Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Can’t digest this one.

Guys, Aamchi Mumbai is 35th most courteous city in the world. Now before you start jumping up and down with joy, let me add that only 35 cities that were surveyed. That’s right, Mumbai is the least courteous city as per a survey by Readers Digest.

Was a bit surprised that Mumbai, a city known for its zest for life and free spirit can be among the rudest. New York tops the list. More surprises in store in the form of Sau Paulo (high crime rates) at # 5 and Seoul (weren’t they supposed to be very courteous, like the japs) at # 32. But when you read the full article, the reason for Mumbai’s abysmal ranking becomes crystal clear.

So here’s the three “tests” RD reporters did to determine “courtesy index”.

  1. Do shopkeepers say “Thank you for shopping” as you leave the shop
  2. Whether people hold the door open for others following behind them
  3. Drop newspaper in a busy street and see if someone picks it up for you.

Imagine buying groceries from the neighbourhood lala and as you turn back counting the change, lala screams “Thank you for shopping, please do visit again”. Its just not part of the culture in our country. So not saying “Thanks” after shopping does not mean lack of courtesy or disrespect. We just don’t do it. Simple. Now if only someone could explain it to those reporters from RD. By the way I find this “Thanks for shopping” stuff really phoney unless if its in Japan where the salesgirls bend 90 degrees and sing in unison “Aarigato Gozaimaaaaaaaz” in the most nasal tone imaginable (Himesh Reshammiya will be ashamed). In that case, its more funny that phoney.

Now holding open the door bit. This too is not a convention in our country. Don’t the RD guys know that we Indians don’t hold the door open and just stand there, all smiles, waiting for others behind us to pass buy and expect them to say “Thanks you so much”. We just push open the door and get in. If someone is following behind us, we just we push it a bit wider so that he/she can also enter in before the door shuts. No fuss!

If Readers Digest was taking the pain of sending its 2000 reporters to 35 cities in the world, they might as well have put some effort in selecting proper test cases. Atleast they could have chosen tests based on the regional culture and ways of life. Salespersons saying things like “How are you doing?” and “Thank You”, holding the door open etc. are considered as part of good manners in a country like USA but are largely unknown(let alone be followed) in India.

I am not so sure about the newspaper dropping part of the test but looks like you Mumbaikars did a very bad job there. Didn’t I tell you to be on the look out for people dropping newspapers? Now look what your negligence has cost you! Ok now atleast be alert from the next time. The moment you see someone dropping even a tissue paper, dive towards it, like Mohd Kaif and catch it before it hits ground. But don’t appeal, just give it back with a smile. And if the other guy gives you a stare, just ignore it – remember , courteous. If not for anything else, do it as a mark of repect that poor RD reporter, who on a soggy summer afternoon outside Church Gate station, dropped his newspaper, making it look like an accident, and after five minutes had to pick it up himself.

Update : I would like to add that I am not defending Mumbai or saying that Mumbai is a very courteous city. As much as I hate to admit it, we, Indians in general are not courteous when it comes to behaviour in public domain. More than lack of courtesy, its the lack of sensitivity which rankles. This post was just to voice my opinion on the survey and its funny methods, totally disregarding regional sensibilities.


Blogger Swapna said...

Actually, one of the things I like a lot about US is that people are very polite.

It feels good when complete strangers smile at you and say Hi.. Some people feel its phony but still when you smile at someone and they smile back, it feels good. It's common sense that when you thank someone for shopping, they're going to feel good and come back. I'm not talking about the local shops - at least the bigger shops could do it. It's called customer service which is really bad in India.

True, I can't imagine people doing it in India. Sad that Mumbai was rated the least polite though.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Desi said...

Your arguement is flawed .How many of us really thank a autowallah or a driver,salesman after their service,let alone holding doors ? We surely are not courteous enough to everyone. Most Indians does have an attitude ,and act accordingly based on a persons outlook .Get real !!

3:33 PM  
Blogger The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

THANK-YOU, happy-go-lucky.

@ desi,
our definitions of "courtesy" do not conform to those examined by that 3-point test RD conducted. sure, we don't say thanks to the rickshaw waala. if we did, he'd wonder which planet we're from. i don't think that equates to us not respecting him.

and the bit about class-consciousness in india, yes, that is admittedly sad but true. then, you're dealing with a very complex socio-economic system too. not like the more streamlined ones. thats all tangential now.

(a mumbaikar who's taken it upon herself to visit all blogs that are discussing this and make her p.o.v heard. :) )

8:08 PM  
Blogger sathish said...

As a matter whichever city of India am, I thank auto drivers & taxi drivers. They feel happy when you do so, though they dont expect it.
You see someone on the road & smile and say Hi (if you are a guy) and the other person happens to be a girl all you get is a scorn look as if she had hated your existence in this world.

infact mumbai is not so bad as mentioned out here. am not from mumbai though. last time i was there and went shopping the shopkeepers were happy & chatted with me for 30mins, shook hands, kept door open for me and also gave their cards to me. i think it all depends on how interested we are in his store and his business...

i would rate delhi as the worst among cities in india in terms of courtesy.

10:58 PM  

I believe that all the atrificial Thanks and Hi and holding the door open etc etc are the very physical manifestations done for an image and as per the culture of the place.

People greet others with a peck on the cheek in some places. Tomorrow if someone uses that as a basis in a global survey to drive a point of "anything" (like courtesy) it is baseless.

Did they bother to test how people help others when in times of need. How neighbours are there when you need them and peopl ein general konow everyone and are friendly from within.

Good post, though I am not wht I really want to say but this survey is surely a rut!

6:31 AM  
Blogger Morpheus said...

Interesting...I agree...Mumbai is a rude place. the people are nice but they can be pretty curt and theynever ever smile. This is what I think about Indian politeness

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Changla mulga.. said...

Had the test been conducted by a gora in Mumbai, sure Amchi Mumbai would have topped NewYork .

6:05 PM  
Blogger Happy-Go-Lucky said...

@Swapna : I think its more a cultural thing. If I were checking out @ Ralphs and the salesperson doesnt say a word, I would feel offended but I wouldn't find anything wrong in it if I was in Big Bazaar.

@desi : I didnt say that we thank and hold doors in India. In fact I was saying that we dont do that in India.

@the_girl_from_ipanema : Absolutely!

@satish : I know! if u smile @ a gal, she'll be like "Saala line maar raha hao" :-) though I wud like to know if you smile at guys also with the same spirit? :-)

@Scribbles to wakeup: Yeah I agree.

@morpheus : that link is not working.

@changla mugla : not sure abt tht

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dont get sad, romanians say thank your, at least this girl:

(translated from german):
"Thank you Mumbai! We thank the inhabitants of Mumbai, India! For being even more rude than bucharest, thus romania could be saved from getting the last place"

12:09 PM  

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