Unusual Punjabi Habits
Updated: Jan 9
Punjabi's are fun loving and passionate people yet they have some unusual cultural traits that I don't think I'll ever understand them. As I lived the Punjabi way of life for a year with my husband and in laws, I gradually discovered more and more of these habits. Here are just some of the more unusual habits I came across, just for a bit of fun. As I realise every culture will have traits that are bizarre to other cultures.
Leaving Plastic Packaging And Tags On Items
Whenever I visited friends and family in Punjab, they always brought out their best glassware and crockery. You could always tell as they never remove the sticker labelling and should I go to remove them, I always got looks from my family to leave it on. Even wedding photos hanging pride and centre on the living room wall, still had the cardboard cornices left in place. Cushions inside a cushion cover even had their plastic packaging left on as it would crackle when you sat on them. Essentially anything they have spent money on they will go to their utmost to keep them new. Given it is so dusty in Punjab this keeps their pride possessions good as new, especially when many families can't afford to be frivolous.
Can't Say No
Should someone extend an invitation to you that you don't necessarily wish to attend, you should never say no outright. Instead one should answer along the lines of, we shall try to make it or I am not sure what we have on that night. Rather ambiguous and difficult to determine how many seats to set at the dinner table if you are hosting a dinner party. Though it is considered rude to say no to someone, even if you genuinely already have plans. Therefore you should never actually say anything along the lines of, sorry we can't make it as we already have plans, even though it might not be directly saying no.
Following Faith Without Doubt Yet Question Science
Punjabi's are exceptionally religious and will do anything in the name of faith without a question. Many make long trips to The Golden Temple as they believe it has the closest connection to god. They travel these long distances to pray and give an offering to god, usually in the form of money. The more lavish the offering the more likely their prayers will be answered. Many of these pilgrims usually don't even have the means to provide these offerings. However when it comes to technology, medical and scientific advances they will question undoubtedly.
It's Okay To Urinate In Public For Men
You will see men urinate everywhere in India, as it is not seen as taboo. You will see men stop on the side of the highway in clear sight of all the traffic and urinate. However for a woman it certainly is not acceptable to do so. If you saw the state of a public bathroom, which are rare, then you probably would opt for going in public too. Though most don't bother to be discreet about it and will urinate anywhere with everything on display. Some even defecate in public too, however they do so usually in rivers or farm lands.
Spitting In The Bathroom
It is completely normal for one to clear their throat of any phlegm and blow their nose directly into the bathroom drain. I personally find this habit gag worthy and would prefer one used a tissue, especially if you are the one left cleaning the bathroom or you happen to be an unfortunate bystander who hears everything. Although this habit seems gross to a westerner, it is completely normal in Punjab.
Honking To Overtake Traffic Or Turn
Rather than use an indicator, drivers in India will blast their horn to overtake slow drivers or trucks on the road. Most Indian trucks even have honk horn please painted on the back. The horn is also used to indicate when turning. All those horns blaring makes for a very noisy commute and can be rather confusing as to which driver is honking at you and who is needing to overtake or turn.
Chewing With Your Mouth Open
To not chew with your mouth open is almost seen as disrespectful in Punjab, as it is a sign that you are enjoying your food. Personally this was something that I was never comfortable in doing as I have always been brought up to chew with my mouth closed. Not to mention the noise whilst eating a meal with everyone's mouth open chewing loudly, is enough to grate on anyone's nerves.
A jugaad is a low cost solution to a problem also known as the permanent temporary solution and can be seen everywhere the moment you land in India. Whilst it is ingenious, as the name suggests, it tends to be a permanent solution that was intended to be temporary. Therefore things never ever get fixed, as who needs to when you have a jugaad. Things such as a tarp erected to cover a hole in the roof or to act as a standalone roof/shelter. Rope used to replace a broken door handle on the toilet. Just hold the rope tied to the door whilst you use the toilet. Scissors attached to an electric drill to act as a food beater. The ideas are endless and whilst I applaud the jugaad they can also be unsafe and unsightly as a long term solution.
Eating All Fast Food With Ketchup
Ketchup, also known as tomato sauce in Australia is a popular condiment with many deep fried or fast foods in India. Ketchup is kept in almost every household to whip out in the event one is eating patty's (similar to a pasty but spicy) or even pizza. Although there are plenty of more exciting condiments in India one could use. I found it amusing that locals even ate pizza sprinkled with masala and drowned in ketchup.
Having A Savory Breakfast
All three daily meals in the Punjabi diet are savory and spicy. Even breakfast where you might expect to have a bowl of fruit or cereal, locals prefer to devour roti with curry. Personally a meal like this is too heavy for me first thing in the morning.
Bathing With A Bucket
Although there are many who have converted to the shower, majority of bathrooms in Punjab still have a bucket to bathe with. During Winter I found bucket bathing unbearable as you don't have the constant stream of hot water flowing over you. Instead you must use a jug to scoop up water with. On the flip side it does save a lot of water, that is if you don't constantly top up the bucket with more water like most do. I actually had to bathe this way as a child growing up because we lived on a farm and it was a way to conserve water during droughts. So it certainly holds it's advantages albeit it may not be the most convenient way to bathe.
Since there are no waste services provided by the government in Punjab, it is the norm to litter. You will find piles of garbage on the side of roads with cattle and stray dogs scavenging through the rubbish. Locals don't even give littering a second thought. Most households will simply empty their rubbish bins by throwing them over the balcony. Although that was something I had no choice in doing at the time it certainly was not a habit that I enjoyed at the time, or one that I would want to take home with me. However it seems many continue to litter even if they're abroad or have access to waste disposal.
Not Using A Seat Belt
Getting into a vehicle in India was always my worst nightmare as most drivers have no sense of safety, as majority of vehicle owners remove all seat belts, head rests and any other item in the car that does not serve an aesthetic purpose. Not to mention they then don't adhere to any road rules or speed limits. Life just isn't taken with care behind the wheel in India which is evident by the lack of regards to the safety of others on the road. Even if there is an accident and someone is hurt, no one will rush to their aid for fear of being penalised.
Using A Paring Knife To Cut Vegetables
Preparing dinner is a social event in a Punjabi household with the women usually gathering together to peel and cut vegetables. They tend to sit in the lounge room or outdoor area using a small paring knife to individually cut vegetables by hand. Rather than using a chopping board and dicing or slicing up vegetables quickly and efficiently. When there is no time limit then this is a great habit to have as you get a chance to socialise whilst you do the cooking. But most households are strapped for time and tend to do this out of habit most days, rather than being social as they tend to do when preparing for an auspicious occasion.
Have you come across any of these?
Or what unusual habits have you come across whilst living abroad or with your Punjabi in laws?
Leave your comments below in the comments field.