Small Talk

Admittedly, I’ve never really felt like an expert at this thing we call small talk. I used to be convinced that it was an incredible gift that only really extroverted, talkative, fearless people possessed…you know what I mean? Or maybe it was something that only those friends of mine who went to etiquette school could be taught. And if I’m honest, it wasn’t until college that I even had to think about making conversation with people I didn’t really know on a normal basis (yes…I was one of those kids. I went to a small private school and an even smaller country church).

I am convinced, though, that small talk proficiency should be a skill you can put on your resume. I didn’t realize how important it is to culture and making friends and being established in a community and, well, to quality of life (if you want to take it that far). I think I started to realize this idea when I got back to America and started catching myself asking questions like, “Have you eaten?” at the beginning of the conversation…which is the norm in India (at least from what I picked up on).

It was a little intimidating, honestly, and I found myself being a bit withdrawn and passive in conversations with people–even people I’ve known for a long time! What if I ask an awkward question or say something really dumb? As if that is the most important thing in life. Honest John. As I was coming home from a wedding, I started asking myself, “What is so different about moving back to Georgia…You survived moving to India and actually made friends. What are you missing?”

Here’s what. As a part of my preparation for moving to India, the group coaching us on cultural adjustment emphasized being a “life-long learner.” Basically, it means that wherever you are, choose to be the learnersomeone who listens, and observes, and asks questions to get the full picture– instead of being a knowersomeone who talks, and tells, and gives the only “good” answer.

I forgot that the best way to enter (or re-enter, in this case) any culture is to be a Learner! So what if I accidentally ask a weirdo question or even a simple question? Every answer that I get, every “small talk” conversation is a chance to grow and learn, to build new friendships or deepen old ones. There is absolutely no sense in getting frustrated with myself for not fitting in the way I used to or not knowing exactly where to carry a conversation.

Lesson: Keep the “Learner Mode” button on always. Even if it doesn’t seem like there’s anything to learn.

Hashtag ‘Merica

I feel like these days I walk around in wonder and amazement half the time. It’s crazy to me how many little things that I’ve forgotten about the good ole’ US of A. And now that I’m experiencing it fresh of the boat (literally. ha.), I’m caught in this odd mix of feeling familiar and “normal” and weirded out and dumb…all at the same time. It’s pretty comical. Besides accidentally honking at an elderly couple at a red light and being REALLY slow at the self-checkout, I’d say I’m adjusting pretty well. But here are some observations that I took note of in my first two weeks back on American soil:

{Hyper-connectivity is normal} You would think that living in the IT capital of India would have jaded me a little bit to this…but honest john. Everybody and their brother and grandmother has a smartphone. That’s not the weird thing though. What’s weird is 2 people at Starbucks “having coffee/meeting/looking serious” but both individuals are glued to the screens of their phones, scrolling, swiping, and tapping. I like smartphones. I have one…but I don’t want to get to a point where it is my best friend.

[Coffee is very popular] Even middle-schoolers were in the Racetrac during free coffee week! I’m pretty sure I will have to guard against becoming even more addicted to coffee. And, it kind of makes me want to switch over to drinking chai for the sake of being different. Ha!

[Shorts in the winter] I want to walk up to so many people and say, “Listen! It is 40 and 50 degrees outside! You do not need to be wearing shorts…it is too cold!” And especially if you are wearing a sweatshirt, boots and a scarf. That makes no sense at all.

[Automatic fill-in-the-blank] Doors, locks, sinks, soap dispensers, toilets, and probably everyone’s cars too! Ha!

[Quiet, quiet, everywhere] It’s just quiet…there aren’t many people on the sidewalks or roads. Walmart is practically empty. You can hear the music playing softly in the background at restaurants. Granted, I am not in a mega-city anymore…but it’s still awfully quiet around here.

[Country accents really are that obvious] And they are the norm! Honest to goodness, I have never in my life realized this. People from Georgia and in the South have very distinct accents! It makes me wanna laugh every time! But what is even more funny is that the more time I spend with my family and my friends, the more I catch myself saying something with an accent. So then I laugh at myself a little bit.

I’ve been warned about reverse culture shock and all that kind of stuff, (and this does not negate the real struggles that come with changing cultures) but really is fun to re-experience things that were “normal” to me before…and quite comical sometimes! Here’s to making re-adjustment an adventure in and of itself!

Dear Bangalore,

Can you believe that until about 4 years ago, I didn’t even know you existed?! You are such a huge, multi-faceted city…and it makes me smile when I think of how familiar you’ve become. Never in a million years did I envision myself living in a city of 10 million+ people. But you know what? I really like it!

Compared to the other places that I’ve been in your country, you are by far the best. I may be a little biased, but actually…you are. I think that your weather is everyone’s first compliment, which I definitely appreciate. Also, you don’t feel like a metropolis…I don’t know exactly how to say it, but I feel like you are a nice combination of a big city with a small town feel. Your people are friendly and helpful; your South Indian cuisine is fantastic…and because you’re the hub of the South, I feel like I’ve had a taste of so many places: Hyderabadi Biryani, Palya, Bisi bele bath, Masala Dosa, Idly Sambar, Vada, Appam, Uppma….honestly. I love it.

You could stand to stop cutting down so many trees and to finish up with some construction…and maybe do something about your traffic. But I’ve enjoyed spending time getting to know you and calling you home: from the North end to Shivajinagar and Commercial Street to M.G. Road and Brigade to fancy old Indiranagar…and everything in between! You’ve got a lot to offer, and I’m gonna enjoy bragging on you. I hope to see you again one of these days!

Take care!