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Miscommunication Dangers of Expat Life in India: No, I Was NOT A Stripper!

Holy cow! Can’t believe my mates actually thought I was a pole dancer or stripper. Bless!

We all go through ups and downs in life…no one escapes them. There are periods when we earn more or less money. Times of adventure and youthful whimsy or times when we work long hours or are burdened with tons of responsibility. Moments when we are happy and in love and moments when even taking a shower and putting on a brave face are too much for someone with a broken heart. As for me, at least recently, there are also times when my friends understand what the hell I’ve said to them or other times when they really confuse the words that fall from my lips. BIG TIME!!!!

There are so many differences in vocabulary and turns-of-phrase between my personal brand of English and the lovely, almost colonial British English that is spoken in India. I was born and raised in southern California and have lived off and on for the past 18 years in Europe and have loads of British mates…so I speak (what in my mind) is a lovely hybrid of “real” English mixed with American. At least in my head I have a more “international” accent than the “Valley Girl” accent I had back in my early 20s. But none of this is common here in India. They have charming English here and I quickly realized that my brand of English was not always going to be understood back when I started participating in meetings at work or while trying to place orders for food that I wanted to be delivered and it took me 3 minutes to convey my street address.

Then I realized that even if my accent was understandable that I still wouldn’t always be understood simply because I didn’t speak the same language. I do say boot, not trunk and knickers instead of panties and have adapted dozens and dozens of other vocabulary boo boos back to the Queen’s English. But Indians simply don’t always understand me and I don’t understand them at times so I guess it’s mutual. There are lots of funny moments I can recall since moving here six months ago…one of my favourites was when I thought the guy at the masala dosa place was asking if he should mail my food to me when he asked if it was for “parcel” (take away). Or when someone first asked me “where do you put up” and I had no clue what the hell that meant (that means “where do you live” for my American friends). There are loads of other silly things like “crackers” are fire crackers…the list goes on.

Even with all of that said, it never occurred to me that my new friends didn’t understand me. Yet sadly that is exactly what’s been happening. A few days ago I was speaking with a buddy of mine and he was asking me why I was starting to go to ICE bar inside of the Taj or Sutra at the Lalit Ashok hotels recently instead of sticking to Skyye, F Bar and Love Shack. I explained that I really missed dancing so much because of the Bangalore dancing ban that, even though those places are soooo hot and jam-packed at times, that I needed to get out and shake my tail feathers every once in a while and they have the only legal dance floors in town. I said, “I told you I was a go-go dancer in my early 20s, right?” He then proceeded to say that he didn’t see how I could miss being a stripper so much.

Much to my MEGA surprise, it turns out that for the last three to four MONTHS that many of my friends actually thought that I was a stripper when I was younger. In some ways I have to say “bless them” for never judging me and still wanting to be friends with me after learning this erroneous information. But what the hell! They actually thought that I took my clothes off for money. Wild.

The dance club scene is quite different in India and women were only recently indoctrinated to form a part of this world – at least the scene as it’s known around much of the rest of the world. Here in India, in the past, women only really entered clubs that were actually girly dancing bars. So really I should have thought twice about the vocabulary or – even better – WHAT I chose to share with people here in India. It’s logical looking back now that my Indian friends wouldn’t really understand what a “western” go-go dancer is – or in the case of me, WAS! My friends assumed I meant I was a red-light district type go-go dancer popular in many of the hot East-Asian tourist towns. I was sort of sad to bust the idea from some of them … hehe… okay, just kidding!

So this is what happened. During the “get to know each other” phase with my new friends I had told them the story of when I was living my first summer in Barcelona, Spain when I was 22 and I worked as a go-go dancer in high season. That’s where the misconception started. For them, they naturally assumed that I was a stripper or a pole dancer. But that’s not what a western-style go-go dancer is at all. Go-go’s in my world back home wear cool clothes, shoes and accessories – and I guess more importantly – they stay FULLY clothed (never peeling off a stitch). They are amazing dancers and good-looking (yeah, I know I’m tooting my own horn here but it had to be said!). They are a rough mix between eye-candy and entertainment but not in an overly pervy way…at least not back when I was 22. Go-go’s are not all glam I suppose because I used to dance so hard and sweat so much so that every 30 minutes I had to take a break and blow dry my hair a bit. However, now they are a bit sexier with more obvious sex appeal worked into the outfits and dance moves. But back in my day we were a rough equivalent to cool Tom Cruise style bartenders from the movie Cocktail who can throw bottles around and put on a show.

The coolest example of saucy go-go’s that I can think of would be from the movie Austin Powers with the groovy girls in cages with peace and flower power symbols painted on their cheeks and arms. They were fun to watch but were nowhere near the equivalent of a pole dancer or stripper. They just danced cuz they could and they looked good.

Back in Barcelona, the fun “go-go” thing was the running joke with my best friends (yeah, you know who you are!) because it was sort of my lame “claim to fame” that I had held onto since 1993. As the years passed, “I was a real go-go” was a hysterical catch phrase that would escape my lips in the wee hours of the morning at house parties with my mates. We’d all giggle as I – so obviously – grasped at those last straws of my youth…dancing the ‘90s ‘Running Man’ or some other insanely inappropriate but fun dance move for a woman at my age.

Anyway, I’m happy to have rectified the perception my friends had of me. Not because I have anything against strippers because I don’t (bless them!) but because it simply wasn’t ME or part of who I am and I’d like them to get to know the real me. I can’t believe that not a single one of my friends, until this week, had ever said anything to me. I guess it shows how nice my friends are more than anything else. I say that because, trust me, if someone told ME that they had been a stripper (or at least that’s what I understood), I would certainly have had loads of questions for them. Let the good times roll….

XOXO Angela

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. kristi Owen

    “favourites” instead of “favorites” ? lol, love it! you are more english than you thought sis!
    and go go still exist as you describe them. saw some at a swank club in vegas. pretty girl and fun to watch 🙂

    1. angela_carson

      Thanks, sis… we had go-go’s at the hot clubs back in Barcelona too…so fun to watch. I miss it, especially now that dance floors are more like a sausage fest 🙂 hehe

  2. Ahmed


  3. Rhonald Moses

    Hey strippers ain’t what you think em off… They all do that for a noble cause – pay their tuition fee 😀

    lol… funny isn’t it? but that’s what most of the stripper girls say when you ask em why they chose to be a stripper. But I haven’t seen any stripper studying in any college that I know of… I wonder which college they do go… Hmmm….

    1. angela_carson

      Everyone has their own reasons for working, no matter what the job. I’m American, so strippers and strip clubs are just a normal part of life and I don’t see anything wrong with it. 🙂 –angela

      1. Rhonald Moses

        suppose to be a humour 🙁

      2. Rhonald Moses

        supposed to be a humour 🙁

  4. Suriya

    Lol at the misconception. go- Go dancers are cute!. Pole dancers are slutty and that’s hot. I understand why you crave for dancing; I mean, come on, anyone who has danced and attended one too many [parties in their twenties would always wanna dance on a friday night and have a good time. sadly, we have been prohibited and i CURSE myself and disco-dancing urging thoughts when I am at the bar.
    I miss my Uni days!!! Toga parties, pillow fights, Binge drinking fests, after soccer parties, hitting on a hot Cohort who’s dressed up as go go dancer or a hot Halloween vampire.
    how was Halloween? did you get a good scare?


    1. angela_carson

      I really need to think about keeping my mouth closed on topics that might be misunderstood like this I think…or be sure to explain in detail what I mean if I think there might be any misconceptions 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Angela

  5. anonymous


    English lesson of the day, from me to you: The Indian english word for go-go dancer would be cabaret dancer….

    1. anonymous

      Cabaret dancing was common in Indian movies of the 70s, and it featured in some hotels in that time. It seems to have disappeared now, except for some small venues. I guess it comes close to go-go dancing. Here is a very popular song featuring the then-item girl Helen. Njoy..

    2. angela_carson

      Hmmm… thanks “A” but I think I’m just going to steer clear of this topic for ever more 🙂

  6. Moe

    I’m not sure we should believe you.I wanna see a pic of your 20s pls 🙂

  7. PencilGirl

    Hahaha!! Quite a misconception here.. 😀
    I’m a bathroom-dancer.. Does that count? 😛

    1. angela_carson

      Ohhhhh that totally counts 🙂 🙂

  8. Anon

    I came here because of the newspaper!

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