How to Communicate in Kolkata
The real point of this post isn’t about the language we speak, but about the culture we speak. Confused?
CULTURE of Speech
This is about how we are trained to speak to each other. For starters, in the US, speech is generally direct. You say what you want to say, and you say it to my face. Being evasive could be a sign of disrespect or lack of trust. Be clear, crisp and concise. Right?
And if you’re trained in corporate culture, you express your core idea in the first 15 seconds and then explain the sub-ideas. You give your thesis statement, your topic sentences that support it, and the underlying facts.
this is India honey. We don’t work that way. Six weeks in, I’ve seen that while daily life is pretty head-on, collision course direct, accessing abstract ideas in India requires stories. If you want someone to pass the butter, you just tell them. But if you want someone to understand you, you actually need to stop and make a cup of tea.
Tea time is the moment of pause when we share just enough to actually understand one another.
It’s why Indian’s have such regular tea breaks. They are the beats during the day when you can connect with one-another.
Tea time stories can be meaningful or innocuous, but they reach beyond the constant noise of daily life and signal to the other person to LISTEN!
Its a hard habit to break. I constantly find myself frustrated by having to let go of old tools (tried and true) and pick up a new pattern of thinking. It isn’t a one-way street, and India culture IS changing. Indian urban centers are becoming more globalized in thinking and culture (not always a good thing). But the truth is the parts of Kolkata we inhabit are still a generation removed from these shifts. We do find ourselves stepping backwards in time to a ‘not very long ago’. Its not better, but it just is, so we just have to flow with it.