Category Archives: Society

Greeting people in different countries is so confusing!

The Kiss Conundrum


I don’t exactly remember the first time it happened, but I do remember how I felt. Confused, perplexed, awkward – the same that I feel each time I am in a similar situation. You see their mouth curving into a smile, their eyes widening,them coming closer and leaning in…
Even after living in Europe for more than 4 years now and being in such confusing situations for at least 3 years, I only have one major question each time it happens –

How many times should I kiss you on the cheek to greet you?

Greeting people in different countries is so confusing!

Seriously. I don’t know what you were thinking, but I was talking about the feeling you have when someone comes closer to greet you. Firstly, are we hugging or kissing?Secondly, what sort of a kiss is it? Thirdly, do I stop at 2 or move on to 3? Trust me, it’s way too awkward if you stop at 2 while the other person moves on to the third..or vice-versa.

The thing with cheek kisses is, some cultures love it and some hate it. Some like it at 2 and some like it as 3..always..even if you see the person every single day!

A friend of mine was telling me how they end up spending 15 minutes everyday kissing everyone when they arrive for work. She works in France, and it is really rude to not kiss and greet, apparently. Again, maybe it doesn’t hold true for all regions,but for a large majority of people, it does. Strangely, if you just cross the border and move into Switzerland or Germany, people might not entertain this form of greeting. In fact, several German friends of mine have expressed their absolute hatred towards kissing on the cheek to greet someone! They find it too personal and unnecessary. A hand shake would just serve the purpose well enough.Perhaps, hugs and kisses are reserved more for really close friends?

Another point of concern is:which cheek do you kiss first? In some countries, you kiss on the right cheek first and in the others, on the left. Interestingly, there are some theories as well as stories behind these traditions. For instance, one of the stories says that the double kiss in a traditional Italian household meant reassurance of the fact that they were there for each other. Hugs and kisses undoubtedly bring people closer, make them more comfortable and symbolize  openness, trust as well as friendship.I came across an interesting research paper about hugging, and in case you are interested, you can check it out too. It’s incredible as to how each posture and action of ours portrays a different meaning!

For me personally, I have been used to hugging friends when I meet them, and subconsciously did the same after moving to Europe..except it would turn really awkward if the person instead left a peck on one cheek first, and then the other. Sometimes, I would realize it just in time and do the same..standing still after the second one while the other would continue for the third!

To help myself and hopefully a lot of you too, I have started collecting info for the right way to greet people across different countries, and will publish a post soon on my travel blog-Europe Diaries. I hope that it will ease out the awkwardness a bit or at least give us a heads up as to what to expect! If you have any suggestions regarding your home or current location, please do let me know and I shall add it in the post.

couple-kissing-1149677_1920.jpg

 

Thanks for being here!Really appreciate you hanging out with me virtually:)

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It’s not what you win, but how you win it.


From school (particularly middle school), I vividly remember the expressions on my classmates’ faces just before the teacher would distribute exam results.  Tensed, excited,nervous – one could see it all over our faces. Each time someone went to collect their paper from the teacher, the others would look at her in anticipation, and wait for her to declare her score. Each declared score determined the current highest scorer, and made the others even more restless. Now I feel that one should judge themselves by how much they have improved from the last time, and learn from their mistakes. But, I suppose we were too young to understand this back then. Strangely, someone scoring a 97 would be ecstatic, but only until she found out that someone else had scored a 98. Yes, happiness was short-lived for the person who came 2nd, for she would sulk about how she just missed it.

After the London Olympics 2012, BBC published an article online stating this exact observation among the Silver Medal winners. A study conducted after the 1992 Olympics found out that people who won the Silver Medal were less happier than those who won the Bronze or even those who didn’t win anything at all. Puzzled? So was I . But, the fact remains that people tend to think about how things  could have been  different and what they could have achieved –  termed by psychologists as ‘counterfactual thinking’. This kind of thinking is more associated with the Silver Medal winners, for they feel that they were so close to the Gold and they just missed it.  On the other hand, the Bronze medallists feel relatively happier thinking that they at least made it to the top 3 and did not lose out on their chances completely.

So now I know that this behaviour does not only pertain to a group of teenagers from a Convent School, but is in fact common with a lot of people all over the world.  On many occasions,  you might have cursed that one moment which could have been different, that one step you could have taken, or on another note, maybe  that one sentence you could have said to someone. But, do not be overwhelmed by regret or sorrow. You cannot do anything about what could have been, though you can certainly be thankful for what you have and prepare yourself to do better next time.

As BBC rightly puts it, “We’re all haunted by things we could have done, or shouldn’t have done. What’s the point in dwelling on such matters, we may ask, when we can’t change the past?”

English: British swimmer Joanne Jackson, bronz...
English: British swimmer Joanne Jackson, bronze medallist on the 4×200 metre relay at the 2009 World Championships (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People:Strange, interesting,mesmerizing


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Isn’t it strange…

When you meet someone for the first time and hit it off instantly?When you instantly discover a huge overlap of interests with someone and realize you have unending things to talk about? When you both are on the same wavelength and everything they say makes sense?

Infact, maybe sometimes you feel that they radiate this huge energy which refreshes you and leaves you with a whole lot of ideas bouncing in your head.Maybe the things they say inspire you to think critically and be more productive at your work.  Maybe it is one of those boring and tiring days at work, and meeting this person for a few minutes leaves you fully energized and happy.

On the other hand, you might have come across some people who greet you with their whines and say nothing except all the apparently horrible things that have happened around them. Maybe your cheerful mood goes down the drain and fear succumbs you when you hear them talk. Maybe you feel your energy draining out when you are talking to them, and all you do after getting back is.. whine about it all to someone else. There! You might have just been responsible for spreading negative energy all around you!

Think about it. Would you rather be around people who are cheerful, happy and radiate positive vibes, or around those who are perpetually unhappy and whiny? There is nothing worse than landing in a new place and hearing words of discouragement from someone staying there for long. True, that person might have had some genuine problems/difficulties. Maybe the whiny person is your good friend too, and you would definitely try to encourage them to make things better. But, what if this never stops? What if they always find a reason to whine about/talk ill of others/ talk ill of your surroundings? What if pessimism fills the air all around them?

All you can do is, shield yourself from the negative energy, and spread only positive vibes. Do NOT let yourself be affected by the negative things they say. Just because it happened to them, doesn’t mean you will face the same too.If you realize that talking to someone fills you with positivity, keep doing so! If you are happy, people around you will feel it too. You may not realize how someone else
might have been impacted by you.;how those few minutes of an energetic conversation with someone might have been the best thing in their day; how your simple encouragement might have given them the much-needed motivation. Or how your negative feedback might have just ruined their day; how your whines might have just dampened their mood or worse, how your discouragement might have given them the push to do something terrible with their lives…

A toast to JKR and the everlasting saga of Harry Potter.Happy Birthday!


JKR!*Respect*

The first time I read a book from the ‘Harry Potter ‘ series was in 2000. I was 11 and my Mom, having read a lot of praise for JKR, asked me to try it out and see if I liked it. THAT was my tryst with the magical world that consumed me for more than a decade.

Like many other people from around the globe, I can say that my friends and I grew up with Harry and his friends. I was glued to the books and websites, knew the spells by heart, imagined meeting the fantastic beasts,  secretly wished to get the Time Turner and Invisibility cloak,   named my to-be owl as Herald and often thought about how I would use the Veritaserum, truth potion.

Talking about my imaginary white pet –Herald:  after I signed up at Hogwarts through an enchanting website (the name of which I don’t exactly remember now),bought my wand at Ollivander’s , robes from Madam Malkin’s and selected my pet, I somehow hoped that one fine day, a white owl would come deliver the special,sealed envelope for me and THEN I would be off to Hogwarts! When a family of owls was seen just outside my balcony, I was jumping in excitement and was so sure that they were there for me. Only that the real letter never arrived.

Though disheartened for a while, yet my teenage self continued to dig deeper into the world of Quidditch, legendary wizards, Animaguses,flying cars and broomsticks and inculcated a stronger sense of creativity (not to forget: wilder imagination) all along.When I went to college and found somebody(one of my best friends now) with the same thoughts and how she still liked to believe that her letter got misplaced somehow, my joy knew no bounds!

It has been 13 years since I read the first book, but I still feel the excitement and curiosity that I had, as a child. As I grew older, this fetish for fantasy did not diminish at all. Infact, I think it grew stronger and stronger. Yes, my 18-year old self did queue up at 6:30 am on 21/7/07 at Landmark to buy the last book of the series ON the day of its release. And then, four years later, I went to watch the final movie early in the morning with my equally excited friends from college, since we did not want to wait any longer.

Ah!I am so glad that I bought that first book on my Mom’s suggestion, so glad that I had such fantastic friends in school who were so absorbed into the world of witches and wizards that they openly stated one of their ambitions as ‘becoming a witch’ in people’s slam books, so glad that we did not stop reading/watching/discussing Potter issues even though some people felt that it was only for kids and not for adults! Hang on! If you have not read these books or missed watching the movies (though watching without reading the books is never a good idea), you have really missed out on a BIG experience.

There is really no age for losing yourself into Fantasy, even if you are an otherwise practical,busy and matured person. And, it is never too late to begin 😛

For  all those years of excitement and the pure joy of reading, for giving millions of kids around the world the same obsession, for helping us let our imagination run wild and understand life better, here’s a toast to J.K. Rowling on her (and Harry’s) birthday. Thank you Joanne, a billion times over.

Meet Mr.Rob…your next personal assistant?


Who doesn’t mind having a helping hand at home? But, would you be comfortable with a helping claw instead?
Cornell’s Personal Robotics Lab has trained a robot to foresee one’s subsequent set of actions, based on his current activities.  With a database of around 120 household activities fed as 3D videos ,  the robot shall observe and identify one’s activity with his  Microsoft Kinect 3D camera and then anticipate what he might do in the next few seconds.
So, basically, Rob (that’s just what I decided to call it!) shall observe your body movements, match your activity to all the videos in his brain, and then guess your next most probable move. He will of course be racing his mind to keep guessing your every  next move based on each and every action of yours!
Well, so let’s presume that one day in the future,  it is super easy for everyone to bring a Rob home . You happily get him home  too and train him to assist you in all your daily household chores.  You are glad that you don’t even have to ask him to pour more coffee in your cup or help you throw the garbage out! And then, one  fine evening, as you are clearing off the food from your table, you move the left-over pasta to an air-tight container and proceed to move towards the refrigerator. Seeing you coming forward in the direction of the refrigerator, Rob quickly moves too, to open the fridge door before you reach it.Only at that moment, you realize how you almost forgot to make that important call and retrace your steps immediately, leaving poor Rob holding the fridge door wide open 😦
Poor Rob! But, you are not even thinking about that. You are busy talking to someone on the phone,trying to  fix an appointment for the next day and you are irritated because they can’t seem to understand English! You look up and find Rob standing right infront of you, waiting to predict your next move. You are walking in circles, angry and impatient. You take a seat when the call is put on hold, randomly start scribbling something on the notepad, and suddenly decide to get up and walk to the kitchen. What do you think Rob is doing? Following you, of course! He is as confused as anyone could be. How do you think he will “read your mind” when you are being so unpredictable?
 
How would you feel to be living with someone who aids you in maintaining your house, but can neither speak nor connect to you? (though we cannot rule out the possibility of robos conversing with you fluently soon!) You cannot talk to him or vent out your anger at him . You cannot even ask him to undo the mess he might have created because he failed to correctly predict your uncertain moves!
Aarghh!!Wouldn’t  having a human at home been much better?? What do you think? Are you read to meet your new assistant, Mr.Rob?

What people I know really think of Organic food


Survey results-1
My survey outcome

When I came to Germany, I used to be quite amused seeing vegetables and fruits sold at thrice the normal price, being fancily labelled as “Bio” to set them apart. I met some freakish people, who would be hell bent upon only buying “Bio” products and some who would shrink away from the sight of these products to save their pockets! I soon found out that Germany was amongst the  “organic”-crazy nations (with the second largest organic market in the world) and had people going the extra mile to make sure they were consuming natural food products. This really set me thinking about the authenticity of  these superior products and I decided to find out all that I could, in order to help me compile a story for Gloobbi.

I wanted to get personal opinions of people I knew (and who they knew!) and thus, created a survey on SurveyMonkey .It wasn’t a  targeted audience and the respondents consisted of my friends/relatives/colleagues/acquaintances/friends and colleagues of friends,  spread across Europe,India,USA,Singapore and Australia. (Thanks to all of you once again!)Although my article wasn’t based on this survey, I just wanted to get an idea of the issues confronted by people in their daily life.

The results that were recorded were quite surprising and I thought of sharing them with all of you.

Whilst the majority of the respondents believed that organic products were undoubtedly healthier than their ordinary counterparts, a big fraction of my survey takers admitted that they were not quite sure about it!Majority of them seemed to rarely visit an exclusively organic supermarket, and were least likely to particularly buy organic food products in a regular supermarket. Of course, there were those who believed that going organic was better for the community and the environment, and that it was much better than knowingly being exposed to pesticides in food.  That the Bio vegetables tasted better was only supported by a few, and I personally don’t feel it might be really true (neither do numerous  scientific studies).

When asked about their biggest concerns about organic food, the most popular one was the obvious choice – the HUGE difference in price.But, besides that, a lot of people expressed their concerns over the fact that these products might not be completely natural and that they were not sure of the conditions in which these fruits/vegetables were grown.

Now, it so happens that official inspection bodies follow a strict set of guidelines before certifying any produce as organic. Soil fertility, animal welfare, water conservation are some of the objectives that organic farming strives to meet.Plants are supposed to be grown only using natural fertilizers and animals are to be kept in good conditions, with absolutely no application of hormonal injections. So, if a product carries the EU or USDA label, for instance, these products are expected to have satisfied all the conditions to be certified as “organic”. When it comes to lesser known labels, that is when people might get confused and question its authenticity.

As I mentioned in my article, I came across two studies carried out at Stanford  and ‘American Academy of Pediatrics’, respectively , which  revealed that there was not much difference between organic and ordinary food in terms of the vitamin content while phosphorus was the only nutrient having higher concentration in the former. The latter even advised parents not to buy organic milk for children, as normal milk was not seen to be affected by the hormonal injections given to cows and there was no difference in the protein or fat content otherwise.

An extremely interesting study in the ‘Social Psychology & Personality’  pointed out that the regular organic food consumers tended towards thinking that they had a leverage over others and thus, had a tendency to carry out lesser altruistic deeds than their ordinary counterparts in the long run!

Well, that was quite some food for thought. I would just like to end this story here by quickly pointing out that perhaps, the most important global concern at this point should be battling the impending food shortage which will be eminent by 2050( as published in a study this month). While usage of GMO’s is being advocated by many scientists , a lot of opposition has been seen in the last few years from many countries in the EU. Maybe it is time to think over the best way to feed the (exponentially?) growing population and decide for the common benefit of all.This is a different issue though and I  think I might just continue this topic on another post!

What is Happenning in Istanbul?


İnsanlık Hali

To my friends who live outside of Turkey:

I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because at the time of my writing most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.

Last week of May 2013 a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and yoga students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least…

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Poets of the Fall in Kolkata. Are we really ready for such big events?


28-08-2012. One of the most awaited days by the youth of Kolkata.And of course- with a valid reason..the awesome Finnish band was going to perform live in the city for the first time!With almost all tickets booked within the first two days of the announcement, Kolkata was full of buzz and excitement and had people waiting desperately for 4 pm when the gates would open. Nazrul Manch. Well, I had never the opportunity to visit this place earlier and imagined that the auditorium to host this event would be a decent one,with proper security and organization,on the likes of Kala Mandir maybe.

3.45 pm when I reach. And lo behold!I see a HUGE crowd infront of the gates, eventually forming a large snake like queue for a few feet!I looked around.I could see all sort of people trying to find a place in the crowd, some jumping over the grills to avoid standing in the queue,some dressed exclusively for the Rock Show,some blabbering nonsensically.My sister pulled me into the crowd and after that point, I swear, I never once had to move myself. I was just being pushed by the crowd towards the gate,with people pressing on each other from all sides,screaming,stamping on each other’s feet..AArgh!!The scene was similar to that of the Indian Idol auditions (or any of those reality shows on TV) when you see THOUSANDS of people lining up for the ENTIRE day,waiting for their golden opportunity . Initially, I was holding onto patience  but after a while I was being suffocated and pushed from all sides. I could not breath. I just wanted to get back home , but drifting through the entire crowd again seemed like a Herculean task. I thanked God that my claustrophobic Mom was not there with me in the crowd.Infact, if anyone from my family had actually seen the plight of the crowd there, they would have just asked us to get back immediately!Ofcourse we know that Bengalis have a taste for Rock..but couldn’t there be proper management and organization??After battling with the crowd for an hour, I finally got the opportunity to enter and breathed a sigh of relief.

I looked for the washrooms and as soon as I stepped in, I screamed and stepped out!STINKING TO THE BRIM! Didn’t they get this cleaned today?Even though they knew thousands of people would be here??I asked the female security. She just smiled and replied saying that it had been cleaned in the morning. IMPOSSIBLE. I tried entering the washrooms many a times but was on the verge of puking everytime I did so. I took in some fresh air outside and my sister encouraged me to just hold my breath and go in. I honestly think we deserve a medal for that. By the time we went to take our seats, two gates were already full and they asked us to take the third one. We were getting seats at the back, and there were barricades to prevent people from moving forward. Noo, my sister groaned. We must take seats infront. Suddenly, I saw her jumping over the chairs and going ahead.I wasn’t ready to do it. You can say that I like good organization and discipline, and had seen the same over the years in my school or college. However, there was no other go. My sister and her friend had jumped over the chairs and had ran ahead to get some good seats, EVEN though we were not entitled to. After falling twice and bruising herself, she managed to sit somewhere quite close to the stage and waved at me to come infront. I personally am not a big risk taker and was all this while holding onto seats somewhere relatively away from the stage, just incase they checked passes and asked her to leave. Aha!That did not have any effect..and ultimately I moved ahead and sat next to her.

Another hour went by with people trying to settle in. I turned to look at the Hall. The huge stadium/auditorium(whatever you want to call it) was jam packed!!I am not sure of the number but to me it looked like close to ten thousand of them! Bengal has always loved Art,Music,culture and this was no shock.

The pass said that three other local bands were due performing. I was hoping for POTF to be the first ones so that we could just leave in time!My parents were worried about the crowd and a possible stampede and did not want us to be there till late in the night. Fortunately,the much awaited band came just after 6.30 pm and the audience’s joy knew no bounds!!!POTF wre truly charismatic!The girl infront of me stood up on her chair to watch them, and as a matter of habit, I attempted to request her to sit down.Just then, my sister screamed out to me and I saw her and the entire crowd standing on their chairs, trying to get a clear picture of the amazing band!!!I smiled to myself. Yahaan sab chalta hai. I stood up on my chair and continued screaming and singing for the next two hours! It was an amazing experience to watch them perform live. Marko has an unbelievable personality.His body language,his spinning around with the mic,wrapping himself around it other times, and their elecrifying performance just took my breath away!It was a wonderful feeling to see thousands of people singing in unison, flashing their cell phone lights while forming an ‘Ocean of Love’.

At the end, I was just glad to have been there and despite all the difficulties we waded through to get there, it was all worth it!

P.S: After I got back home, I got to know that they will be performing in Germany in November. Maybe I get to see them for a second time:P