What To Expect On Your First Trip To India

A friend of mine is visiting the country for the first time this year (in fact she’s leaving the country for the first time ever!) and it occurred to me that it can seem quite daunting and quite frankly scary to visit a country that you’ve never been to, so far away from home for the first time. There are many challenges in endeavors such as these and while the internet and numerous guide books makes us a lot more aware then we would have once been, there’s no guide book in the world that can prepare you for reality. As an Indian currently studying in America, I decided that perhaps this unique, but certainly not envious, perspective of mine could provide some insight. Below is a list (that I’m still adding to) of things that I have observed. I’m aware that most of these come off as rather negative, but its always better to have no expectations and be pleasantly surprised than to be simply taken by surprise.

  1. You will know which plane is going to India when you see haphazard and unruly queues being formed at the boarding gate.
  1. Don’t be surprised if you smell something rancid in the cabin, it’s probably achchar (pickle) that a middle-aged woman is consuming with her homemade parathas.
  1. Before the plane has touched the runway people will begin standing up and preparing to deplane.
  1. If you’re white, people will gawk at you like you’re an alien. If you’re ginger or blond it will be tenfold.
  1. As observed by the above-mentioned point, Indians are obsessed with fair/light skin. My theory is it’s a remnant of the British Raj.
  1. Due to the above-mentioned observation, there is an alarming number of beauty products; fairness creams in particular that promise to reduce melanin but in reality just remove skin tanning.
  1. If you haven’t carried it with you already, I strongly suggest you buy Tums. A lot of Tums. And other basic medication that your body is used to.
  1. On that note, the food is delicious but please for the love of God do not attempt to find out how or where it is prepared and made. Also drink only bottled water if you can.
  1. The traffic is insane. Yes, we drive on the left side of the road and yes, there is no semblance of order or traffic or civic sense anywhere.
  1. Indians love white cars. It’s the most popular choice.
  1. You will see people littering, spitting and urinating in public. This is a common occurrence unfortunately.
  1. When you go shopping in the streets you will be taken advantage of as a tourist and charged higher rates. Accept it, but definitely try bargaining.
  1. Whether it’s an Indian style toilet or a western one (commode) there will be a faucet and a lotta (mug) because most Indians have an aversion to toilet paper.
  1. From time to time there are water and power cuts due to shortages, we’re sorry for the inconvenience caused but this is a developing country after all. Unless of course you’ve got money. Then you deal with none of the above.
  1. Often people will ask you to remove your shoes before entering the house (but not always), this is perfectly normal.
  1. If you’re American you may want to carry some adapter plugs.
  1. Our customs and superstitions are strange and often don’t make sense (even to us) so don’t try and understand them (we don’t either).
  1. Language is not usually a barrier, most people understand English.
  1. With all that said, we are very welcoming and large hearted people and will go out of our way to make visitors welcome (most of us) and we take great pride in our unique culture so don’t be afraid to ask for anything you need or about anything you’re unsure of.

P.S.: – Any international airport in the world always has the best-looking people you have ever seen.


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