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Formality: A Staple Indian Habit



Formality: A Staple Indian Habit

Do millennials believe in the concept of formality?

As Indians we’re known for our friendly, hospitable nature. But sometimes, the need to be warm and welcoming is too forced – it’s what we commonly refer to as ‘formality’, a concept we’re sure you have heard of and experienced first-hand.

We’d go as far as saying that formality is an age-old Indian tradition! And not one we’re particularly proud of. Here’s why.

The generation that came before us, and the one that came before them, all believe in ‘formality’ and truly abide by it. By this we mean that Indians are too formal in social situations, be it at work or at home. We’re still not very frank and straightforward because we’re constantly thinking, log kya kahenge?

We are just trying to be socially acceptable by being so formal even with the closest of our folks. It’s 2017 – shouldn’t we always speak our minds? Being honest and upfront generally leads to better results.

Formality: A Family Affair

When we speak of formality, the very first thing that comes to mind is an Indian wedding – the most extravagant and unnecessary event organised for formality’s sake.

Let’s get real, who eats 100 different types of appetisers and desserts? What about the food wastage? What’s the need to show off? Try asking a relative and they might say, “karna padta hai, acha nahi lagta”. It’s just the way it’s been for generations now.

We spoke to Rishi Goyal, an art enthusiast who shares her views on formality and says it’s a common phenomenon in Indian marriages. “It starts from the time when the groom and his family visit you for the first time, and continues after marriage too. Once we are formal, we tend to judge ourselves all the time out of fear that the other person might not get impressed otherwise. But the fact is, we can’t be ourselves if we are so formal all the time.”

As Rishi points out, our families follow formalities in order to impress. Or to flaunt. Some even believe that formality is a must, it shows that we’re giving due respect!

Guest Appearance

In India, whenever guests come over, we often greet them and serve them chai, nashta, mithai and a lot more than they can have, even though they insist, “don’t be so formal.” But we continue to put on a smile and serve them – even though the guests were unexpected and unwelcome in the first place!

In most western countries, guests check with the host and plan a proper date and time before visiting them. The food or refreshments are pre-planned and the guests always bring along a gift for the host. But in India, until and unless there isn’t enough variety to make your plate look like a rainbow, the guests are not happy. That’s just our culture, right?

Be Frank, Not Formal

As millennials we are not obliged to follow things that we don’t believe in, and that includes formality. Giving fake smiles even when you are tired, and attending to guests even when you have other commitments, can fetch you no extra brownie points. Then why the hypocrisy?

Even at work, we fill out HR documents ‘for formality’ and indulge in small talk with colleagues because we have to. Where does this take us at the end of the day?

Won’t you rather drop the formality and be honest — say ‘no’ when you really can’t, and ‘yes’ when you genuinely want to do something for someone?

Sure, we still have to keep our folks and relatives happy, and there’s still a long way for honesty to get separated from rudeness. But our lives are too busy to be formal and fake, so it’s time to finally change our ways.

Do you agree? Share your views in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Imagesbazaar




A wife, a mother and a blogger and has gradually managed to handle all three together (though not without coffee). Shilpa is keen on pursuing her lost dream of becoming a writer. She likes to eat and wants to reduce at the same time.

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