About a week after we arrived in Chokati, my homestay sisters started saying this thing to me: “No thank you, no sorry”. We are family. You don’t have to thank me every single time I bring you chiya or dhal bat, or apologize every time you are standing in my way. It really, just isn’t necessary.
This new “no thank you, no sorry” rule made sense to me, based on what I had noticed about Chokati so far: this town is not big on formalities. Or at least, the people here don’t throw around little expressions of politeness as excessively as we do in the United States.
Of course people still thank each other when they are truly thankful and apologize when needed and generally treat each other with respect. But overall, interactions seem more casual – not just between friends and family, but between everyone. A common stream of camaraderie and humanity runs through this village.
I think we are too polite in America. Formalities are restrictive, often getting in the way of forming a real relationship, and we use them so often that phrases like “thank you” and I’m sorry” have lost their meaning. They confine us, in some way, behind a banner of politeness, and expectations about how we are supposed to treat certain people restrict us from living closely with everyone. Here in Chokati, I see little kids come up to older people – not necessarily relatives – and casually sling their arms around them, talking to them as if they are just another friend. I have never seen a kid in America do anything like this – most of the people I know treat their grandparents like distinguished politicians; excruciatingly polite, but never too affectionate.
We have been taught to divide our mannerisms into categories: we have a different persona for our parents, for our friends, for our grandparents, our family friends, and so on. Chokati’s residents seem to just see each other as people, as human. It may be a small village, completely different from most of our homes, but still: there’s a lot we can learn here.
(Pic is me milking Bessie)