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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Psychology of Toilet Manners

While I was in India, I visited a toilet that belonged to an office. The toilet was quite clean (coming from a Malaysian). The only thing I found rather uncomfortable about was that there was a window inside the toilet that would have allowed people from the outside to see your face while taking a piss, if they were to look.

And then there was this poster on the toilet wall:

I can see how this message works. First, they iterate the assumption that I am from an educated/well-mannered family. This is to pressurise me into doing as the poster says, because if I don't, then I am as good as admitting I am not from an educated/well-mannered family. Then I would be insulting not only myself, but also the rest of my family who was probably happily eating char kuey teow and bak kut teh back home.

On a more serious note, in the Indian culture, the reputation of a family is very important. When someone from the family achieved something, the whole family would be extremely proud of her/him, so much so that they would parade her/him around announcing to the world of her/his achievements. This is not saying that they are smug. They don't do it to put other families down. They do it to share the happy news with everyone. Other families would genuinely be happy for them and they all celebrate together.

The Chinese culture, on the other hand, is unfortunately not as humble. When someone achieved something, the family would also parade her/him around, but for a different motive - to show off to others how much better they are. Other families would either ignore the parade, or pretend they are happy for the achiever's family.

One thing the Chinese culture has in common with the Indian culture is that parents LOVE to compare their kids with some neighbour/cousin/friend's kids. Actually, I think this is an Asian culture, because I've heard from my Vietnamese friends that their parents were also the same.

Of course, there are always black/white sheeps in a community. Not everyone in a culture behaves according to the culture. For the Chinese, these people are usually called "bananas" (yellow outside, white inside). I wonder what they call the Indian version.

Want to find out more on toilet manners? Listen here or read here.

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