Gaurav thought the company of fellow Indians would make him feel at home in Switzerland. Disillusionment soon set in after a series of strange encounters.
Bollywood movies often show an Indian guy running into a group of fellow Indians in a foreign country. They are depicted as very friendly and ready to help the protagonist in whatever way possible. When I came to Switzerland, I also thought I would meet some interesting Indians, with whom I can have tea someday. But this has not happened.
I was glad when I first came across several “Indian-looking” people. I approached them out of curiosity, but my enthusiasm soon faded away. They turned out to be Sri Lankans. Sri Lankans look like Indians and in Switzerland there is a significant population of Sri Lankan Tamils, most of whom came as refugees.
I was disappointed not because they were Sri Lankans, but because they could not speak my native language Hindi. It had been a long time since I had spoken in Hindi with a fellow Indian. Even though Sri Lankans are super friendly, I cannot converse with them as I don’t speak Tamil. At least Tamil-speaking Indians have the chance to make some friends here.
Even when I did encounter Hindi-speakers I felt they were very cold and reluctant to speak. Six months after my arrival in Switzerland, I bumped into a family who were speaking in Hindi. They were at the train station, and the mother was speaking to her child. I could not stop myself from approaching them. The father was purchasing tickets from the ticket-vending machine. When I started introducing myself to the mother, the father approached and said, “Yes, how can we help you?” I thought his response was very weird. I said, “I do not want any help, I just wanted to meet some fellow Indians and that’s it”. The man replied, “It is nice meeting you, but we are in a rush. We can meet and speak later.” I realised that the man did not want any conversation, and I left.
This was not my only weird interaction with Indians. During the summer holidays, I was sitting near the lake and reading a book. Sitting nearby was a couple who were speaking in Hindi. My book was very interesting, so I decided to finish it and only then approach the couple. Perhaps the previous incident made me a little less enthusiastic this time. Anyway, after finishing my book I went up to the couple. They seemed quite friendly, perhaps because the man had also studied at a Swiss university. We had a nice conversation for about half an hour and exchanged our phone numbers.
One thing I find irritating is that Indians are obsessed with knowing the caste of other Indians. They often have their methods of guessing the caste of others. I guess, this is what happened in this case too. I sent the guy a greeting on the Indian festival of Diwali. He never replied. Maybe, he thought I am not from his caste, so perhaps he was not keen to have any communication. Well it could just be my crazy imagination and maybe I was wrong. But if caste was the issue then even education from one of the best universities in world could not change the mindset of this person.
After these two incidents, I lost any motivation to approach any Indian-looking person. It is a pity because we Indians are generally very warm and friendly people. Perhaps Switzerland’s cold weather chills the hearts of people too. I have a message for Indians who are planning to come to Switzerland or who are already here: Leave your narrow mindedness in India and try to get rid of attitudes which are hampering your self-development.
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