My wife and I are visiting San Francisco (I am here for the launch of Automatic) and in this past month, I have been experiencing San Francisco and the culture here. Obviously, this is all anecdotal but, hey, that’s what experiences are about.
The first thing that I’ve noticed is that people generally smile here and are cordial which is quite striking and I would probably attribute that to something about parenting here, because I’ve never seen American kids cry, and I mean never. In India, if you smile at a stranger, it’s because you know them, not because you’re walking by.
The second thing is that even if they are cordial, they have some kind of “force field” around them, it’s a “Don’t enter my personal space” thing. No wonder Americans thought of force fields in cartoons and movies. And I’m not the first person to talk about this, a good friend of mine Anu who has moved from USA to India to run a for-profit social enterprise (which I had earlier freelanced for) talks about What being Indian means to her:
It’s about love. In all senses of the word. It’s about having this big love for your family, your friends, the world, everything. It’s exemplified in Bollywood- the enormity of emotion. In the West, we have a very limited view on love, mainly referring to the romantic kind. Maybe that’s because we are a much younger civilization and haven’t quite figured out how to express the nuances of this amazing force. But in India, that sort of love is directed towards everything and everyone. I was hanging out with some new friends I made in Mumbai yesterday, and it was amazing- they treated me as if they’ve known me forever and brought me into their friend circle, making me feel so welcome. And it was genuine- absolutely and completely genuine. This isn’t new, as the same thing happened when I first came to India in college, where new friends took me in and treated me as their own, again, no questions asked, no strings attached, just..because. I haven’t been able to be in touch as much as I want, but it’s one of those feelings that you know they’re not judging you, and that bond you have is still strong. Family in India is the same way. They take you in with open arms (friends of yours included) and treat you like their own son or daughter. It’s incredible… So I think to me, being Indian means being capable of exuding that love, and reflecting it back on the world unconditionally.
Interestingly, we met some friends of friends (including a typical white American male) who intend to eventually move from America to Asia because of the individualistic culture in America.
On the other hand, the city of San Francisco is a wonderful place to visit: