Yesterday I took my saree back to the Ladies Tailor to get the blouse made. The madam was in, and she measured me up, stopping to ask several questions that I had to pause and think about (short sleeves, or 3/4 sleeves? low dip in the back, or no dip?), much to her amusement.
The general surprise the women in the shop had at my blouse ignorance got me thinking about how common surprise is in my life here. I expected it to be common for me to be surprised, since I'm living in a whole new culture and place, but I hadn't anticipated how often I would surprise people. In retrospect that was pretty clueless of me!
So now, in no particular order, I give you a list of things that have surprised Indians-- friends, acquaintances, professionals-- that I've interacted with in the past 5 days.
1. I don't (yet) own a single saree blouse, and never have.
2. The US has no federally mandated paid maternity leave.
3. Breastfeeding in public is often frowned up in the US.
4. Breastfeeding a toddler is often frowned upon in the US-- in public or not.
5. I don't eat pizza and burgers every day in the US.
6. Elementary school aged children don't usually walk around town on their own in the US.
7. For most Americans, buses are not a regular, reliable, or useful form of transportation.
8. Robert, Zion, Liel and I live all alone in the US, without our extended family.
9. American parents don't usually tell their children what career they must pursue when they grow up.
10. It is possible to live in the US for years, and never be cheated in a business transaction, let alone regularly cheated (Note: this one was something I was asked to confirm by an Indian friend who had been told this was the case by a friend of his who had lived in the US for a while).
11. American teenagers can have boyfriends/girlfriends.
12. American teenagers are unlikely to marry their boyfriends/girlfriends, and this is perfectly acceptable.
13. Packaged foods in the US are not all labeled as either veg or non-veg.
14. Lots of Americans who are eligible to vote do not do so.
What I find particularly interesting about this list is how wide ranging it is, covering topics from food, to clothing, to families, parenting, sex, transportation and politics. I'm learning so much here!