Should I avoid eye contact with a female Indian doctor?

I have a specialist doctor whom I have seen only a couple of times. The doctor is a female with the last name Patel. She is not afraid to sit next to me if she is drawing on a notepad explaining something to me. But when we are discussing something, I do the American thing of maintaining eye contact. She mostly keeps her eyes downcast and when she looks up and sees I’m still trying to maintain eye contact she immeddiately looks down again.

I’m going to see her in two days and want to know the respectful thing to do. Should I keep my eyes downcast so that she won’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t mind doing this although it’s a bit forced for most Americans. I’m no cultural PC fanatic by any means, but in this type of doctor / patient one-on-one encounter I just want to know what the kindest thing to do is. Her reaction makes me uncomfortable.

I think this is probably more of a personal quirk than a cultural one.

If you’re in America, just act like an ordinary American. She’ll catch on eventually, and become accustomed to local ways.

If you were in her country, you’d accommodate to their ways.

Rome and Romans.

I pretty sure she has been here for quite some time since she got her M.D. in the U.S. So I don’t feel the need to train her in American ways. Whether a personal thing or cultural (which I’m interested in knowing if this is common in India), I would still like opinions on making both of us more comfortable. It’s possible it’s just me worrying about it too much (very possible.)

Like you said, there’s a good chance that you’re over-thinking it. Just forget that she’s Indian and act the way you would with any other doctor of whatever ethnicity.

It’s very admirable that you are attempting to display courtesy, compassion, and consideration.

And…yeah, there are people who, as individuals, are really, really shy. Some people just do not like to make eye contact. They might prefer to stand a little farther apart from others than is ordinary in our culture. So, okay, taking that into consideration as an individual courtesy is a good thing.

I know people who really hate to be touched. No hugs for them!

If this is the case, then maybe avoiding eye contact is the right thing. But my advice is still, at this point (since I don’t know enough about this specific case) to behave just the same way you would with any other professional in an office visit.

I know, and have known, Indians from various regions of the country. Eye contact is not a cultural thing. She may be shy or uncomfortable, but it’s not because she’s Indian.

What you’re explaining sounds like text book shyness to me.

I just had a specialist appointment with a female Indian doctor who recently relocated to my country. She was trained in India.

She certainly had no problem maintaining eye contact as she explained things to me.

Just one data point.

My dentist is an Indian lady. She also has no problem maintaining eye contact. Neither does her female Indian assistant. They look each other in the eyes when they speak to each other, as well as making eye contact with me.

I’m not Indian, but American notions of eye contact sometimes fall into mine of “playing wolf” - a game consisting of staring into each other’s eyes until one blinks or looks away. I don’t think you need to be over-delicate “ok, I’m going to be with Doctor Patel, don’t look at her, don’t look at her”, but if you are consciously working on keeping eye contact, please don’t.

The Americans I have problems with usually combine something else: they try to keep eye contact after I’ve broken it (damn it man, I’m just looking down at my notes, why are you moving your head to try and keep eye contact? Don’t you see you’d have to put your head between me and the paper?), they stand within my comfort zone (which is much bigger for people likely to move suddenly), or they are over-enthusiastic in other ways (the kind of person who’s likely to start talking to you when you’re concentrating in a task, instead of making it known that they need to speak with you whenever you can).

Thanks all for the replies. Sounds like it’s not a cultural thing. I’m not the most assertive person so it’s not a matter of trying to stare her down, but rather that maintaining eye contact is a good thing. So, in order to make her more comfortable I’ll just look elsewhere until she says “hey, my eyes are up here!” :slight_smile:

Seriously, I am worrying about this too much as I’m sure she has many patients and can deal with her shyness just fine.

Ask her about it; what harm could come from asking?

No need, just don’t maintain eye contact longer than both of you feel comfortable with.

burpo, you mean other than embarrasing her?

Bullshit. Here, I’ll spell it out for you: he can say, excuse me doctor, I’m not really good with making eye contact, am I making you uncomfortable?

Patel is a Gujarati name, and Gujarat is a fairly socially conservative part of the country (it’s that [censored] Modi’s home state, for example). I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a cultural thing among some subcultures of conservative Hindus. India is of course a very large country with a billion people, so there’s going to be a lot of variation among Indian women in terms of what they are comfortable with.

I don’t think it matters if it’s cultural. Try looking away when she’s reading, and see if she seems more comfortable. I’ve read about a six second rule online, so maybe try that. Or try looking a bit off from her eyes–I’ve seen that a lot.

Saw her yesterday and my worry was unneeded. At that second appointment it just seemed that every time she glanced up she immediately glanced down again. This time she maintained eye contact fine, she does tend to kind of look down and away when explaining something, but I think that’s just how she thinks while talking. Turns out she doesn’t seem shy at all. So, sorry and nevermind. :o

My GP is also a woman named Patel. Maybe they’re the same one?

She is extremely good looking.

When she takes my blood pressure, she holds my arm across her breast. She always asks me about what I’m reading (I’ve got a book open while I’m waiting for her to appear) and we talk about it, and what she’s reading. She flirts. When I had an emergency appendectomy last year, she came by to visit when I was in recovery.

I love my Dr. Patel.

I absolutely HATE people who think staring into your soul is the right way to talk, and think if you don’t stare into each others eyes in a creepy fashion there is something wrong with you for disliking it.

And I’m from the USA, some people just dislike that creepy staring contest norm,