I had visited India over a dozen times before I moved there in 2013 but that didn’t stop me from experiencing several culture-shocks. The first thing I learned is that it is one thing to visit a place and a complete different thing to actually live there, even if it is just for a few months.
The main 4 culture-shocks I experienced were:
We were very happy to have so much help from the locals to help us setup in our new home in India, but sometimes it got too much.
Impromptu visits like the one on the picture above were a common occurrence. We would receive unexpected visits many times a day. Even construction workers arrive whenever they are available, not when you schedule them.
The next morning after moving in, Shekhar, who had been helping us, made breakfast for us and it was sweet. But he kept coming back every morning (and day and night) to ask if we needed anything. I did appreciate it but on the third morning when he came knocking on the door and we were still in bed, it started to frustrate me. That morning, I couldn’t walk from the shower back to my bedroom without the fear of being seen wearing only a towel. We had a very small house.
I just wanted to use my own kitchen and make my own tea and breakfast, with privacy.
One morning, he was at the house again, unannounced, at 9:30am with an electrician; I was taking a shower and from the kitchen he asked me/yelled: “Mani, do you want some tea?!” In my mind, I was like “really?”
There is definitely irony in this because when I lived in Mexico, we always had maids for cleaning and cooking. They are very common there. Then I moved to the US and missed my maids when I had to do ALL the cleaning and cooking. Then I moved to India and I missed the privacy and my own space that I had in the US.
This is the human nature, we are never completely satisfied with our current situation.
The dust in India is abundant, it manages to hit every possible surface. It is a must to sweep every single day because the dust will magically find its way back inside. The floor in our house managed to still be dirty even after our cleaner had swept and mopped. Indians seem to be used to it, they don’t seem to mind much about cleanliness as we do in the West. It’s like they don’t even see it.
We went to town with Shekhar one time to get some passport photos, and while we waited, we were talking about how dirty India is; all the shops, all the roads, all the floors and walls surrounding the shops… Josh was wondering out loud why India is so dirty; even the Chinese who also have a super dense population, manage to keep their country clean. Shekhar blamed the government but it just sounded like another excuse to which Josh responded: “the government isn’t responsible to keep this privately owned shop and this floor clean”.
In the West, if I see one spider in the house, I cringe and ask Josh to take it out. I take some out myself but I do not like it at all. I am not afraid of bugs, I just don’t like them one tiny bit.
When we moved to our house in India, bugs were quickly a problem. Ants were everywhere; mosquitos and gnats and all kinds of moths came uninvited into our home after 7pm; very rude bugs. The ants would especially hold parties in the eastern toilet, which made me dislike it even more. A couple would crawl on us when we went to bed. A few would dive into our drinks and decide to die there. I wore shoes in the house at all times, something I’ve never had to do before.
Two months later, I got used to seeing bugs in the house. “Oh look another spider”, “oh look I’m showering with a spider”, “oh look a cricket.” We get reptiles too, I saw many lizards in our walls, adults and babies. I don’t care about the lizards, they don’t bug me. I guess that is why they are reptiles and not bugs; because they don’t bug people.
4. Noisy Noise
India is loud. It just feels like everything is louder here than anywhere else: the roads, cooking, opening doors…
India has constant festivals going on and the neighbors like to play their music very late, sometimes even with a megaphone. They are generous like that, they want the whole neighborhood to enjoy their music.
We moved to a house that was near the road on one side and near the train tracks on the other side. The train came by about 10 times a day, honking every time.
And don’t even get me started on the road. Honking is an absolute must.
In the kitchen, everything is stainless steel, so it makes a lot of noise.
The other thing we found out is that in spite the noise, they don’t really sell earplugs in India. Most people didn’t even know what they are. One day Shekhar came to our house with 3 pairs of earplugs. He said he had to drive about 10km to get them. We still have no idea how he knew where to find them, or where he found them, but Josh was happy. They weren’t cheap either, it was about $6 dollars for the three pairs.
One thing I learned is that the brain adapts to noise quite easily. It took me less than I thought to sleep through the night without getting up in spite the noise.
p.s. The links on each of the numbered titles lead to the longer post about that specific culture shock.
Disclaimer: This was my personal experience in a small town and I understand it is not the same everywhere in India.
There is just a lot to get used to, but it would be the case moving to any new country in the world.