The 5 most irritating questions a Russian gets asked in India

Some questions are considered too personal.

Some questions are considered too personal.

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In India, Russian expats and visitors often get stumped with the kind of questions that are not really part of street talk back home.

Last month when I wrote this article about the most irritating questions that an Indian gets asked in Russia, many Russian friends and readers said they also have to deal with annoying questions in India. The more feedback I received, the more I chose to ask Russians I know in India and tourists about what kind of questions that annoy them the most. I was a bit surprised with the answers but I couldn’t hide a grin when I heard the most common ones.

Are you veg or non-veg?

This is a fair question when you want to invite someone home for a meal or take him or her out to a restaurant, but the Russians I spoke to insist that this is something they get asked in the most casual of conversations.

A friend said she was asked this question by a total stranger while she was shopping in Bangalore’s Commercial Street! Others commented that this question was thrown at them at tourist sites after they agreed to pose for selfies or photographs with Indian tourists.

Vegetarianism is gaining popularity around the world but the chances of someone from Irkutsk or Archangelsk being a veggie is still low at the moment.

Are you married?

There may be different motivations behind asking this question to men or to women, but again when it comes from virtual strangers, it is not pleasant.

Some women, who come to India regularly for yoga or dance lessons or to spend time in ashrams, tend to wear a ring just to shake off annoying men. Pretending to be married or engaged often does the trick. A former radio journalist, who speaks fluent Hindi and is now a part of the diplomatic corps, once even put up a Facebook post saying that she wasn’t looking to be anyone’s “bibi,” as she got many marriage proposals from her online friends.

The men also get asked this question but this is more about curiosity than anything else. An employee of a Russian company with operations in India says the question is just asked to break the ice.

What’s your salary?

This, in my opinion, is a downright inappropriate question and has no justification of any kind. I get this question from over-curious relatives and from new acquaintances in small town India, but the Russians I spoke to say that this is one of the most common questions that they get in Indian metros.

Whether it’s diplomats, tourists or those working in India, that question is often asked without an eyelid being batted.  Most people I know choose to just say that they don’t want to answer that question and that it’s considered poor manners in Russia.

Some friends tend to make up some figures just to see how the person asking the question would react.

What’s your religion?

For a person like me who get irritated by the caste question in Russia, I can empathize with the Russians who get asked the religion question in India.

It’s just that religion is such an important part of the lives of a vast majority of people in India that many can’t fathom the idea of society where there are many non-believers or just non-religious people.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s message is being increasingly accepted by people across the country, but a large number of Russians tend to still be overly agnostic, if not totally atheist. But like in Europe, most people prefer to keep their religious views private.

What do your parents do for a living?

Russians value the institution of family as much as we do in India, but tend to be a lot more reserved when it comes to personal questions.

Quite a few of my friends were surprised with the question about their parents’ profession and asked me if this had anything to do with the caste system. I laughed and replied that it was just a part of the over-curious nature of people more than anything. This question largely came from middle-aged people and not from the young.

One Russian who worked for a telecom major in India for a few years said he could read strange expressions on the faces of people when he told them that his father was a truck driver. He said the responses ranged from “almost sympathy to a feeling of pride that a son of a truck driver could become a senior executive with a multinational.” I found the latter a bit surprising since it’s common now to hear about people from humble backgrounds achieving great things in India. Of course this friend did not go into detail with anyone about the concept of dignity of labor in the erstwhile Soviet Union, where his father drove trucks for over three decades.   

When it comes to annoying questions, whether they are in Russia or India, one needs to take a deep breath and understand that the intention behind them is almost never bad. 

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