Photograph from Times of India news report dated 1st Dec 2012
We Indians are in the news again - for the same reasons! For violating child protection laws as parents. I remember writing about this in a post at the beginning of the year ( Jan 30th ). Not even 12 months have passed and there is a second case that is being highlighted in the media.

While the reasons mentioned in the last post about the need for countries like Norway  to  be more sensitive to differences in culture with regard to child rearing practices still remain, I think  it is also time we take a look at ourselves.  No, I am not going to preach about child rearing practices because I would not call myself an exemplary parent in any way.

What I think needs to change with us is how we should understand the expected behavior in a new environment.  I find that it is not just child rearing practices that one can fault us with in a foreign land but  our general behavior leaves much to be desired!  We want to live abroad and enjoy the benefits that life there brings without making an effort to integrate with the culture of the place. We have some jingoistic notions about “Indian culture and traditions” and keeping them alive! 

The above notion is something that I am seeing more among those who go on work visas for a few years. Most of them are married by the time they go there, many are also parents. They are originally from small towns and even within India their exposure can only be said to be “limited”. So you can imagine how they might behave when they go abroad!

Speaking in loud voices and criticizing everything western ( food, climate, culture of the place – just about anything!) we probably attract a lot of unpleasant attention.  There are many European countries that do not like Indian tourists because when we visit those countries we do not  provide opportunities for their tourism to earn revenue. We even carry our own food – thanks to our notions  of purity and pollution!

I remember my trip to Canada in 2007. During my onward journey I had an  awful time trying to ward off the attention  of a persistent man who wanted to know where in Chicago I was staying and which IT company I was employed in . The flight was connecting to a Chicago flight via London . It did not occur to him that maybe I was not going to Chicago at all!  Ofcourse , for  my own safety I let him think that way until I lost him en route in London.  The travel from London to Montreal was a dream in comparison- I did not have to hold my nose inside the toilet or pretend to sleep just so I would not have to get into unwelcome conversations- pleasant stewards / stewardesses of the same airline.  My sympathies were with the crew that flew in the Indian sector!  When we are in a group our behavior is at its worst  but when the number is smaller I guess it is more tolerable!  If I as an Indian found my fellow countrymen/ women so terrible as companions for eight hours in an enclosed space, one can imagine what people of other nationalities think of us!

About the way we handle our children, I can only say that we encourage them to behave exactly like ourselves!  I am yet to see children of any other nationality behave as badly as ours do in public! For example, we fail to realize that not everybody may be appreciative of a child kicking his legs about while sitting on an upper berth of a train and hitting the head of a co passenger on the lower berth!

Our children do not learn civic sense from us. We travel in expensive cars  but roll down the windows and throw out litter on the road. When we do this at home no one cares! But when we do this abroad it is not the same- people frown!

We think that getting good marks is the be all and end all of education! Unfortunately it is not. We push our children towards academic performance while ignoring their basic good behavior and values.

We refuse to mingle socially with people of other cultures freely- I don’t know if is a lack of confidence or  a feeling of superiority! No wonder there are “ Indian Ghettos”  all around North America! I guess with enough Indians in these places the local populations have also learnt what to expect from us and may therefore even be staying away!

It is about time that companies that send people for short assignments on work visas give cultural orientation to their employees and teach them to behave in an acceptable way in the country they go to.  They should also be told of the consequences of such actions so people take them seriously!

When we travel or live abroad we must realize that we have to learn to integrate with the society there and follow their laws. I guess, the effort itself may be very stressful if you come from surroundings where your exposure to anyone or anything , outside of your immediate community is limited. As a IT professional if all that you have seen are only Bangalore, Hyderabad or Chennai, you might find living in a place like .. say Norway very stressful and this may transfer to children whose problems may increase ( as in this case where the child had a bedwetting problem)

It is important that we learn to integrate in a foreign context and understand their laws well enough. If child protection laws extend to parents we need to follow them and be careful because the consequence of violating them seems to be the loss of one’s child who may go into foster care as we are jailed.

While not justifying anything to do with bad parenting, I can only say that the issue in India is that we become parents to fulfill a biological responsibility and not because we want to become  parents. Therefore in most cases we are not emotionally ready to cope with the parenting demand. This coupled with the stress of being located in a new environment results in our taking it out on each other or the child with terrible consequences!

I strongly believe that putting a child in foster care if the parents cannot care for it properly is not a solution to the problem. But I also realize that countries like Norway believe in it strongly! I guess the better option would be to deport such people back to India. And while they are considering deportation they can expand the scope of the offence and include other typically  bad Indian behavior- unless someone deprives us of the opportunity to make money we will  probably not change the way we are !


  1. This case of harsh treatment to a kid came out in public because it happened in Norway.I shudder to think the state of such children in our own country treated cruelly either by parents or by the teachers at schools.There should be thousands or lakhs in number of such kids that remain unnoticed.We have no system of safeguarding the kids from parents.

    That apart your point that quite a large number who go abroad hardly mingle and integrate with the local people and they tend to remain insular moving in small circles is correct.While preserving ones culture and beliefs is unexceptionable,they should conform to the accepted rules of the society they live in.I have seen in malls,airports Indian children behaving boisterously running hither and thither loudly with no attempt by parents to restrain them.
    As you have said when employees are sent abroad they should not only be trained for the job requirements but also for the social requirements in the countries they are sent to.
    Thankfully we hear of such cases of people hauled up by local laws only occasionally.These should serve as warnings for others.

  2. Meera, very relevant post. Touches on two issues: parenting and civic sense. Parenting, I will not talk about as of now. I really want to share my views on civic sense.

    I get perxplexed, annoyed, torn apart when I see the bad behaviour of kids and adults here. And in a land/district where most of the houses have one PHOREN RELATIVE in New Jersey/Australia may be.

    The people drive their biiiig cars right into your nose and your old mom and little child run like hen finding place to save themselves. Why, two if my colleagues were run-hit, while the poor chaps were on a simple evening walk and some car just drove on to them. One of them is living with damaged pancreas and the other, has lost his vision 90% permanently, and they are just about 36 yrs. old.

    The kids run you down with the strolleys in the big malls and the poshest of cinema halls have Gutkha packets thrown all around, not to mention the toilets, people somehow find immense pleasure in showing off their waste to public. Who Cares!

    And it all know..after ol..who hes the time you know..we hev to ketch a flight to New Jersey..

    In the meantime, I am learning to be extra careful, not to get the tobacco spit on my shoulders from some vehicle/ bus/ truck. Makhmal ke kurte pe chhite laal laal is not very sexy, you know.

  3. An insightful post meera. You have pointed out the very important facts of upbringing of children in Indian society. I have seen many times in my train journey to office, where, mothers throw choclate wrappers and plastic covers out of the window. The children also do the same.
    We live in a democratic country, but we seldom respect the freedom that is given to us. We mess up the public places and parks.

    "we become parents to fulfill a biological responsibility and not because we want to become parents", I completely agree with this.

  4. I agree that Indians do behave badly and are bad tourists most times. I also agree with you that when people go to foreign countries for assignments they need to be given training with regards to the culture and laws of that country. It is confusing to relocate and cope in a different environment.

  5. I agree with you - every word you wrote. The wise and less cumbersome course for such countries like Norway would be to deport the accused en family back to India.

    Someone the other day on TV was so incensed with the Norwegian law on the subject , that he asked loudly what do they have to say about their Night clubs , and living-relationships . The offended gentleman was either unaware of the sheer hypocrisy in India or he h himself was a bigger hypocrite.

  6. Very true, Meera. I totally agree with you, they try to create sympathy through the media, and drag the Ministers into these things. Law is law, and if you want to live in some other country, you have to be careful how you behave there, for you can't expect laws to change for a person who has gone there to work.
    Less said about the Indian tourist, the better, as you have said, many of us can't stand their behaviour, whether in India or abroad.
    They really don't care, how they or their children behave. I have seen single woman taking care of 2 little children, and one still to be born any time,travelling with no fuss in foreign countries, changing planes, without being dependent on others. They are so calm, their kids well behaved, and one has to admire such qualities in them.
    Good thing you wrote about this.

  7. I totally agree with what you wrote. Indians’ reputation is so bad in foreign countries. If you look at the Craigslist for Bangkok and Singapore, even hookers say “no” to Indians in their ad.

  8. well first of all I dont agree with that a country should changes its ways. Its the people who are coming to that country who should change their Ways according to the laws of that country.

    We have to respect the law especially of the country that is feeding us and helping us put bread on the table.. it is unfair for us to try and make them change..

    I see it everyday, when I stop a fellow asian their first reply is "Oh this is ok in our country india , you cant do this "..

    "OH yes I can, as this is not india.. and in india if a police catches you, you are give a Good thrashing first.. " The reason you have the guts to say this to me is because you are in uk and you are being treated as a human with rights ..

    HAd i slapped you first and called you OYE, instead of SIr .. you would not have thought of even saying anything to me , rather you would be begging for mercy ..

    So people visiting abroad need to follow the rules of that nation, and As i have read the news there are marks on the baby or burns and all , how did that come to be ..

    You are right people need training and if they cant work according to the laws of the nation they are visiting then they shud stay in india and not come , Simple.

    It makes me angry when i hear such stuff, I was hearing a person on TV saying the law shud see it from culture point of view.. what is he trying ot say that it is in our culture to beat little children, to abuse them ..

    and what can i say about how some of us behave I see it day in and day out .. especially after a couple of pints

    I mean this is completely out of context , two blokes both from Delhi, Drunk, instead of finding a loo they were going about their business on the road .. HOW embarassing is that , Unlucky for them I saw them , asked them what the hell they are doing , its illegal ..
    one of them says to me , that in india it is fine and they are from india.. and I am a indian so i should no ..

    Well they spent the night in the cell and had a 80pound fine in their hands ..
    OH NO SIR , you may be from india, and I may be an indian BUT this is NOT INDIA..


  9. It is amazing SO MANY of us feel this way but our people continue to embarrass us! Bikram, I can completely understand what you say because I have witnessed a situation where my Indian brethern were trying to throw used coffee cups on the pavement when they felt that no one was watching!
    SG I don't blame sex workers. Indians must make the worst clients!

    @ Rama it is us who behave like travelling with children is something out of the ordinary as also bringing them up. We need mother, MIL and th entire family around us when we are pregnant - wonder if that is why it is called "confinement"

  10. @ Anil what is this so called "culture" that we are so proud about? I admire the way people in western cultures divorce amicably- they meet after they separate as parents of the children. In India divorce is such a messy affair!
    @ Vinita when I mentioned about the training I meant it in a more serious way than merely facilitating integration!
    Gayu children learn what they see us doing!

  11. Ani unfortunately as parents we think buying things for kids is the thing to do! And concern for elders usually touted as an Indian value system obviously does not exist!
    @ KP, I think with behaviour as bad as ours no one probably wants to have anything to do with us or our kids! The companies should use different criteria for selecting people who they send aborad- among those who qualify for an assignment they should finalize someone who has the ability to integrate better!

  12. Namaste...
    hmmmmmm...highly touchy subject.
    So much i'd like to add however I restrict myself to this...

    Its important when "we" relocate to regions, countries, societies outside of our norm that we learn the laws of governing, ethics, living and existing, and find a marriage between what we know, what we believe and what is the reality of our new life/living situation. It is in our best interests and those of our families.

    thanks for sharing, as per usual, you got me thinking.

  13. Meera,

    I could have put it any better. When we expect visitors to abide by our laws or traditions or culture why should we not do so when we go abroad?

    Take care

  14. @ Rhapsody, yes it is the issue of coming to terms with the new reality that is critical.
    @ Jack, you are so correct- if we want others to abide by our laws we must abide by theirs!


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