Experienced India travelers tell you will either hate India or love India. I can agree with this statement in a certain way. But my best description of India would be: you love India for the same reasons that you hate India. India is intense, India is raw. The mood of the day defines whether you find something magnificent, funny or interesting. Or just very frustrating. Let me tell you the 9 reasons why I hate India. Let me tell you the 9 reasons why I am in love with India and why no country is like India.
#1 In India family and network goes before everything
It is the winter of 2011, and it is the first time for both Jandaan and me to visit India. We are excited. What will India will be like? Are we going to love the country, or hate it?
We learned in India that family is your most important thing in the world. And your connections are very important as well. Indians are in a different way goal oriented than I am.
It started to become a little bit clear to me when we drove to the hospital with high speed at 6 o’clock in the morning. JD was with 40 degrees Celsius plus fever in the back of the tuk tuk and almost couldn’t handle all the edgy corners and intense odors he had to endure in the rattling tukt uk. We were in a rush to make it to the hospital very quick. And then the very kind tuk tuk driver suddenly stopped. To stand still for a while. To have a chat with the aunt of his neighbor he just ran into. And JD was suffering and shivering in the back.
We were part of the family for a week
It became more clear to me when we had the honor to be the guests of an Indian family in the countryside of India – in Punjab – for a whole week. Our host brought us to all his important networking meetings, as sweet little mascots, letting business turn into his favor. From him we learned how important it is to understand the hierarchy within the family, and to honor this ranking. With everything we did we received blessings, and we were blessing all family members too. As a sign of a warm heart and being very polite.
The family members took us in as their own family. Although they had just met us, we were the guests of the visiting son living in Australia, and we couldn’t communicate. I never experienced such heartwarming hospitality before. We were treated as their own children and we are always welcome. I would love to visit them again in the future.
#2 Indians are curious
Jandaan and I are having dinner in an Indian restaurant. The food is delicious and we are extra happy because we are together again after three weeks of being separate. I hand over JD the surprise I brought from back home. He unwraps the package. And suddenly 10 Indian guys are around us, very close by. Staring with big open eyes at what JD is unwrapping. Because they are as curious as he is about what is in the package!
Most people on this globe are curious about what is happening with other people, I would say. But Indians just submit to their curiosity and don’t hide it. I love (/ hate) that.
#3 Indians master the most powerful question out there
There is one important impactful universal question. You can use it in every kind of situation. It helps you to sell. As you will notice, Indians in general are quite good at selling. It actually consists of one word. The question is simple and effective and throws you off balance. It makes you work.
The question is “Why?”
We walk away from a temple we just visited and a guy offers us his handmade bags. We refuse. He offers them again. And we refuse again. And again and again. Then he asks, “why?” For a moment we have a mouth full of teeth and he unbalances us. That is a good question, why not? I have the tendency to give him a good answer to this open question and then I realize I don’t need to.
I promise you, you will get this question a lot when you visit India.
#4 In India privacy has a different meaning
India has almost 1,5 billion inhabitants and (at least) 46 cities of millions. It is crowded in India.
Indians generally perceive privacy differently from how I perceive privacy. I expect to have a shower when I am on my own and nobody can see me. In the queue at the train station I expect not to touch the person that is behind me in. I expect a random stranger not to read the message I am typing on my phone.
That is not what to expect in India. When you stroll along the mighty Ganges river you will see people washing themselves in the river. Women wear special dresses so they can wash themselves in public whilst not being naked. It is not an option for them to seek peace and privacy in a private bathroom. In a packed train a random child will be planted on your lap because there is some room there.
Things are scarce. People are used to struggle to get what they need. You might have to fight for your spot and to be very assertive. You better get used to standing nose to shoulder in a queue. Or pay someone to fight for you or pay the middleman. Otherwise you might stay behind with nothing. But we suggest to go with the flow. You will get used to it and in the end you enjoy it or you hate it.
#5 India tickles all your senses
The smell of urine and poo at the streets. Dust blows in your face once in a while. After a day of strolling the streets, you have to wash your feet thoroughly. The most delicious flavors on your plate every meal again. Even in your bedroom you can’t escape from the sound of horning cars, tuk tuks and charming music. Bollywood dances are loud, energizing and come with a high level of bling bling. People are interested to make a nice conversation with you. The beauty of the Taj Mahal is not from this world. India is intense.
India tickles all my senses every single day. And every day I dance between hating and loving the country.
#6 You get sick in India
I am not going to lie about it to you. You probably get sick in India. I traveled in more countries, I have a strong stomach. But I got sick in India when I visited the country for the first time. It happened to me exactly 1 week after arrival. And it took more than a week to recover. Be extra careful with what you eat in India, and how you eat (“did you wash your hands sweethearts?” “yes mom!”). This is not a reason to love India. This is just something you have to deal with. And you can, till a certain level. The second time in India I didn’t get ill.
To reduce the chance of getting sick from eating food you should carefully look how it is prepared. When it is fried it is okay most of the time. A big hungry crowd waiting for a meal is a positive signal too. Make sure you enjoy the delicious food and don’t worry when you get sick. Every Indian gets sick as well at least once a year. They have lots of effective and cheap medicine on every corner of the dusty streets.
#7 In India it is impossible to look away, life is in your face
Poverty exists anywhere in the world, in every country. A gap between rich and poor is a universal thing. In some countries it is easy to look away and not to be disturbed with the unpleasant sight of poverty and injustice. In India you can’t. It is confronting and I think it has function as well. Because I think we shouldn’t look away from how things go in our world but face and acknowledge reality.
In India the extremes might be a more enlarged, or at least more visible than in some other countries. But it comes down to the same concepts.
The incredibly big gap between the poor and the rich gets right in your face. People living in slums next to the brand new airport. We saw more than 15 homeless sleeping in front of a shiny AUDI cars showcase. In this country, you either are a servant or you have a servant. You will see people fighting for their lives with collecting trash plastic and selling their daily catch for a few cents. It is not a reason to avoid India, I think it is a reason to visit India. This is how life can look like too. You will appreciate your own struggles more after witnessing the soul of India.
#8 ‘No’ doesn’t exist in India
Indian people you run into on the streets don’t listen to your no. Your ‘no’ sounds as: ‘I need to push more and than the no becomes a yes.’
We had a nice conversation with a small boy after we visited the Red Castle in Delhi. He explained us, with a nice smile, how easily it is to talk foreigners smoothly from a No into a Yes. First three or four rejections and then there might come a YES. German folks were good targets according to this little streetwise kid. “They also pay the most compared to others,” he said with a provoking smile.
If you try to look into why No doesn’t exist you will meet with the hard rules of the survival of the fittest. You can learn to appreciate the effort, and to perceive the hassle with a soft look. You might even fall in love with this Indian dynamics.
The non-appearance of ‘no’ also stands for a lot of creativity, out of the box thinking, flexibility and an open mind.
#9 India feels like India
India is highly authentic. Whereas there is a worldwide tendency to adapt to a global standard of fashion, design and hipster culture. The rules in India are different. The Indians take highly pride in their cuisine, movies, music and so much more. And are not too interested in adapting to the western standards. My guess is that it is not going to change too easily. When we were in capital city New Delhi in 2016 we noticed a lot of people dress themselves the traditional way. As opposite of the skinny jeans and sneakers look. To mention an example of what I mean.
India really feels like India. It couldn’t be anywhere else in the world and the setting you are in is not interchangeable. There is no country like India. We simply love India!
How do you feel about India?
Do you think you will love or hate India after reading this blog? How do you feel about India? Let us know in the comments!
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