


4 responses to “Going off topic

  1. Hey Dave. I really like your blog and read it regularly.
    Maybe your driver did not know the answer to your question but admitting so would mean loosing his face so instead he gives you an answer he knows. This happened to us in Japan all the time. You might be interested in reading “foreign to familiar” by Sarah A. Lanier, A guide to Understanding Hot- and cold-Climate cultures.

  2. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone here say “I don’t know” to anything. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that.

    I’ll have to read that book. It may give some important insight. Daniela once brought home a book (I’ve forgotten the title) written for Americans about doing business with Germans and French. It discussed high versus low context cultures quite a bit and the cultural differences between the three. It had good insights and though I’m not sure that I completely agreed with all of its characterizations of Germans, it did impart its message that you can’t treat them interchangeably.

    The same goes for Indians, only 100 fold more so.

  3. Hi Dave,
    is it possible that it is considered impolite, not to give an answer when asked? And that “I don’t know” would be the same as not answering? So he tells you all he knows, and that is how it is where he lives and how it has changed lately.

  4. That might also be possible. I’ll have to ask one of my neighbors who used to live in the west. One woman is married to an American and used to be a newspaper reporter in the US. She can probably give me a good comparison explanation.

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