36 Interesting Things I’ve noticed about India by Joelle Bohringer

36 Differences between American Culture and Indian Culture

1. Food in India hands on matter. Literally. You want to eat dal and rice? Okay, you mix it with your fingers and tear off a piece of flatbread to spoon it up with. Honestly, I find it functional and fun. You don’t have that metal silverware taste in your food, there’s less dishes to wash, and I personally get the satisfaction of imagining my mom in the US cringing at me scooping food into my mouth with my hands and licking my fingers. 

2. Food is also prepared differently. No Indian families have ovens, and everything is cooked on a stove-top gas.

3. Traffic Rules? What are those? While there are actually traffic rules, they are definitely treated more as guidelines. A red light is more like a recommendation to stop, and carrying your baby on your moped is really no big deal. If a police officer does happen to stop you, I’ve been told crying, telling him that you’re old, or giving him 100 rupees ( $1.50) seems to trick him into pretending that it never happened.

4. Power outages are definitely more common. In fact, every Thursday the power is shut off during working hours for conservation efforts. While many places have backup generators, many things lack power. For instance, the streetlights in a country of 1 billion people don’t work. But, as stated in difference #2, it honestly doesn’t seem to make that big of a difference.

5. Your apartment building is known as a “society”, and it honestly makes sense. There is a society- type structure within your complex. Everyone knows everyone, and it’s really pretty cool. In my society, there is a pool, gym, cafeteria, playground, and playing field.  People go down to the common grounds in the evening to enjoy each other’s company, children play football or cricket in the playing field, and the society cultural committee plans special events on the weekends. People trust each other and they know that they are safe in their society, and honestly, that’s something that I would never expect in a city of almost 6 million people.

6. Everyone is family. Your cousins are your brothers and sisters, your mothers friends are your aunties, and your fathers friends are your uncles. Friends and family do anything for each other, and your wellbeing is a common discussion topic.

7. British English. I’ve honestly learned not only Hindi while here, but also British English. For instance, a container is a tiffin, a restaurant is a hotel, hiking is trekking, campaigning is canvasing, houses are bungalows, and a bunch of other strange British terms that are totally used in everyday speech.

8. Dinner is served sometime between  8:30 and 10:30 p.m. When I first arrived and was adjusting to the time difference, I’d often find myself falling asleep at the dinner table. Now, I’m able to fully enjoy my host mom’s DELICOUS cooking every night.

9. Waste Disposal is not really the same here. In my 3ish weeks here, I’ve maybe seen like 5 public garbage cans. Even in my school I’ve only seen one super-tiny garbage can. There is a pretty bad problem with litter, and people, mostly the underprivileged, often dump their trash on the roadsides. However, the country is working extremely hard to develop its infrastructure to suit the growing environmental needs. Many people also strive to be very environmentally friendly. For instance, reusable water bottles are huge, composting is fairly common, and water conservation is a pretty big deal.

10. Sanitation guidelines are also less strict. At all food stand markets, vendors touch their bare hands to your food. While this may seem cringe-worth by American standards, I prefer to view it as an immune system booster.

11. Food is fresh. Food is purchased, cooked, and eaten all in the same day. Food doesn’t sit around in the refrigerator, and it is must to eat everything on your plate. Also, processed food is not common. Almost everything is from-scratch and nothing really comes out of a box, bag or can.

12. While grocery stores do exist, fresh fruit and vegetable stands are much more common and much more popular. Within a 5 minute walk from my society there is three stores/ stands that sell all the fresh produce you could ever want.

13. Fruit. The fruit itself gets a post because it is sooo delicious. Since I’ve been in India I’ve tried all sorts of amazing new fruits like chickoo, jamun, lechee, gooseberry, and custard apple. Even fruits like, pineapple, cantaloupe, oranges, bananas, coconut, and mango that I can get in the US taste much better because they are picked ripe, and are much more fresh.

14. By American standards, most things here are pretty darn cheap. A dish in a nice reasturant is about 200 rs (about $3.20), a shirt I bought was about 400 rs (about $6), a simple check up with a doctor for a sore throat was 150 rs. ($2.50), and ice cream or a smoothie is about 30 rs ($.50).

15. School in India is pretty different. All Students wear a uniform, and Indian teachers are more strict and formal. A lot of stress is placed on exams, and the best students grades are posted on a whiteboard in the lobby. Classrooms only have blackboards, and there two computer labs in my school of 3000 students.  Also, there are 45-50 students in a classroom at a time. At New India School, students attend from age 3 to 10th grade.

16. High school in India only goes until grade ten. After, grade ten, a student goes to a 2 year junior college in their home city. In the junior college, they choose a course in commerce, science, arts, or technical studies. After junior college they apply to a four year university.

17. Get into an Indian University is a very different process. Instead of writing essays, competing interviews, and trying to find a college that is the best fit, students in India simply take an entrance exam. Those who get the highest scores go to the best universities. Simple as that. Doing well on this test is EXTREMELY competitive, and children spend hundreds of hours preparing

18. Most children in India become independent at a later age. Children in India often live with their parents throughout university, and most kids do not gain any sort of employment until they are in their mid to late 20s, and they are often done with graduate school (it is actually illegal for children under 18 to work). Parents cook for their children and pack their lunch throughout the whole time.  Some parents also help to make decisions such as school courses to take, people to hang out with, and clothes that are appropriate.  While it is very different, caring for older children true sign of love.

19. Many parents also help their children find love through arranged marriage. While arranged marriage is becoming less common in India, it is still very popular. However, arranged marriage is not what many Americans imagine it to be.  Parents work together with children to find people who share the same values and interests. The children then meet with the various people, and really get to know them. If they feel as though the connection is right, plans for engagement will be made. In India, there are millions of extremely happy people who had arranged marriages.

20. Most people in India speak at least three languages. Each state in India has its own language. For instance, In Maharashtra ( the state in which Pune and Mumbai are located), people speak primarily Marathi. The official government business and television is conducted in Hindi, so people also speak Hindi, and English is spoken in many school and workplaces. Some people speak more than 3 languages. For instance, my host father speaks 5 languages: Hindi, English, Marathi, Gujarati, and Kannada. (state languages of India)

21. Manners are very different in India. In Hindi, there is literally not a word for “please”. It is extremely strange to me because you never say thank you or I’m sorry to your family. It is just known that you appreciate your family; therefore, you have no need to say thank you or I’m sorry.

22. Privacy is also very different. It is strange to be private around your family and friends. Because family relationships are so close, people care about what you are doing, how your health is, how much you are eating, sleeping etc.. At first, this was strange for me, but I now find it comforting and special.

23. India has 1 billion people. That is 3 times as many people as the US. There is an overabundance of people and not enough good-paying jobs. Because of this, there is a wide income gap between the lower and middle-to-upper socio-economic classes. For instance, almost every middle class family has servants. My family has one maid. She comes every few days to make the roti for meals and tidy up the house. Many families have drivers that drive them to where they need to go. Everywhere you go, there is always someone to serve you. Hiring people for these positions is viewed as providing employment for people who would otherwise have no source of income.

24. In India, there is a gap in educational opportunities. All middle class people send their children to private schools. Only those who cannot afford private school fees send their children to public school. These schools are severely overcrowded, and lack many resources. After tenth grade, public school students are only eligible for government universities. These universities are extremely hard to get into, and public school students face extreme competition from their often better prepared peers.

25. In the United States, you can’t really tell where a person is from based on their appearance, clothing or food. The opposite is true in India; It is an extremely diverse culture and each region has distinct differences.  You can often tell where a person is from based on their appearance: South Indians tend to have darker skin, north-west Indians tend to be fair, and north- east Indians tend to have eastern-Asian features. Every state had its own style of traditional dress, its own language, and its own tradition. People are extremely proud of their family’s  home region and there heritage shows through in their dress and traditions.

26.  are also different in India. Instead of summer, fall, winter, and spring, India has summer, winter, and monsoon. Summer is from March- June, monsoon is from June- September, and winter is from November to February.

27. Many Hindus practice vegetarianism because they don’t believe in killing animals. At every restaurant, at least half of the menu is vegetarian. Even if meat is eaten, only chicken, fish, and mutton are available. Beef is never available because it is considered holy. Considering the fact that I eat a lot of meat in the US, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that a vegetarian diet did not mean a lack of flavor or protein. Many Indians also practice pure vegetarianism , which means that they don’t eat egg. In my family, it is a personal choice. Meat is not cooked in the house, but my oldest host sisters eats chicken when we go out to eat.

28. Most Indian people practice Hinduism. Hinduism is an ancient religion that began from no specific person, but a way of living based on peace and balance. Hindus worship multiple gods and many people are active in their faith.  Anywhere that you are, there is a good chance that a temple is within walking distance. While Hindus do not have a specific day of worship, many people visit temples often. Also, many people have small shrines within their homes.

29. In the US, most people drive cars. In Pune, most people drive two wheelers. A single road is covered with 100s of mopeds at any given time. People drive them because they are easy to get around on, they are less likely to get stuck in traffic jams, and because gas in India is very expensive.

30. In India, stray animals are just a normal part of life. Street dogs lounge on the roadside, wild pigs run near my house, and wild donkeys graze in empty lots. These animals keep to themselves and don’t really disturb everyday life.

31. In India, almost everything is spicy (masala). There is masala chai (tea), masala bread, masala drink, masala chips, masala cookies, etc… At first, I  had a hard time adjusting to the spiciness. Now, I find that my mouth is much more adjusted. However, I still feel the burn when I eat spicier dishes.

32. Every morning, I wake up to a glass of warm chocolate milk lovingly prepared by my host mom. However, the milk isn’t the same. Its water buffalo milk and it is absolutely delicious. It is super sweet and creamy. My family buys a small bowl of milk fresh every day. They then pasteurize the milk on the stovetop. He milk is not kept in the fridge, but on the counter. Also, instead of butter, ghee is used. Ghee is boiled, clarified butter. It becomes a liquid at room temperature. Ghee is used as a condiment and It is poured over rice, dal, bread etc… To me, it tastes sort of like the butter used on movie theater popcorn.

33. Instead of taking a taxi somewhere, people in Pune use rickshaws. A rickshaw is a small, three-wheeled vehicle with no doors. It is about the size of an American ATV. For a twenty mintute ride, a rickshaw is usually about 200 rs ($3)

34. My American family celebrates Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.. In India, people celebrate festivals instead of holidays. Some popular festivals are Diwali, Ganapati, and Holi. Instead of spending time exclusively with your family like during American holidays, Indian festivals are celebrated by going out and celebrating as a community in the streets. From what I’ve been told, festivals are extremely colorful, busy, and fun. Festival season begins in September and is marked by numerous festivals within weeks of each other.

35. In the US, people are just used to plugging in an appliance and having power. In India, every outlet has a switch. In order to receive electricity, you must first turn the outlet on.

36. Because so many people eat dinner late, go out late, work late, etc.. ,the streets are bustling all night long. Even at 2 am, the streets are crowded with people and cars.

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