There are things you expect when you move to a new country, but there are many others that may come as a surprise, the little things that make up a culture. A move to India is not the exception.
When I lived in India I definitely learned some new things about the daily life that I could’ve only understood by living it myself. Here are a few of those things:
1. You’ll start using your head to communicate.
Indians move their head to tell many words including yes, no, maybe, and okay. You will see that everyone wobbles their head when they are speaking and you will learn this Indian headshake. Then you will realize that you are doing it automatically in your day to day activities and will even do it when you travel back home.
2. You will start eating with your hands.
In India, you will rarely find knives and you will see people very efficiently eating with their hands. It takes a bit of time to master this skill but you will soon be replacing silverware with rotis, the Indian flatbread staple or flour “tortilla”.
Tip: try to avoid using your left hand, in India toilet paper is not very common, if you know what I mean. Sorry, lefties.
3. You will get used to having a maid or a cook.
At home, you might be used to having your mom or yourself doing chores in the house but in Indian homes having help around the house is very common. These women find their jobs as cleaning ladies or cooks and it might be difficult to get used to at first, but eventually you will learn that it really is a big help to not have to worry about such things like doing laundry, especially if you don’t have a washer and dryer.
4. You will start wearing Indian style clothing.
Especially if you are a woman, you will quickly find that Indian clothing is very comfortable and very suitable for India. You will stop wearing shorts and plunging necklines and dress more modestly. Additionally, you will start wearing bright colors and patterns that you never imagined wearing.
You will start buying fabric and sending it to a tailor instead of purchasing “ready-made” clothes. And you will start to enjoy very much the art of having your clothes made and blending in with more traditional styles.
5. You will be celebrating festivals all the time.
It feels like in India there is a festival or a holiday almost every week. Why is the shop closed today? “It’s a holiday” Why is the bank closed early today? “It’s a holiday.”
India has a very ancient culture with many festivals originating many years ago. Hinduism is described as the oldest religion in the world, and Hindu scriptures claim there are 330 million different gods and goddesses. Imagine having festivals for all of these?
Just be careful with packing in some pounds because one common thing about celebrating festivals is eating sweets! Indians have a very strong sweet tooth and you might end up developing one too.
6. You will get used to chaos on the road.
When you first get there, driving around in a rickshaw and seeing what goes on can be quite a shock. But after a while, you will get used to meandering cows, full families on a motorcycle, big trucks honking all the time, the lack of road rules, and you’ll become brave enough to cross the road or ride a motorcycle yourself.
7. You’ll learn that Indian time is not exact.
When living in India you will learn two very important traits: patience and tolerance.
One day can mean a week, and 10 minutes can mean 1 hour. The estimated times are not exact much less accurate, so you will learn that it can take a while to get things done. This could become a frustrating time, so the sooner you realize this the better it might be for your mental health, especially if you come from a very punctual country.
They say that nothing is impossible in India, it just takes time (and some money).
8. You’ll learn the art of bargaining.
The price you see or the price you are told is not necessarily the price you should or want to pay, especially if you are a foreigner. So you will learn to negotiate until both parties reach an agreement at a lower price than the original.
Prices in India are already pretty low in general (compared to other countries), so you might not even mind paying full price at first. But once you realize you can go lower, you will try to do so and find that it is quite common. This shouldn’t be stressful, it should almost be fun.
9. You’ll learn what true hospitality means.
Indian people believe that guest equals God. Whether at a luxurious hotel or a poor man’s home, they will treat you like royalty. At the same time, you will learn how even the poorest of the poor can find a way to give. You know they work really hard to provide for their families who can barely have food to eat but they will still invite you into their home and offer you chai and snacks. It is very inspiring and touching.
10. You will cherish heavy rainfall.
If you go through just one Indian summer, you will realize why people welcome monsoon season like it’s Christmas. Between the heat and the droughts, rain is always a blessing in India. You will experience rain like never before. It will be strong and it will feel warm to the touch but refreshing at the same time. You will notice that you enjoy getting wet in the rain.
11. You will learn the true meaning of “yes” and “no”.
Actually, you will learn that “no” is rarely a word that people use and “yes” doesn’t mean “yes” but rather something like: “I have heard what you said and will consider your request.” Indians will avoid using the word “no” to avoid conflict and instead work around it. If they can’t do what you ask they will find a different way to do it or give you an alternative. To keep the harmony they will also avoid disagreeing with you.
Do you think you could live in India?