Most tourists from Western cultures complain of the culture shock they experience when they visit India. This is quite natural because adjusting to any unfamiliar culture can be a challenge. There may be some fundamental beliefs you’d assumed to be universal that are not followed in this culture. True, you have pored over a dozen guide books, but there’s always something you might have missed and it is never too early to start preparing to counter the culture shock that is inevitable…
People, People, Everywhere!
The first shock to hit you as soon as you land the country is the sheer mass of humanity that engulfs you. With a huge population of over a billion, the crowd in marketplaces, on the streets, malls, and everywhere else, can be overwhelming! Forget your personal space and be ready to be surrounded by faces.
Helpful Tip: Indians are generally very friendly and hospitable. Dress well and be clean and neat. It is a good idea to buy a couple of Indian dresses so you blend in the crowd. You will be respected and treated well. Be prepared to fend off beggars and street hawkers.
Garbage And Trash
The greatest eyesore in India is the abysmal condition of waste and trash strewn everywhere. Though the government has stepped up all efforts to improve the system of garbage disposal management, the progress is painfully slow. There is a paucity of trash cans in public places in all cities and towns. You may see heaps of trash in the corners of streets. Sometimes these trash piles are set ablaze, sending out dark spirals of smoke.
Helpful Tip: Always have a couple of plastic bags in your backpack for collecting the trash you may throw during the day. Wait till you reach your hotel to throw it.
Pollution Problem Is Serious In India
Environmental pollution is cause for serious concern for American tourists to India. You can see that waste disposal and garbage removal are not well-organized. In some places there is lack of proper sewage treatment. Monsoon showers can flood the streets of most cities.
Due to the sheer volume of vehicular traffic, the air is perpetually clouded by smog. Not only are the horns of vehicles blaring, you can also hear loud music playing from venues of political meetings and other celebrations. If your hotel is in the vicinity of any of these venues, bid goodbye to sleep!
Helpful Tip: Bring a pack of surgical face masks and ear plugs. Carry bottled water wherever you go.
Chaotic Traffic And Blaring Horns
India is a land of hundreds of languages and even more dialects but there is one special language that will catch your attention (and potentially render you deaf!), and that is the language drivers ‘talk’ with the horns of their vehicles. The traffic is huge and it will seem dangerously disorganized and utterly chaotic, not to mention, noisy, to the American eye and ears.
It can be frightening to watch cows, dogs, and chicken wander on busy roads as the drivers expertly meander through the traffic, conversing incessantly with their horns or hand gestures. Road accidents are a common sight. This article featured in The Indian Express says it all.
Helpful Tip: Traffic is bad, but traveling by public transport is worse. Ask your hotel to arrange for a reliable cab service to take you around the city. It is much more convenient as you can escape standing in long queues waiting for public transport. And your cab driver will be a tourist guide too.
Beware Of Beggars And Scams
As a foreigner, you will be the target of all beggars and scams. There are so many ways in which you can be duped. Read about typical scams that happen and brace yourself to face any such fraud. Do read this forum to learn about popular scams as recounted by other travelers. As always, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Be relaxed and don’t let the possibility of a scam spoil your vacation to India. Don’t give in just because somebody is persistent. May common sense prevail at all time. There are beggars everywhere, especially in tourist locations. There may be very disabled beggars and even very young children vying for your attention.
Helpful Tip:It is hard to ignore them but have a read through these rules on how to deal with beggars in India. Be on guard even when you are kind.
Try as hard as you may, you just can’t avoid getting your tummy upset, sometimes even by drinking water. Travelers getting diarrhea is very common in India, so common that it is almost inevitable. You may drink only bottled water and use water purification pills but even a tiny gulp of water when you brush or bathe can upset your stomach severely.
Helpful Tip: Carry bottled water wherever you go. Also carry emergency medication and ORS with you. Avoid eating food from the roadside eateries if you see flies hovering over them. Even if you decide to subsist on just fruits, wash the fruit thoroughly.