Can one integrate too much into a new culture? How far is too far? At what level do you have to draw the line?
All of these questions center around one very important part of everyday life here in India. Perhaps the most pressing decision we had to make as to how far we were going to take our leap into the Indian lifestyle came in of all places...the bathroom.
Most people are aware that Indians mostly use their hands to eat (which we've readily accepted). Curiously though, only the right hand is used. Similarly, you would never offer your left hand to someone to shake it. While nearly 10% of Americans are left-handed, I have only interacted with one person here who knows of someone who is left-handed. All of this points back to the question of what is so deterring about the left hand.
The answer lies in the washroom, the most basic of which includes a toilet (sometimes sitting, sometimes squatting), and a small cup filled with water. Once finished, one uses the left hand to scoop out some water and clean him/herself. While it might sound disturbing to the uninitiated, this simple system has been in place in this land for several centuries.
While we were aware of this "interesting" part of the Indian lifestyle, we continued to buy our toilet paper, believing that there really was a point of being "too" enculturated. Then, one evening we were babysitting our American partner's child and I needed to blow my nose. Not finding any tissue anywhere, I thought surely I would find something I could use in the bathroom. But there was none. Then I realized that they had taken the plunge and were now going paperless.
Shocked, but with renewed enthusiasm, we slowly started to wean ourselves off the paper too. Thankfully, we don't have to resort to a cup of water, but have a handy sprayer which made the transition a little more comfortable. Looking back, we're glad we made the switch. Not just for the sake of saving money, paper, or being more Indian. It's actually a lot cleaner too, provided there's some soap to wash your hands afterward. The sprayer is our preferred method and now we are dealing with the prospect of being without it when we come back to visit. I guess we'll just have to get our parents to install them. I'm sure it will provide some good resale value if any Indians are in the market.