Whilst in India and encountering local people and local life, I realised there was quite a few things I wish I had been told about, or had been made more clear to me. Here I include what I think all those visiting to India should know:
1. India is run by IST
Never lose patience with any mode of transport or people, it is a waste of time. India runs on its own time: India Stretchable Time, and getting frustrated with things will only frustrate you further. Breathe deeply, accept the consequences and move on.
2. If There Is A Will There Is A Way
Most travellers find travelling in India difficult and I don’t understand why. Trains have a number of various options for you to book on to, just because you are told by one person it is sold out, doesn’t mean there is no another way. Try using a travel office, tourist quota or Tak Tal. If these are no longer an option try: bus, tourist bus, plane, car, shared jeep or taxi? There is a way.
3. Nodding of The Head is The Most Confusing Thing
Indians nod their head a ridiculous amount and unfortunately for foreigners, it could mean pretty much anything- yes, no, maybe, I don’t know, okay. It is incredibly confusing, but don’t let it anger you, laugh it off and make sure you ask clear and direct questions.
4. If In Doubt, Speak English
As there are so many different languages in India, variations and subcultures, if you are in doubt- speak English. Most people speak English and are happy to help. If they do not speak English, they will just smile at you and shake their head.
5. Don’t Let One Bad Experience Ruin Your Journey
Unfortunately many people try to scam, cheat and exhort tourists. However, not everyone is like that and you should not judge everyone and anyone, to do the same. Although it may feel like a majority at times, don’t let one bad experience ruin many other experiences, just be friendly and safe at the same time.
6. You Will Be A Vegetarian At Some Point
Many local people in India do not eat meat due to religious reasons. When travelling around India do not expect everywhere to sell meat or what you want, adhere to the local customs and habits, adapting a “flexitarian“ attitude, and eating meat when it is available.
7. India is Incredibly Religious
Even if you are not religious and do not believe in any external forces or higher spirits, expect continuous questions about your faith, as people need something to attach you to, as well the whole of India being religious. If you respond saying you are not religious: expect blank faces and worried looks for you. India is filled with beautiful temples, mosques and holy places, embrace these sights, attitudes and customs with open arms.
8. Men and Women Are Treated Differently
Unlike in the West, Men and Women here are seen and treated incredibly different. They are not equal people, but people with different priorities and functions. Although you may not agree how each gender is treated, it will not change over night and getting into arguments with people on transport, might not be the best way to approach your attitude towards these perceptions. Follow what the people do of your certain gender, i.e. if a woman- cover up, and men- do not approach local women.
9. India Has Very Diverse Climates
India is huge. Massive. And in India, there are a number of states, and in these states, there are different areas of landscape and an ever changing climate. In India you can sunbathe, snowboard, hide from a blizzard, and camel ride in the desert. Be prepared for anything.
10. Delhi Belly and The Food
Although you hear of the awful rumours of Delhi Belly, it does not happen to everyone. Do not let that hold you back from sampling the number of various and delightful dishes in India, India has an incredible array of food, and all are tantalizing for your taste buds. Avoid chains and “safe” options (especially as I got ill from Pizza Hut and McDonalds) so jump straight in. Stick to places where they cook the food fresh, and hopefully in front of you, and always remember to wash your hands before and after a meal.