I had visited India over a dozen times before I moved there in 2013 but that didn’t stop me from experiencing several culture-shocks. The first thing I learned is that it is one thing to visit a place and a completely different thing to actually live there, even if it is just for a few months. Below are 4 culture shocks to expect when you move to India.
Disclaimer: This was my personal experience living in a rural town in India and I understand it is not the same everywhere in India.
1. The Lack of Privacy
We were very happy to have so much help from the locals to help us setup in our new home in India, but sometimes it got too much.
Impromptu visits like the one on the picture above were a common occurrence. We would receive unexpected visits many times a day. Even construction workers arrive whenever they are available, not when you schedule them.
The next morning after moving in, Shekhar, who had been helping us, made breakfast for us and it was sweet. But he kept coming back every morning (and day and night) to ask if we needed anything. I did appreciate it but on the third morning when he came knocking on the door and we were still in bed, it started to frustrate me. That morning, I couldn’t walk from the shower back to my bedroom without the fear of being seen wearing only a towel. We had a very small house.
I just wanted to use my own kitchen and make my own tea and breakfast, with privacy.
One morning, he was at the house again, unannounced, at 9:30am with an electrician; while I was taking a shower I heard him yell from the kitchen: “Mani, do you want some tea?!” In my mind, I was like “really?”
There is definitely irony in this because when I lived in Mexico, we always had maids for cleaning and cooking. They are very common there. Then I moved to the US and missed my maids when I had to do ALL the cleaning and cooking. Then I moved to India and I missed the privacy and my own space that I had in the US.
This is the human nature, we are never completely satisfied with our current situation.
2. Never-ending Dirt
The dust in India is abundant, it manages to hit every possible surface. It is a must to sweep every single day because the dust will magically find its way back inside. The floor in our house managed to still be dirty even after our cleaner had swept and mopped. Locals seem to be used to it, they don’t seem to mind much about cleanliness as we do in the West. It’s like they don’t even see it.
We went to town with Shekhar one time to get some passport photos, and while we waited, we were talking about how dirty India is; all the shops, all the roads, all the floors and walls surrounding the shops… Josh was wondering out loud why India is so dirty; even the Chinese who also have a super dense population, manage to keep their country clean. Shekhar blamed the government but it just sounded like another excuse to which Josh responded: “the government isn’t responsible to keep this privately owned shop and this floor clean”.
3. Bugs are your Roommates
In the West, if I see one spider in the house, I cringe and ask Josh to take it out. I take some out myself but I do not like it at all. I am not afraid of bugs, but they creep me out.
When we moved to our house in India, bugs were quickly a problem. Ants were everywhere; mosquitos and gnats and all kinds of moths came uninvited into our home after 7pm; very rude bugs. The ants would especially hold parties in the eastern toilet, which made me dislike it even more. A couple would crawl on us when we went to bed. A few would dive into our drinks and decide to die there. I wore shoes in the house at all times, something I’ve never had to do before.
Two months later, I got used to seeing bugs in the house. “Oh look I’m showering with a spider”, “oh look a cricket.” We get reptiles too, I saw many lizards in our walls, adults and babies. I don’t mind about the lizards, they don’t bug me. I guess that is why they are reptiles and not bugs; because they don’t bug people.
4. Noisy Noise
Another one of the culture shocks to expect when you move to India is that India is loud. It just feels like everything is louder here than anywhere else: the roads, cooking, opening doors…
India has constant festivals going on and the neighbors like to play their music very late, sometimes even with a megaphone. They are generous like that, they want the whole neighborhood to enjoy their music.
We moved to a house that was near the road on one side and near the train tracks on the other side. The train came by about 10 times a day, honking every time.
And don’t even get me started on the road. Honking is an absolute must.
In the kitchen, everything is stainless steel, so it makes a lot of noise.
The other thing we found out is that in spite the noise, they don’t really sell earplugs in India. Most people didn’t even know what they are. One day Shekhar came to our house with 3 pairs of earplugs. He said he had to drive about 10km to get them. We still have no idea how he knew where to find them, or where he found them, but Josh was happy. They weren’t cheap either, it was about $6 dollars for the three pairs.
One thing I learned is that the brain adapts to noise quite easily. It took me less than I thought to sleep through the night without getting up in spite the noise.
While these are some of the culture shocks to expect when you move to India, you might experience some different ones. There is just a lot to get used to, but it would be the case moving to any new country in the world.
Have you ever experienced culture shock moving to another country?
19 thoughts on “4 Culture-Shocks To Expect When You Move To India”
This is great! Honest, insightful, and interesting. It also makes me miss India, which remains one of the great travel surprises of my life.
It’s interesting that reading about the culture-shocks, which aren’t necessarily a good thing, made you miss India. I guess it reminds you of the good things too! 🙂
What a great post! I lived in India for a while too and can related much to this post! Especially the one that bugs are your roomates! I had many visitors during the night! the kind depended in the weather. In the beginning it was a bit uncomfortable than I got used to it! The dirt, privacy and noise, are true points as well!
Ha! Thanks! It’s nice to know that I am not alone on this 🙂
Oh my!! I think all the 4 of them would be also a shock for me… especially the privacy one!
And you are right, it doesnt matter how many times you visit the country, its different when you live there! Great and honest post! 🙂
And I thought I had some culture shock moving from the US to Italy???? Great job with your ability to adapt…..brava!
Being born and brought up in India, I had a nice chuckle reading this post. I hope by the end of it all, you left with some indelible memories and unmatched experiences 😉
I definitely ended up with some of those memories and experiences. But I didn’t stay enough to get completely used to all those things! 🙂
What a fascinating blog! One of my closest girlfriend’s married a wonderful man from Southern India last year, I’m sure she will find this blog very interesting! I’ll forward your info along to her! I look forward to reading more about your experiences and adventures! 🙂
Hi Christina! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the love!
I never expected so much dirt and dust!!!! Eeeeee! xxx
The noise and the lack of privacy…yes!!!
I am absolutly loving this blog!!!!!
I loved reading this!!! 🙂 I really wanna live in India but terrified of lizards… Really sucks 😦 I hope you’re having a good time there btw!!! 🙂
I’m sure you can find a way to stay away from them or overcome your fear 🙂 Our place had more places for them to come than usual.
Although India is my favorite country, I can only imagine how insane and challenging it must be to actually live there. I probably could have guessed all four before reading. What a crazy place!
Yes, It is quite different to visit and to live there! I experienced it both ways and it was so different, and quite wild like you say 🙂
If you are really close friends, there is nothing like early announcement for a party or visit to your place. But for rural India, visiting with alcohol and unannounced is little too much. Usually only men will do it, in a group of only men.
Instead of outright no, you can slowly signal a no, by telling some excuse (if you are good friends). They will slowly get the idea that you don’t approve this. Say no directly to acquaintances and strangers.
Rest of the points too are common all over India.
About dust, coastal India, e.g. Kerala is not dusty at all. Kerala villages are year-round green, peaceful, less noisy. And they have mostly bungalows and almost no huts. Visiting local temple is soothing there.
These are good things of south Indian (esp. Kerala) villages. People will be a lot more peaceful, less intervening.
If you lived in Maharashtra village, going to south you will miss some things in Maharashtra i.e. fresh greenery in rainy season, dry desert climate in summer, alphonso and other rural mango varieties, sweeter sugarcane, pure village like ambiance with huts, riding on bullock carts, having ‘Hurda party’ in the farm during winter etc.
One should experience both, I think.
I have not made it to the South, but I’ve heard it’s beautiful. It’s true the people and customs can vary depending on the area. India is a large country. You summed up Maharashtra pretty well in your last paragraph 🙂 Thanks for commenting!