My wife and I are visiting San Francisco (I am here for the launch of Automatic) and in this past month, I have been experiencing San Francisco and the culture here. Obviously, this is all anecdotal but, hey, that’s what experiences are about.
The first thing that I’ve noticed is that people generally smile here and are cordial which is quite striking and I would probably attribute that to something about parenting here, because I’ve never seen American kids cry, and I mean never. In India, if you smile at a stranger, it’s because you know them, not because you’re walking by.
The second thing is that even if they are cordial, they have some kind of “force field” around them, it’s a “Don’t enter my personal space” thing. No wonder Americans thought of force fields in cartoons and movies. And I’m not the first person to talk about this, a good friend of mine Anu who has moved from USA to India to run a for-profit social enterprise (which I had earlier freelanced for) talks about What being Indian means to her:
It’s about love. In all senses of the word. It’s about having this big love for your family, your friends, the world, everything. It’s exemplified in Bollywood- the enormity of emotion. In the West, we have a very limited view on love, mainly referring to the romantic kind. Maybe that’s because we are a much younger civilization and haven’t quite figured out how to express the nuances of this amazing force. But in India, that sort of love is directed towards everything and everyone. I was hanging out with some new friends I made in Mumbai yesterday, and it was amazing- they treated me as if they’ve known me forever and brought me into their friend circle, making me feel so welcome. And it was genuine- absolutely and completely genuine. This isn’t new, as the same thing happened when I first came to India in college, where new friends took me in and treated me as their own, again, no questions asked, no strings attached, just..because. I haven’t been able to be in touch as much as I want, but it’s one of those feelings that you know they’re not judging you, and that bond you have is still strong. Family in India is the same way. They take you in with open arms (friends of yours included) and treat you like their own son or daughter. It’s incredible… So I think to me, being Indian means being capable of exuding that love, and reflecting it back on the world unconditionally.
Interestingly, we met some friends of friends (including a typical white American male) who intend to eventually move from America to Asia because of the individualistic culture in America.
On the other hand, the city of San Francisco is a wonderful place to visit:
Some random anecdotes:Once I saw a person riding a Segway on the road! The person riding it was too fast for me to take a photo but I was fascinated to see this.
Internet speeds are fast but cellphone connections (at least T-Mobile) are pathetic. I can download a file at 2.5 Mbps actual speed on a home connection but I can’t call anyone because the cell tower connectivity is zero when indoors, so I have to call them via Skype, heh.
I walked into a “Chatz coffee” place and the person at the counter told me she’s studying her masters at San Francisco State University and had come to Himalayas last year for studying “land tectonic shifts”. Wow, people actually study those things? And I wonder how it works that she’s working behind the counter at a coffee table and doing Masters at the same time – perhaps someone who has done masters in USA can enlighten me on the economics and time availability aspects.
I saw a grandpa walking with his grandchild and asking her “Does your mommy have a boyfriend? Does your mommy have a husband? No?” I was not sure if he was simply trying to have a conversation with the grandchild or trying to find out the truth via the grandchild…
Booking a taxi through Uber iPhone app was surreal because it actually shows you the number of taxis near your location so that you have an idea of how quickly a taxi can reach you, and once you click on a button, the taxi reaches your location usually in a span of 4-5 minutes and you can actually see the taxi moving towards you as if it’s a car racing game! And at the end of the trip, it automatically charges your credit card, so no money exchange has to happen at the trip, this is great especially when you’re in a hurry to reach your destination.
Similarly, the experience of going around San Francisco using the superb public transportation via one standard Clipper Card and using Google Maps app to figure out which Muni bus / Muni train / cable car / BART / Caltrain (and combination therein) to take is simply great.
The stores here are a treat to visit if you’re into arts and crafts:
Some more photos:
The Lonely Planet San Francisco edition tells us that there is still lots to see and they say that it’s the top city for travelling in 2013, so I hope I get time to explore more!