Before I left for Hyderabad, India I did everything I could to brace myself for a good deal of culture shock. I was prepared for the food to be different, I was prepared to wear more conservative clothing, and I was even prepared for the wild traffic. What I was NOT prepared for, however, was the way Indian culture views time and scheduling.
I could spot the difference between America’s pre-planned culture and India’s more relaxed vibe as soon as I began to register for classes. Unlike American schools such as Hope, Indian students do not necessarily know their schedules before they arrive on-campus. In fact, they might not know what classes will be offered, when the classes will occur, or where the classes will meet until a week or so into the start of the semester. Rather than have a distinctive schedule in this time, students just audit classes when they can and form a schedule out of habit rather than written confirmation.
As someone who writes “make a new to-do list” in all of her to-do lists, this system has been somewhat difficult for me. I keep finding myself asking for hard deadlines and due-dates even though I know they don’t exist—it’s like a compulsion and I am not the only one who is obsessed with time. All the Americans in the CIEE program are stressed out and no amount of being told “that’s just the way things work here” seems to ease our nerves.
What DOES make things easier is knowing the Indian values that created this sense of time. When my classmates and I expressed our frustrations with scheduling, our program director reminded us that India is not a documented culture like the United States. Basically, India values face-to-face conversations far more than they value anything written down. In their system, relationships are the basis of communication and I really admire that.
What this has taught me is that I need to be willing to embrace my discomfort. Sure, I may cringe at the idea of a loose schedule now, but I am excited to see what it teaches me about myself. Until then however, I will just have to go with the flow.