Dispatch from India: Culture shock

June 17, 2008

IST student dispatch from India series

Steve Garguilo, Joel Boucher, Matt Prindible and Larissa Andrejko are rising seniors in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. They are spending this summer in Bangalore, India, interning for Honeywell International, a diversified technology and manufacturing corporation. They are blogging about their experiences on the other side of the world. Included in this third dispatch are installments from Boucher and Garguilo’s blogs:

Joel Boucher: Culture training

Today the four of us had cultural training, which was a great experience. I learned more about the Indian culture in one day than I have in all my culture and history classes. The most important thing that I learned is everything that you think about India is true, and so is the opposite.

Our instructor was one of the most interesting people I have ever met. She has lived all over the world, including Egypt, the UK, France, Peru, India (her home country) and more. She has taken part in the Sri Lanka tsunami relief effort and other humanitarian jobs in India. She has a background in anthropology and languages, and has studied law briefly, too.

She was perfect for global and cultural training. She has experienced so much stuff firsthand and was able to share the love of traveling and global awareness with us today. I was very grateful for this experience.

My time here has basically been a 1990s flashback. Yeah, the music here takes me back a few years. Here are some samples of the music from places I went.

• Celine Dion - "My Heart Will Go On"
• Will Smith - "Miami"
• Elton John - "Circle of Life"
• Billy Ray Cyrus - "Achy Breaky Heart" (This is on the breakfast playlist at the hotel)
• Europe - "The Final Countdown"
• Enrique Iglesias - "Hero" and "Don’t Turn Off the Lights"
• The Offspring - "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)"

I am just waiting for Madonna, Ricky Martin and maybe even some Paula Abdul. It’s time to go find my MP3 player and listen to some current music. If there are any new songs that I should hear, please let me know. I am a little bit out of the pop-culture circle, and don’t want to come back to the U.S. and miss all the songs of the summer.

Steve Garguilo: Tastes of home

On the food front, since I'm craving for American food, that's pretty much all I've had. We ordered Pizza Hut, and it was the exact same as American Pizza Hut. Normally I wouldn't be excited about that, but boy did it hit the spot. Then Friday, after having Indian breakfast and Indian lunch at work, we went out and had Chinese food (OK, not American, but pretty much).

After that was the best part of all of this, there is a "Fudge and Cream Shop" in the mall that, as it turns out, is basically Cold Stone Creamery! It's the same style with the ice cream and the mix-ins and the mashers and the stone and all that jazz -- it was such a welcomed sight and treat.

I’ve also gotten to eat McDonalds -- the fries are the same! No, there are no hamburgers at this McDonalds, but they do have McCurry. That's right: McCurry. Anyway, I got the fries to go and was eating them in the rickshaw on the way back home -- a pretty fun and interesting way to cap off the day.

We're finding that if you look hard enough, it's really not very difficult to find different types of food around. I hope to go grocery shopping, and I should be able to pick up some familiar things that I can have and also some things to bring to mix up the lunch palette.

Culture shock

I've been going back and forth reading a number of different sources trying to determine exactly what "culture shock" is and if I've truly experienced it. I think I've determined that I experienced some aspects of this phenomenon, but certainly not all. The fact that I spend most of my time in a work environment that is very similar to the U.S., live in an apartment that is generally similar to an apartment I would inhabit in the U.S., and am here with a number of other students in my same age and demographic, all contribute to this.

Also, the fact that one can get by speaking English is another big plus for me or someone in my shoes to adjust. I remember in Hungary, if I was by myself at a store or on public transportation or walking around, I wouldn't even open my mouth because I knew no one would be able to understand me. That's one thing I really don't have to worry about here.

However, there are a number of aspects I've definitely experienced. Some of these things I've already talked about: the traffic, the smells, the way people dress, the way people talk, the newspaper, being a minority, etc. These are all things that are different. I've talked about the food a lot in my past entries as well; I think that may have just been the most different aspect, which is why it was so "shocking" to me.

I think this shock really comes in stages. The very beginning is total open-mindedness and excitement: explore everywhere and soak everything up. Then, when you realize there are just certain things that are different and that you can't have, there's an initial fear of that, rejection of what's available, and longing for what you're used to. After the end of these stages, though, there's a more general acceptance of the culture and reality around you and an excitement about it. I no longer really crave any aspects of American culture that I miss here because I know they'll all be waiting for me in eight weeks, and I'm now more excited than anything that I get to immerse myself in these differences over the rest of the summer.

Last Updated March 19, 2009