About advices

Oct 25, 2007 in

Now, this has less to do with India but I started thinking about this when I considered whether or not I should give advices to the lads that will visit me in India in March and if yes, which. There is certainly enough to warn about in India but I decided to not give any advices that go further than telling solely about my experiences, nothing in a “do” or “don’t” manner. And I’ll tell you why:

First, I don’t like to receive advices like this for myself because it takes away my freedom of choice and own consideration. I can only either decide to refuse to act according to that advice or to conform to that advice. Of course there is justification for those kind of advices in most cases but they offer only a very limited and refined view of the true situation. Just think about how an advice comes together:
It’s just the experience of one person who interpreted the situation in his certain way and eventually learned a lesson. When he makes an advice out of it, he tries to generalize this experience and the lesson he learned – including his values, opinions and views – for everyone. He cuts out possible other experiences and most importantly even the experience itself! Moreover, he doesn’t take into account that the advice may not applicable for everyone. For example “Drink more milk (because it is healthy)” is clearly not applicable for everyone. (Especially not me ;-) )
Some advices are even passed on. So, when you hear an advice that has been passed on like “Don’t eat raw vegetables in India” and ask for the reason why, the person who told you (and only heard and followed that advice by himself) will make up something reasonable to not loose his face, for sure. (So, the answer would be that “raw vegetables are full of germs, bugs and/or diseases there, obviously”).
It is fatal to leave out the actual experience because what is left then is just a command. It leaves the person who follows it unexperienced and dependent, limited in his view. Even if you just hear an advice without actively following it, you will still be biased because you have this in mind in these situations.

So, as a conclusion, I think those kind of advices have more in common with a command than actually honestly sharing an experience. However there are sometimes situations where even I appreciate those kind of advices from people I trust – when I just can’t decide about something. :-)

I heard so many advices from AIESECers, co-workers and my boss since I am here, people of I am sure that they just want the best for me and have some experience. Some said I shouldn’t trust strangers, I was told not to buy any food from the road because it is unhygienic, to not go to those tree-barbershops because of the same reason, not take a bath in the Ganges, not travel on the roof of a bus and never never hitchhike… Been there, done that. I know, these advices are just meant well, but sometimes I wonder if the they go sometimes even out of their houses?
Overall, I value my common sense, my cautiousness and own perception over advices like this and I advice everyone to do the same ;-).

“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia; dispensing it is a way of wishing the past from the disposal—wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

- Baz Luhrman in the song “Everybody is free to wear sunscreen”. See Lyrics.