INDIA: Are you planning to visit India soon? India has a varied culture and the Indian culture shock might surprise you. Here are a few things that might give you a culture shock:
India has a huge area with six physiographic regions and 718 districts very very different from each other. Food habits change every 50 kilometers, every municipality has its own tradition, and every state has a different dialect that is different from the next town a few kilometers away.
So, it is advised that before setting out, do a little research about the area you are going to visit in order to have the best experience, and avoid a culture shock. For example, if you are visiting West Bengal, don’t expect to find Daal Baati Churma, a dish that is typical of Rajasthan.
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The drinking age in India is 21 for beer, wine, and hard liquor. You cannot buy wine and beer in supermarkets, convenience stores, or grocery stores. Drinking on the street is illegal.
Getting drunk for Indians is common. Even though they don’t drink wine often, beer is consumed a lot by the youth as a way to enjoy and socialise and not just to get drunk.
People in most parts of India are friendly and very affectionate. They have a natural attraction to white skin. The most common greeting among friends is a handshake followed by a gentle hug.
Indians are also incredibly social and they can sit and talk for hours and hours. It is also common for a family member to show up unexpectedly at someone’s house for coffee. This way of greeting might be a bit of a culture shock for non-Indians.
Indians always dress up before leaving the house. This is just part of the Indian culture. Indian women, in particular, are always perfectly dressed, even to take out the garbage. Indians don’t like moving out in night suits or tracksuits.
There are fixed timings for stores o open. It’s unlike Europe or the USA where stores are always open. The small family-run stores, in a non-touristy area, opens around 9 in the morning, and close for lunch between 12:30 pm. They open again in the afternoon, and then they close at 7:30 pm. They are also closed on Sundays.
Yes, a few of the shopping malls, brand outlets, supermarkets, chain stores, and tourists area have more flexible timings and are open for a major part of the day.
Bathrooms in India are different from those in Europe and the USA. You will rarely find a bathroom in shops, small coffee shops, and restaurants. Even if you find one, it will be a common one for both men and women. Yes, in bigger malls, big restaurants, and other bigger venues, you will have separate washrooms for men’s and women’s. Also in most of the establishments, washrooms are for patrons only. If you are not buying or consuming anything from the store or restaurant, you cannot use the bathroom.
Don’t be surprised if you find toilets with no toilet seats. Also at most places, you will find toilets in Indian style.
Yes, you do find public bathrooms in almost every big city. But, cleanliness can be a big issue in these, and also they have a charge associated with using them. So always carry some coins to pay. In rural areas, even these public bathrooms are rare.
Time for meals
The usual time for dinner in India is 8:30 PM, and not 7 PM, as in other parts of the world. Meals are like rituals and Indians like to enjoy their meals for a long time, and not finish them up in a hurry.
Beverages on the go
It is difficult to order a coffee to go, it is not something common in India. Though available in metro cities today, it still is an unknown serving at most places. In the current era of COVID-19, it is now available, but still, a coffee or a tea or for that matter any hot beverage is supposed to be consumed sitting at the coffee shop table.
Though tap water is not safe to be consumed, it is quite normal to drink tap water for almost everybody. Even at restaurants, they will serve tap water unless you ask for mineral water. Also if you need ice or lemon to be added, you have to ask for it.
Indians love to go out to restaurants to socialise and enjoy their family or friend’s company. They love to chit-chatting while having their meals, and prefer to be left alone. They do not like waiters or restaurant managers interrupting them. So, don’t be surprised if no one attends you every now and then.
Also, always ask for your bill when you are done as they will not bring it until and unless you ask for it. If you want to tip the waiter for excellent service, it’s your choice. Otherwise, the service is already included in the bill.
There are many more customs that are very different from your hometown, and I will leave you here as it will be more adventurous for you to find them for yourself.