10 Things a foreigner should know about India

#1 Aug 5th, 2010, 17:05
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  • candycanegirl is offline
#1
This is a list I sent home of the funnier details of my first Indian experience (written about a year ago), and some things to know if you plan on visiting the subcontinent for the first time.

Feel free to add to this list - it's just for a bit of humor.

1. In India, a shower is indicated by one large bucket with one smaller bucket inside of it. Not to be mistaken with the small bucket next to the toilet, which serves a much less hygienic purpose.

2. It’s true, Indian men really do walk down the street holding hands. This varies between the arm-around-the-shoulder or waist, regular hand holding, or (my personal favorite) the intertwined-finger-or-pinky hold. This is not gay in the slightest. At the same time, men and women do not kiss or hug each other in public, ever. I’ve seen a few younger couples holding hands, a little guiltily.

3. Daily life doesn’t run on a timed system. If it does, there is a time translation that any westerner should be aware of. “One minute” means at least 10, “10 minutes” means at least an hour, “one hour” means don’t get your hopes up, maybe sometime tomorrow.

4. This lag may account for why traffic is on a constant panic mode - both on the road and on foot. I have been literally shoved out of the way by men and women alike many times to get to a line or train. The traffic on the roads is similarly “pushy” and you are expected to honk and swerve your way to the front of the pack to get where you need to go. Lines in any form simply don’t exist - the strong (and the overly aggressive) survive, and that’s the way of the world.

5. Plastic is left on things as long as humanly possible - chairs, pens, calculators, even crappy cell phones often are encased in zipper plastic cases by their careful owners. Even after the plastic is worn out the item will be used until it’s absolute garbage. After that, someone will undoubtedly pick it up out of a waste pile and either repair it, resell it, or use it for something else.

6. Speaking of garbage, I’ve seen a total of 2 trash trucks in India. While some westerners might see India as a dirty country, there really is a system to the chaos. Piles of trash adorn the streets - but throughout the day people will pick through it for something useful, cows will graze through it for something edible, and the rest of it will that evening be burned into just a spot of ash on the sidewalk where the trash mountain once stood.

7. The transportation of choice, the auto rickshaw, is a must-ride for any visitor. Basically a scooter on three wheels with a cloth roof and decorated with all type of gaudy stickers, pictures, and flashing lights, it is made up of a small driver’s seat and a (seemingly) 2-person bench in the back. Contrary to it’s tiny appearance, there is no limit to how many people can fit in one rickshaw. The most I have seen to date is 12.

8. Along these lines, there is no concept of personal space or privacy in Indian culture. I've been told there is no word for “privacy” in Hindi. At a hotel the service boy may just walk into your room if it’s unlocked, and at a restaurant a total stranger will sit with you at your table with no second thought. I have a hunch there might also be no word for “stranger”, after watching how kids are shifted from lap to lap on the bus, falling asleep in the arms of a nearby stranger or holding hands with any adult close by to keep stability on curves.

9. The only two traffic rules are as follows:
a. Honk as often as possible
b. The biggest vehicles get the right of way - namely, buses and cows.

10. Last but not least, the head wobble. This side-to-side combination of a nod and a head shake is important, because a question will often be answered with a wobble of the head. Usually, it means yes. However, a vigorous wobble could mean a fight being instigated, a slow subtle wobble can mean simply “I could care less”, one tilted more to a certain side can mean “yes, I understand”, “I don’t know”, or “I don’t want to.” Stay in India for a month and you will find yourself starting to wobble unconsciously.
There must be more to life than having everything. - Maurice Sendak
#2 Aug 5th, 2010, 17:26
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  • bsenroy is offline
#2
We are one big family. Anyone older than you is either an 'uncle' or an 'auntie'. Peoble your age naturally become siblings and are referred to as 'bhaisaab/bahenji/bhai/dada/didi/anna/thambi'.

If you are pissed off, for instance when someone dares overtake you from the wrong side (right after you did the same to the other guy in the maruti) feel free to accuse them of having illicit relationship with their sister(s) [a tribute to my all time favourite curseword - Bahen***d]
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#3 Aug 5th, 2010, 17:31
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#3
...I have read all this on IM somewhere but it is always a good laugh.

Quote:
Originally Posted by candycanegirl View Post Plastic is left on things as long as humanly possible
How very true, and don't forget the car, whatever is wrapped in plastic, will be kept that way, its part of the car accessories for many!
If you find my posts confrontationist, please bear, I am an old frustrated guy who has nothing better to do than sit on rocking chair and curse the world whole day
#4 Aug 5th, 2010, 17:58
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  • Golghar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candycanegirl View Post 1. In India, a shower is indicated by one large bucket with one smaller bucket inside of it. Not to be mistaken with the small bucket next to the toilet, which serves a much less hygienic purpose.
Not a much less hygienic purpose but a more overtly hygienic purpose, I should think!

Quote:
2. It’s true, Indian men really do walk down the street holding hands. This varies between the arm-around-the-shoulder or waist, regular hand holding, or (my personal favorite) the intertwined-finger-or-pinky hold. This is not gay in the slightest.
In fact, gay Indian men would never do this in public!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenroy View Post If you are pissed off, for instance when someone dares overtake you from the wrong side (right after you did the same to the other guy in the maruti) feel free to accuse them of having illicit relationship with their sister(s) [a tribute to my all time favourite curseword - Bahen***d]
In his Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell mentions that British servicemen stationed in India corrupted this epithet to barnshoot and even took it back home with them.
In the Eastern part of the Hindi belt bahan is replaced by beti (daughter) but this doesn't necessarily mean what it seems to at first sight. In fact it is taken to mean someone who pimps for his daughter, i.e. provides her with a meagre dowry. In Bihar and Eastern UP this is of course a much bigger transgression that incest could ever be.
#5 Aug 5th, 2010, 18:03
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interesting information, Golghar. I think i am ready to look into my Hobson Jobson now. Though i think chances of it being featured there are remote.
#6 Aug 5th, 2010, 18:15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenroy View Post interesting information, Golghar. I think i am ready to look into my Hobson Jobson now. Though i think chances of it being featured there are remote.
I just looked: Baroda follows barking-deer. In any case Orwell wrote this in the thirties, long after Hobson-Jobson. He must have heard it in his Burmese days. He cetainly didn't pick it up in the boondocks of Bihar where he spent the first few years of his life. I don't have Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English here but that would be more likely to have it.
#7 Aug 5th, 2010, 18:24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golghar View Post I just looked: Baroda follows barking-deer. In any case Orwell wrote this in the thirties, long after Hobson-Jobson. He must have heard it in his Burmese days. He cetainly didn't pick it up in the boondocks of Bihar where he spent the first few years of his life. I don't have Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English here but that would be more likely to have it.
I cannot say i am sure, but i was reading somewhere (most prolly 'The City of Djinns' by William Dalrymple)the account of British officers during the establishment of the Civil Lines area of Delhi right after the Uprising of 1857. It does mention some of the goras using the phonetically corrupted behencoot

Will have to confirm, though
#8 Aug 5th, 2010, 18:29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenroy View Post I cannot say i am sure, but i was reading somewhere (most prolly 'The City of Djinns' by William Dalrymple)the account of British officers during the establishment of the Civil Lines area of Delhi right after the Uprising of 1857. It does mention some of the goras using the phonetically corrupted behencoot
Quite possible! Even if Yule and Burnell knew of the term they wouldn't have put it into print.

These British officers must of course have been conversant in "Hindoostanee", unlike British "other ranks" who spent but a few years in India.
Last edited by Golghar; Aug 5th, 2010 at 18:33.. Reason: afterthought
#9 Aug 5th, 2010, 18:32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golghar View Post Quite possible! Even if Yule and Burnell knew of the term they wouldn't have put it into print.
Just curious, what gives you such in depth knowledge on 'Hindoostan'?
#10 Aug 5th, 2010, 18:38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsenroy View Post Just curious, what gives you such in depth knowledge on 'Hindoostan'?
Born and bred in Bihar amidst all its crumbling East India Company monuments Take a good look at my avatar. It's not for no reason that I have chosen an image in which it is covered in scaffolding.
Last edited by Golghar; Aug 5th, 2010 at 18:52.. Reason: addendum
#11 Aug 5th, 2010, 18:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candycanegirl View Post 5. Plastic is left on things as long as humanly possible - chairs, pens, calculators, even crappy cell phones often are encased in zipper plastic cases by their careful owners. Even after the plastic is worn out the item will be used until it’s absolute garbage. After that, someone will undoubtedly pick it up out of a waste pile and either repair it, resell it, or use it for something else.
This just made me think about something:
When I was at school plastics of any kind (except Bakelite - those plugs, those sockets, those telephones!) were still a novelty and polyethylene didn't exist in India. So, to keep books from getting stained and dog-eared we used to cover them in brown paper, the kind one lines the baking-dish with. Is this still customary or is plastic now king?
Last edited by Golghar; Aug 5th, 2010 at 22:31..
#12 Apr 27th, 2013, 13:04
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  • India_ is offline
#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by candycanegirl View Post At the same time, men and women do not kiss or hug each other in public, ever..
What about in the airport? Hello soo nice to see you??

Thoughts?
#13 Apr 27th, 2013, 15:28
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#13
Or bye-bye, I'm going to miss you for the next couple of months...

No. My somewhat conservative wife would not let me hug or kiss her at the airport.

Things are changing, and I don't think young couples will necessarily be so restrained now
#14 Apr 27th, 2013, 15:35
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#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post Or bye-bye, I'm going to miss you for the next couple of months...

No. My somewhat conservative wife would not let me hug or kiss her at the airport.

Things are changing, and I don't think young couples will necessarily be so restrained now
Yeah I'm arriving in Udaipur airport in June. I will meet my boyfriend there, having not seen him in 9 months! Not really sure like how we will greet each other.....
Like can we hug?
#15 Apr 27th, 2013, 16:10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jellybabymcclean View Post Like can we hug?
No problems...don't be that concerned. You will see many Indians, both men and women, hugging in the airports.

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