I've been wallowing in American culture for the past 6 weeks. The kids and I traveled up and down the US/Canada for a total of about 3,400 miles. Lesa joined us for about 3 weeks in the middle. It was great to get out of the India heat... and until today it has been really hot here. The past four days in Noida were topping 110F. Thankfully, rains seem to have arrived - dropping the temperature this morning by a good 15-20 degrees F. It is overcast so maybe this will give us a break.
Here are a few quick contrasts I can make with North America still fresh in my mind:
Central Air-conditioning makes all of the difference in the world when its really hot. Most Indian residences - if they have AC - have only room units. When the generators are running you can only operate - 2 units. Part of the house is always hot and/or sticky, and part is cooled. The AC is very expensive to run. We had 2 units running most of the weekend and the charge was about $20 US. Ouch. We are learning to live with one - a quick rinse in the shower helps too.
Populuation - This is the biggie - it affects everything here. Water, Power, Air quality, infrastructure issues and garbage. There is irony in both the heat and the population density. In North America, we just aren't as connected to our communities. In the US, Lesa and I can walk in a suburban neighborhood after dark and not see a soul - everyone is hunkered down in their homes. Here - when you walk in the cooler evening-time everyone is out and about. People are shopping, children are playing, neighbors are walking and visiting with friends. The pool is full. Life outside is lively and fun.
Taking Turns. Americans get angry when someone doesn't cooperate by taking their turn. Indians, on the other hand, are very bad with this concept. I don't think its personal at all. Turn-taking is just not part of the culture - I suppose just another bi-product of over-population. My first exposure to this happened 20 years ago boarding an aircraft departing from North America for Mumbai. This hasn't changed much. If you want to move forward here you have to just jump in and make it happen. It can be frustrating and it affects everything: shopping, queuing up at an ATM, getting on an elevator, and of course, driving.
I don't drive in India (although it is a goal I have). The roads are almost always congested with vehicles of all types. There are traffic laws, but in very few places are they truly followed or enforced. Road quality is inconsistent. There are few true highways here. Most roads are what North Americans would consider "secondary roads" at best. The road-side scenery is less than appetizing as well. With the exception of Embassy/Government sections of Delhi, the landscape around NCR (Nat'l Capital Region) is a dusty, sprawling trash-ridden sight. Outside of cities, the countryside is quite beautiful, but the roads and the driving are still an adventure.
Aside from family and friends, (and safe drinking-water), driving is what I miss the most. I love an open, clean landscape, and a safe, predictable highway.