NRI Desi Facts

90 Comments

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1. If you see an NRI (Non-Resident Indian-Immigrant) Desi smiling at you at Sabzi Mandi, be sure he is either an insurance agent or selling Amway.

2. The sophisticated NRI Desi shops at Target and sneers at desis who shop at Walmart. The uber-sophisticated NRI Desi shops clearance at Macy’s and sneers at desis who shop at Target and Walmart.

3. The NRI Desi buys a ticket for a movie at AMC. Treats it as an all-day pass.

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4. The moment the NRI Desi walks into a buffet restaurant, you know he has already skipped at least a meal.

5. In NRI Desi parties, guy talking passionately about immigration is still on H1B. Guy talking about mortgage refinancing has gotten his green card.

6. If you see NRI Desi buying cheap digital camera at clearance, he is going to India in a week. If he is buying 20 $ worth of chocolates, he is going tomorrow.

7. Going to Ikea Saturday evening is the NRI Desi married couple version of post-coital cigarette.

8. The NRI Desi buys store-brand shampoo and stores it in brand-name bottles when friends come to stay overnight.

9. When NRI Desi couple sneak upstairs during party, it’s to change the baby’s diapers.

10. The NRI Desi never wants ice when buying “soft drinks” at fountain. Never. Unless there are free refills.

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11. An NRI Desi always plays the Dil Chahta Hai song on car stereo if he gets a convertible upgrade at Budget.

12. An NRI Desi man signs up for free salsa classes at university since the flyer says “Partners will be provided”.

13. The NRI Desi man’s two seduction techniques are—”Pick up desi girl from airport” and “Cook for desi girl”. Do both well, and even then you won’t get laid. Do one bad, you get friend-zoned. Do both bad, you become her Rakhi Bhaiyya and she expects Rakhi gifts.

14. NRI Desis always search for open wireless networks. Stealing someone’s bandwidth affirms our IT demigod status.

15. An NRI Desi is for more lenient immigration policies before he gets  his green card and stricter after.

16. An NRI Desi at Vegas play slot machines for the free drinks.  Those who consider themselves posh are at the 5$ blackjack table for ten minutes.

17. NRI Desi defines sit-down dinner as “here” while ordering at Wendy’s.

18. No self-respecting NRI Desi buys tomato ketchup at the store. He picks up hand fulls of sachets free from Taco Bell.

19. NRI Desi fresh-of-boat thinks “tall” at Starbucks is the large size.

20. An NRI Desi never considers a potluck as success unless value of food consumed >>>value of food brought.

21. An NRI desi if the restaurant offers free-salad-bar with entree  will eat full-stomach at the salad-bar and then doggie-bag (“parcel”) the entree.

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22. An NRI Desi is offended by this post.

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90 thoughts on “NRI Desi Facts

    • understood…migrant indians hence applicable only for USA or Europe, none migrates to Africa and Middle East does not allow migration

  1. A lot of these observations, hilarious as they might be, are probably the result of trying to live within and stay relevant to two cultures that even in their modern form, are poles apart. While in India it is every man for himself in most areas of life (e.g. even something as banal as using public transport), in North America daily life is less of an obvious scramble. You don’t need to push and shove to get on board a bus, for instance, for fear of missing it and being late for work, to cite an instance of such lack of a scramble. Furthermore, in North America Indians with profound differences in socio-economic backgrounds suddenly find themselves thrown together in “desi” parties and events. This probably creates the need to try and distance oneself from fellow “desis” in order to establish one’s own genteel roots.I’m guessing this post, and the observations are attempts to try and establish oneself a more genteel than the others around (Mind you, I’m not pointing fingers at you because, as a previous commenter pointed out, this is more of a collection of observations that have been made numerous times before by various people, and therefore, not uniquely your own.) I do enjoy this new trend (or so it appears to be) of trying to poke fun at oneself and one’s own countrymen in order to come across as self-effacing which is such a likeable quality of Canadians (I’m not sure about Americans since I haven’t interacted with many); Russell Peters seems to be the inspiration behind this. But what I’d really like is for people to not just make these observations in an attempt at wry humour but also analyze these behaviours not just among one immigrant community but others as well, maybe from an anthropological and sociocultural perspective. I’m sure that would make for one hell of a read were it executed well enough.

    • I agree. This blog is known for its humour. While the jokes in itself are not bad, i expected a little more depth to it.
      One-liners can be funny and loaded with meaning but they never go beyond this. It would be nice if the great bong can pick on each point listed here and create an separate article from it.

    • Sev you are so boring. Everything written in the article is absolutely true. I have family members who do everything mentioned.

      • I don’t doubt the veracity of the observations made in this post. All I said was that in my opinion, there are deeper reasons behind these behaviours which would be interesting to explore from an academic perspective. And as an academic-in-the-making, I don’t mind being called “boring”.

  2. I don’t think there’s any real difference between being racist and being ironically racist. I thought this lift would make me laugh, but it just made me cringe

  3. Thank You Arnab ! Finally I love an article of yours this very much 1 Writing about Indian Politics and TV and Sachin is all fine, but when God has given you the gorgeous opportunity of being in America wouldn’t you want to use it to leverage that experience to write more such NRI-ish or non Indian articles from an outsider’s point of view rather than the same old ghisa pita stuff that fills the columns of timeofindia.com, ibnlive.com and ndtv.com.
    I was in the UK for 2 straight years and in California for 1 whole year and while I was never detached from India, I would always delve deeply in the culture of the place that I was in and enjoy it and if at all I would write anything, my views would reflect an impressionable stance based on my glorious surroundings rather than ravings and rantings about Tarun Tejpal’s nocturnal acitvities!
    Use your fortune,make the most of the US – write more such articles, they are far more grand masti than anything else you have written in the last few months!

    Oh and the Walmart/Target /Macy’s thing is hilarious! Also the bit about the FOBs,I gather you are coming to India soon, don’t know after how many years. Just hope you leave soon – because more than the rolling stone , its an NRI who gathers no moss. Us desis living inside India are just plain blah!

  4. How fucking stupid is this? An idiot who went to America and now he thinks he is a complete American, making fun of other Indians.

    • No it is not. I lived almost all of the previous decade in US as a student and a professional. The mindset on matters relating to money he is pointing at applies to Indian students who study under severe financial constraints. As for the specifics – some of the things written I have never heard before, while some I have just heard of and they are hardly the norm.
      Self flagellation can create few laughs but in case of Indians contributes in lowering their self esteem even more, though subliminally.

  5. Desi habits die hard H1B or Green Carded ones …. being cheap is not the same as being pragmatic, sensible, thrifty or other behaviours…. sachets of sauce ..true… always calculating how much less one has paid …. or how much more one has finagled …. these things need to be done in style if desis dont want to be laughed at …

  6. Based on my experience with Desis, a small addition to point 18.

    18. No self-respecting NRI Desi buys tomato ketchup or salt or sugar at the store. He picks up hand fulls of sachets free from Taco Bell, and steals sugar and salt sachets from office cafeteria.

      • Because only men can be unflattering, and women are never unflattering? Please. Unflattering is unflattering, whether the person doing it is male or female. If you think otherwise, it’s your fantasy.

        It’s the norm to use “he” instead of “s/he” or “they” (yes, “they” is now acceptable) only for people who use “he” as gender neutral in general, like you.

  7. While some are funny – like the potluck feasibility equation, most of these arise due to an upbringing that hammers home the point that resources are constrained and must be used prudently. If Americans were to live this way too, many of the country’s problems today will be non-existent. Stealing sugar and sauce etc. is hilarious though – admit to having done it in my first few weeks here.

  8. i have recently moved in to this part of he world from India….i must say tht i feel here are the Indians who have never experienced the riches tht India has to offer…..Initially i believed wat ppl said abt being in first world nations being the best place to live in.But the branded items like shampoos or any branded clothes….guess they seem to be more affordable in india today as compared to canada…I tell my frnds here tht they hv not explored the real india in the reccent past…they seem to still be living in the past…..cmon guys….accept the fact tht India and indians have drastically changed in the past 4-5 yrs…..INDIA IS no more abt ppl yearning”FOR” MONEY but more abt ppl yearning to “spend” “MORE”MONEY…;)……

  9. Dude, get your facts right. No self-respecting NRI Desi would EVER confuse between a “Tomato Ketchup” and line of Taco Bell sauces – Mild, Hot, Fire, Verde, and Fire Roasted. Either Tomato Ketchup @ Taco Bell is a DC thing or this article is not your thing.

  10. Gross generalizarion ! just like they show in some hindi movies …returning from America , the guy will inevitably wear suit , tie ,cap :-) …..makes him a laughing stock

  11. Its funny, I loved it and I am one of those desis who has achieved few of the achievements mentioned here and some of the fun things I missed. Now I have to do it.

  12. Actually Indians are still far better a community in the USA – i have friends who buy brand new Merc / Audi – the ones who are sure they want to settle here. It actually depends on two things :
    1. How rich were you before you came to USA – some of my friends are 20+ Cr. owners before they even step in US, and US for them is all about adventure sports / travel and not needing to save money.
    2. What do you earn here – people taking home 8K or up stay well and spend well. That does not mean wasting money on things you dont need like a banana holder from Walmart lol.

    I am kindof middle of the 2 extremes having a $ 50K loan to payback so only a Civic for me no merc lol.

  13. You guys forgot about tips…… I admit I used to pay cheap tips in student life when going to restaurants. I have come out of that habit now….

  14. It’s a real shame that a few of the comments have missed the humor in this piece altogether. And I saw the racism allegation somewhere, how weird is that?

    Anyway, another one for your list: Indians never throw away carry bags. In fact when I was doing some long overdue spring cleaning while still a student, I filled two bin liners full of them from just behind the radiator.

    “Proud to be an Indian”, though… Always.

  15. Humorous! Some of these are so true! Sabzi mundi – true that!

    Yet another stereotypical activity that we do – return products that we wanted to use for a short duration. Like camping gear for a trip or some tools for a home improvement project. Buying and returning is cheaper than renting you see.

  16. I am an NRI desi and I do a lot of these cheap stuffs. But mostly because when I divide my entire possession in India by 63, I am pretty poor.

  17. Interestingly India and Indians living in India have progressively changed over last few years but the NRI desi community are kind of frozen in time. The average upper middle class (read mid-senior IT guy of our generation with 10-20 yrs experience) living in India is more open to spend and lives a better standard of life (measured from consumption and these steoreotype mindset point of view).
    And they are frozen in their mindset about Indians in India. I find funnier that our NRI friends/ relatives visiting us in India (read NRI uncles of our kids), bring same stuff what our NRI uncle used to bring those days and expect our kids to be excited like we did. For kids growing up in India a toblerone or snickers is n’t much different from kitkat or 5 star now but NRI uncles feel they would be excited with those same old walmart packets!!

    • Isn’t is a bit obvious that someone living continents away from India would have a “frozen” view of things? They’re themselves immersed in an entirely different culture; the converse could be said of Indians in India as well. They seem to have a stereotyped view of the West. I know I did back when I was growing up in India. I thought the West as this monolith. I have no conception, for instance, of the profound differences between American and Canadian societies. I used to think of Canadians as lesser-known Americans; I now know that is far from the truth. To cite another instance, I had no conception of First Nations people here in Canada, or the challenges they’ve faced over time. I am now aware enough to know that I know absolutely nothing about Europe, and that Europe is possibly a whole new world compared to America and Canada. So my point really is that when you live geographically so far away from a country, you’re bound to have a skewed, possibly-flawed view of it. Indians who’ve grown up in India but have now moved far away will instinctively rely on what they remember of their growing up years in India.

  18. Atleast urban India isn’t as deprived or resource constrained on US consumables as NRI desis are in their mindset. We do get coke or snickers for 10 Rs and these are no more luxury for middle class.
    Its a different story that even in peak season we get onion @80, tomatoes @60, potatoes @50 and salt @100 a kg. Yes India is shining for whom and how is a different story.

    • Not to be snarky but quite a few Indians living in India still judge the worth of someone’s words based on whether they speak chaste English, which is why posers like the NDTV crowd and the Tehelka people end up getting ahead in their careers. At least Indians living abroad come in contact with people from different linguistic backgrounds who may struggle with English without feeling inadequate. For instance, you’d be foolish to consider a Israeli scientist inferior just because they weren’t fluent in English. In the India I remember from my childhood, we used to be disdainful of those who didn’t speak fluent English. I now realize how asinine this idea was; unfortunately, I don’t think Indians living in India have discarded this idea.

      • I cannot agree more! I remember growing up in India, speaking perfect fluent English with no grammatical error was one of the greatest achievements possible. But now i realize English is nothing but a mode of communication, not a trophy to be displayed. And i realized this only after coming to USA. However in India the “English Speaking” crowd still looks down upon the vernacular speaking crowd!!

  19. India and Indians have changed a lot in the last 6-7 years. Its no longer about saving but about spending. What you say would have been true a few years back, but now even Indians living in India don’t hesitate to throw/give away to kids for playing, their old mobiles to buy the latest model. Surely Indians living abroad are no longer so stingy. In fact I feel NRI’s would’nt want to be caught dead with packets of ketchup from Taco Bell or sugar packets from Starbucks etc. And building and maintaining image has become everything.

  20. I hope you won’t mind if I add a few of my own..

    23) When NRI Desi opens up an Indian restaurant, he tells the Indian patrons when they enter that 15% tipping is mandatory. He then proceeds to serve the “goras” first and is extra friendly with them while passing off yesterday’s Baingan Bharta as Chicken Tikka Masala.
    24) When NRI Desi visits a Indian restaurant, he grudgingly tries to tip 5%, but notices that a 15% tip is already added to the bill by looking at his “thopda”.
    25) When NRI Desi is on Business visa, he buys a laptop from Costco, uses it for a month or two and returns it before he leaves (or exchanges it for a new one if his “cousin brother” back in India asked him to bring one).
    26) When NRI Desi buys 2002 Toyota Camry (n’th hand), he proudly puts a picture of himself leaning on it on his facebook page. He sends a hard copy to his parents to find him a suitable match.
    27) When NRI Desi goes to India, he carries a bottle of Chivas Regal to impress his uncle. Next time he visits, he carries used shaving foam for the same man.
    28) Family members of NRI Desis back home can be recognized by the number of unused (read unusable) gifts lying around in their house.

  21. Some are quite relevant here in Aus but unlike USA there’s no free stuff or tipping here so less pilferage …) U missed the Toyota Camry bit though. Indians in India are way cooler and funkier these days than the NRI desi crowd.

      • Lol rotfl…. The fact that you judge and police the use of “hip slang” and use “*eye roll*”…. Speaks volumes for your NRI desi snobbery stuck glacially about 15 years in the past in rashbehari avenue….. In fact I haven’t heard or seen anyone use the *eye roll* since moon moon sen stopped being mainstream …:)

  22. My additions
    - NRI behaves as DESI in America; but when they go to India, they behave like an American.
    - NRIs talks about corruptions in India, but they look for options/tricks for avoiding customs duty.

  23. Some are true while others are simply exaggerated. It’s one NRI laughing at the other here..Just like in the article about shopping in Macy’s clearance, Target or Walmart. I personally know someone who thinks shopping is Walmart is almost an act of low class while she buys the same brand from another market close buy paying few extra cents. Bottom line we have same stuff at home …Who is stupid ??????!

  24. Sorry GB. thiis is way below your standard writing. I pretty much agree with everything but this is so 1990ish. The new class of Desis are different. Trust me I have lived here for 25 years, Seen the best and the worst. Yawn….

  25. ” Anyway, another one for your list: Indians never throw away carry bags. In fact when I was doing some long overdue spring cleaning while still a student, I filled two bin liners full of them from just behind the radiator.”

    And you think that’s a bad thing? I store all the plastic bags and recycle them in walmart or target. Thank God for giant recycle bins. My aunt who came here in the 80s used plastic bags as trash can liners in the bathroom. Isn’t that better than throwing all the plastic bags with the trash? On a different note, I know some Desis who throw yardwaste with the trash. Now that is just sad. They do it even after they have received citations.

    My kids are learning some of the same exact recycle/reuse ideas in public school that my Mother and GrandMother had been practising in India. Their FACS teacher has been given some kind of medal for being able to make artwork from ONLY recycleable materials.

    I feel really obsolete here. didn’t even understand some of the jokes. Why would anyone drink soda without ice? Is it because our teeth are sensitive? The lukewarm soda that comes out of those machines tastes horrible without ice. First of all i hate Soda, even if I drink once in a while, I need a few sips, not a gallon they serve in those containers. It makes sense to share with someone and stay healthy. A better option would be to drink good old H2O.

    The Buffet stereotype is true for most guys. Go to a country Buffet and see how non-desi guys fill their plates as opposed to women. Women look at Buffet as an opportunity to taste a lot of food. men loook at Buffet as an opportunity to get stuffed. ofcourse there are exceptions. I think INdian students stuff their plates because they are fed up of eating bland burgers and salads all week long and they are craving for Indian cuisine.

    I have never been to Las Vegas so I don’t know what Desis have been doing there.

    Anyway, As a software Engineer myself Rule no 14 applies to me and everyone I know LOL.

    I wasn’t offended by the jokes but I think they are dated. They are more like immigrant jokes that applies to all ethnicities. Desis are not the only ones who squeeze the dollar. I really doubt they continue doing that after they get good jobs. I have never heard about anyone putting cheap shapoos in new bottles. Won’t the friends know that its not Tresemme’ but Suave? or whatever you meant by superior and inferior shampoos.
    Noone shares their salon quality products with guests anyway.

    Desis are very good at math. They would first notice 12 oz , 16 oz and 20 oz even before they learn the spanish and italian words used (oh so pretentiously!) at starbucks.

    Sorry for nitpicking so much. I think only a few of these jokes fall in the funny_because_they_are_ so_true category. The rest sound fabricated.

  26. Now you don’t have to lay out all our secrets (not so well kept though) in the open. In our defence though the reasons for penny pinching are 1) Some of us who have come from modest background cannot leave the urge to save a dollar here and there 2) The initial shock of dollar to rupee does not go away that easily. In my case, though I dont convert dollars to rupees anymore but I still have a mental scale of value with which I weigh things and then decide to buy or not.

  27. Anu:I feel really obsolete here. didn’t even understand some of the jokes. Why would anyone drink soda without ice? Is it because our teeth are sensitive?

    Do you seriously dont know why we dont take ice in the fountain with soda? If you really dont know then this is the reason, if you take ice you get that much less soda … I’m already embarassed … but I’ve done this myself earlier. So now I take little ice and more soda :-)

  28. been living in Aus since 10 years, never have done, experienced or noticed a single thing mentioned here, but just left feeling more stupid wasting my time on this nonsense, and for using supermarket shampoos. Remember there is only one thing common about Indian which is there is no such thing as an ‘Indian’, not to mention only thing that connects is Cricket and Bollywood.

  29. You got me at “…either an insurance agent or selling Amway…” I started avoiding eye contact with fellow Indians. The experience of attending one of their Communion, emotionally bruised me into writing http://dronesden.blogspot.sg/2007/08/my-way-or-highway-or-is-it.html
    In general, my laundry list of identifying NRIs is http://dronesden.blogspot.sg/2009/11/u-know-when-indians-have-been-in-area.html

    PS – Please delete the links, if they violate any of the policies.

  30. hahaha…supperb
    also, NRI desi will live in US but when he is online or goes to india, he suddenly turns into a true plastic warrior and will sneer at indians (in india) for loosing our glorious culture

  31. This is the first of your blogs that I read. From your profile description, I expected a blog of a higher quality.
    Maybe if you stopped hanging out with the desi-only crowd and started branching out into other cultures (local and otherwise), you’ll be able to see desis who have actually managed to branch out and not adhere to the stereotype that you observe
    Either way, if being wasteful like throwing away perfectly reusable plastic bags is a bad thing then so be it. I’d rather be environment conscious than be labeled as a non-desi desi in America
    Btw, Indian kids who come here to study are extremely hard pressed for money and I don’t see anything wrong in trying to count every penny. When you eat dried noodles for 3 meals a day because you cannot afford anything else, you’ll realize the value of stuffing your face in a buffet

  32. Why get so defensive about college students living on a budget or dispense advice to the author to stop hanging out with desi crowds? There are people like Jeff Foxworthy who’ve made a living out of “You may be a redneck” routines.

    What the hell people? I guess Arnab banged this list out as a fun diversion from his long,profound yet hilarious posts. Relax, humor column hai yaar, tumor kaiko lere?

    PS: And lest you say I don’t understand students or desis or F.O.B. phenomenon, I’ve very much been there and done that. To wit. I glared every single time when a friend ordered latte in Starbucks instead of ….”Tall pike roast, leave room at top, add half and half no?”

  33. Are there telling differences between NRI-Bongs and NRI-’non-Bongs’?…from ‘currently an NRI, but always a desi’ :)

  34. This guy is looking for cheap publicity.
    Good humor but let me give you some amazing facts about NRI desis.
    1. Their kids got 8 spelling bee championships in USA out of past 11 year with four championships in a row for past 4 years.
    2. Among immigrants from more than 160 countries in USA NRIs have highest per capita income.
    3.Over 60% of NRIs have college degrees and over 35% have post graduate degrees.
    4. NRI kinds get score highest in SAT & ACT test and over 30% of national science and talent scholarship recipients are NRI kids.
    5. Every college, university, Ivy League schools, community college in USA has NRI professors who are formidable force of teaching faculty of these institution.
    6. The same is true for hospitals and health care profession. In USA NRI doctors are well respected not only due to the quantity but quality as well.
    7. NRIs are reaching top of the corporate world fast. The recent addition is Satya Nadela
    8. In Silicon Valley over 30% of start ups have NRI founders who created over $500 billion combined wealth.
    9. There are about 15 million NRIs all over the world and combined wealth of this group in more than the GDP of India.
    10. The $80 billion IT export industry in India was created by NRIs only.
    The list goes on and on and this type of humor shows that the content publisher did not or could not get rid of colonial mind set the “white people know the best and are best”.
    Grow up sir,

    • Mr Amit the publisher is amongst the list of achivers you have mentioned above. It is not for cheap publicity but for humour this write up was put on the blog. Whites are no more sahibs of the British era who was looked upon with awe and appreciation and ‘knows everything’.

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