India culture: tendency to ask "tell me everything about everything" questions: why?

I run a fairly busy message board catering to a niche profession. Most message board users are in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.

Every week or so, either I or a moderator will get an email, private message or, in the most recent case, a reported post, usually reading something like this:

Sure, users on the board ask and answer questions; that’s what it’s there for. However, it’s only Indians that post vague “Kindly tell me everything about [some broad topic] in great detail” questions, or email questions directly to me or a mod. Most of the “do my homework”-type questions are also from India. Also, while users from other countries are engaged in a variety of discussions, about 95% of the users from India register only to ask one of those “You will do the needful and tell me everything about everything please” questions. Nobody ever answers them, and quite often the mods delete them because they violate the site’s “don’t ask us to do our homework” rule.

I’m not writing this to say the equivalent of “haha those silly Indians durr”. I’d really like to know why these types of posts and questions only come from India; if there’s some cultural reason behind it or something else.

FWIW, once or twice a year I get that kind of email regarding my niche specialty. They usually come from the Middle East. So it’s not just India.

Any more data points for other parts of the world?

I get a lot of CVs from Iran for some strange reason, but that’s about it. It’s really only the Indians that ask the “you will kindly tell me everything” questions.

90% of the site’s users are from the US and Canada.

Please tell me every question you’ve ever recieved from India and the answers for the past 26 years.


I got one of these the other day. “Please give me a full analysis of everything on your site and make it snappy” or words to that effect. This is a UK-only site. That was from India too. How odd.

Heh, I had a boss from India who used to give me assignments like, “Make a list of links and descriptions of every site on the Internet about teaching reading or math at the K-12 level.” (Granted, it was 1997 and the Internet was a lot smaller in those days, but it was still very much an impossible task.)

Maybe the educational system over there encourages that sort of thinking? If that’s not it, I have no idea.

From your example, my guess is it’s a subtle difference in language.

Looking at it objectively, is a line like

*I would like to take your views on the best town planning initiatives in the last 10 years across hte world *

really that different from the current IMHO topic
*Opinions wanted on fastest growing evergreen windbreak/screen plant *?

I worked with a woman from Bosnia. A very sweet woman, very intelligent. She spoke five langauges fluently. Unfortunately, English was not her first language, so when she tried to ask someone “Could you tell me how to do this?” she somehow made it sound like “I presume you arent stupid, so I’ve chosen you you to tell me how to do this.”

Maybe the concept of “please” and “thank you” aren’t included in the way other cultures learn English.

However, while the evergreen question is about a specific plant for a specific purpose, the Indian question has such a large scope a consise answer is practically impossible. I’ve seen these questions as well and wondered about the cultural implications. Is the person trying to avoid doing homework/thesis research/another research project, or are they just trying to be friendly and discuss a topic with which they are familiar?

Maybe the Indian educational system involves a kind of intellectual hazing, ie: asking questions or giving assignments that are clearly impossible and then judging the student’s level of intellectual commitment by how seriously s/he tries to complete them?

Nope; the Indian educational system is based primarily around memorization, often of arcane results and one-off tricks, that require very little analysis. I’m not being unduly harsh - both my parents are teachers who have taught the Indian state syllabus examinations, as well as A-Levels from the UK, and I’ve often heard them say this. The competitive examinations that I’ve done in India bear this out.

Re: the OP, I would harzard a guess that it’s either someone whose grasp of English is insuffcient to allow them to phrase a question in a way that is more conventionally questioning (“Kindly” is often a synonym for “please”, rather than a slightly more polite version of “tell me, dammit!!” which is how many people would see it) or someone who is hoping to get someone else to do some homework for them. My cynicism assures me that it’s more likely to be the latter.

Any chance the people asking questions are working on outsourced labor for a Western company? The home base could send their Indian counterparts an assignment to collect information on a particular subject (to help with business proposals or what have you) and the Indian worker turns to the net for help.

Just a thought, anyway.

I don’t think so. The email addresses are usually from Indian schools or ISPs. Besides, urban planning firms in the US don’t outsource; in fact, they’re often the ones employed by foreigners.

BTW, this just came in.

One that arrived a couple of weeks ago.

Like I said before, most of the “tell me everything” and obvious “do my homework” questions come from India.

Maybe they’re all asking the same question because they’ve all memorized it.

The questions you receive seem typical of someone who hasn’t understood the purpose of your forums, as well as someone who hasn’t researched the topic for which they are seeking answers. It is possible that they have been assigned a task that they have no idea how to approach, and are just looking for leads. I would hazard a guess that they are not long time members of your forums.

I have seen examples of this phenomenon before. They will do a quick google search, stumble upon your website, and shoot out an email to the webmaster/mods.

Usually, such folk lack a strong grasp of the language, and are culturally insensitive to the language differences between themselves and English speaking people from other nations. This is characteristic of Indians for whom English is not the primary language. Why (or whether) this would be restricted to people from India, I’m not sure; but I can say that this is not typical of all Indians.

This is not a factual answer, just my observation.

IMO, the problem lies in the Indian school education system - or strategy, if you will. As Dervorin correctly said, the system encourages memorisation. Information is provided by the truckload in classrooms, and scoring in tests is dependent on how much of that information can be correctly reproduced. There is very little scope for, let alone promotion of, independent thinking. For example, I can literally count the number of times I had to look up an encyclopedia for a school assignment - and that was over 15 years ago.

Beyond high school though, in most educational streams, independent thinking is encouraged, research is expected to be a part of every assignment, and direct reproduction of textbook material doesn’t get you very far. The vast majority of student don’t handle this transition well. They simply don’t know how to do research. Add to this the fact that higher education in India is almost exclusively conducted in English, whereas regional language education are still predominant up to high school. I haven’t lived through it, but I’m sure it’s terrifying.

A small percentage of students - which, by virtue of our numbers, still is a lot of people - do make the transition quite comfortably though. You’re unlikely to ever get these kinds of questions from such people.

At this point, it seems like “rote education” is in the lead; that Indian students often aren’t familiar with independent thinking in an educational setting. Information is traditionally pushed to them; they don’t “pull” it. Thus, they don’t quite know what to ask for when doing research, much less do it on their own. The result: “Kindly tell me all about town planning in every major city in North America. You will do the needful and speedily oblige sahib.”