During my 8 months stay in India, people have asked me one question several times: “What is the difference between your country and India?”. Often I did not know what to reply. Where should I start? India and my country Sweden are each other’s opposite in almost every matter. When I had had time to think about this question more, I came with the conclusion that the major difference between the two countries is the relation between the people. I grew up in an individualistic north European society where I was taught that mine is mine and yours is yours. In my culture it is the own man and his own achievement which is praised. When I was 18 year old and had finished high school it was expected from me that I would move out from my family’s home and start my own life. These social rules creates freedom for the individual soul, but inhibits the fellowship and compassion of the people.
In India I faced a totally different approach where the family and friends are in the centre of the culture and the people’s lives. Here in India the people are living in joint families; the grandparents, the sons with their wife’s, the cousins, the niece are living under the same roof. This life style creates different priorities and habits among the people than the ones we have at home in Sweden. It was difficult for me to adapt to the new social manners where the individual person does not play a big role, and it was also not easy for the Indians who I lived with to understand my deep need for personal space. They could not understand why I wanted to be alone in my room, and they became worried about me and thought that I was ill or fighting with bad thoughts in my mind. I could not get used to the common life of Indians where it was expected from me to share my time. It was a culture clash.
Now, 8 months later and many experiences richer, I can say that these cultural differences which I faced here in India helped me to grow and develop as a person. With the time I realized the importance of togetherness and that it actually can give me many things. This realization became even stronger when I experienced in my work as an international Development Instructor the difference between working alone and in a team. After I had been working on my own for a long time, I joined another Development Instructor trio in Madhya Pradesh. In the team work I experienced how much easier many things became, as in the same time it also made some things more complicated.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
India and its people taught me things about myself and life itself which I will always carry with me. Life is not all about reaching goals and succeed. It’s about having others to share the success with.