I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I’ve been in India. The culture and the people are really growing on me. Things that use to seem so foreign to me before are quickly becoming my everyday norms. For this week I thought I’d write a couple of quick survival tips and facts about India from my experiences.
· The Indian Head Nod: Now this is something I had trouble with at first, but you must master. When an Indian wobbles their head from side to side it can mean many things. For example if you ask a waiter if bottled water is available and they seem to wobble their head, this would mean, “Yes.” If you are talking to someone and they seem to wobble their head side to side, to westerners this can be interpreted as, “No.” But in India when a listener wobbles his or her head it’s a sign that what’s being said is understood.
· Punctuality in India is unheard of. Expect things to go slowly and everything to take longer time then expected. This is especially true about Mumbai. The traffic here in Mumbai is so bad that walking is sometimes a better option.
· If you are attending a college in India, expect classes to be canceled without notice (This has been my experience with the classes and professors I have opted for this semester).
· Don’t expect plans to go accordingly, times will always change or be modified, if not canceled.
· When asking for directions, ask at least three people. If two of them give you the same direction then take that route. If all three give you different directions then your most likely screwed. LOL
· Do not entertain the beggars. Once you give one beggar some money you will be surrounded by 50 of them asking for the same thing. Also begging has become somewhat of a territorial business in India. Money that they seemingly ask for food may end up being used for drugs. If need be, give them food and bottled water.
· Seeing small children unsupervised, naked and running around the streets begging for money is an everyday sight. I was actually taken back one time when I saw a baby sleeping on a dirty sidewalk naked and after sometime the mother came by and picked up the child. That picture will always remain in my head.
· Always drink bottled water!!! I don’t want to have to go into details about what happens if you don’t, so please just drink bottled water. This will make your time in India a more pleasant one. You’ll be doing more exploring outside this way rather then spending all day in the bathroom (They call bottled water, “Mineral Water or Bislery”)
· Just like the bottled water above, avoid eating street food. Now there are some street vendors that are pretty sanitary in their service, but that’s very rare. The food may smell good and look good, but it may not be so good for the tummy.
· Carry Toilet paper whenever you go on long trips. You will not find toilet paper in most bathrooms in India.
· If your skin color is white, Indians see you as green as in the dollar signs. You will be ripped off and charged twice the rate for things that most Indians would pay less then half for.
· Expect people to make plans for you without asking you if it’s OK for you.
· Don’t plan to accomplish more then one or two errands a day. Planning to do more will only make your stay in India that much difficult.
· Expect to eat most Indian food with your fingers.
· While taking a rickshaw or a cab always go by the meter. As a tourist they will see you as an opportunity to rip you off and ask you for an overpriced flat fee. Always go by the meter, in Mumbai taxis start at 19 rupees and rickshaws at 16 rupees.
· No need to tip in India!
· Expect signs in India to have grammatical errors and restaurants to have misspelled names.
· Be ready for all the stares. Indians in all shapes, sizes and ages will bluntly stare at you. Don’t take it as disrespect; Indians are just very curious people.
· Refer to taxi drivers or waiters as, “Bhaiya”, meaning brother.
· For street vendors that bombard you to buy their merchandise phrases like, “Mujhe Nahi Chahiye” (I don’t want it) or just “Nahi” (No) will work just fine to get them of your case.
-Come with an open heart and leave with an open mind.