Before I arrived in India, I had some ideas of what I thought it would be like. I thought it would be HOT, busy and... different. I guess I wasn't really sure what to expect.
I remember that when I got off the plane in India for the first time, I was shocked to see that here were thin, starving people. It's not something I had ever seen first hand before. I was also shocked by the amount of noise! Horn beeping and the sound of motorbikes whooshing past. This was really a whole different world from what I was used to back in England!
After a couple of days however, I began to fall in love with India. It's difficult to describe, as if someone asks me "Maddie, why do you like India so much?" I don't think I could even find a particular reason... it's just a feeling, an attraction. It's unexplainable but I've spoken to other people who feel the same thing too! I think it's something that many people feel after visiting this majestic country. It really is a love/hate divide between foreign guests in India! Although, if by writing some tips below can help potential visitors to feel comfortable in India and love it as much as I do, then I would be very happy!
1. Wearing 'decent' clothing.
- When I arrived in India, I was frustrated at being told to wear clothes which cover my body. I felt like "it's so damn hot, why should I?!" After going out in whatever I felt like, I noticed the staring and the disapproving looks, not to mention the sunburn and mosquito bites! On my second visit to India, I dressed much more conservatively and I feel that it was appreciated by the Indian people. They could see that I was respecting their culture and in turn, I noticed a change in the way they interacted with me. An added bonus was less mosquito bites (less skin on show to bite) and no sunburn! So, I can not stress enough how important it is to dress 'properly' while visiting India. A general rule to go by is... it's okay to wear a vest that shows your shoulders and arms, but cleavage is a big no-no, so your vest should cover your breasts completely. Also, it's best to wear long skirts or trousers which cover your legs completely, but it is acceptable to wear skirts or shorts which cover to the knee. Lets say that knee down and shoulder down are the acceptable areas to show, with everything else covered up!
2. (Lack of) Personal Space!
-At first, I felt uncomfortable that people were staring at me and striking up conversations with me. It really took me a long time (until my 3rd or 4th visit) to understand that 'it's just different here'! Staring is not considered rude here like it is at home in the UK, it's just an expression of curiosity at something not so familiar to them. As for starting conversations with me, I thought that they were only doing it to me because I'm a foreigner, but on close inspection I can see that an Indian will talk to ANYONE who is sat by him/her, regardless of who they are! It's simply a way to pass-time during a train journey etc. In comparison to England, where I've sat on a bus for six hours without uttering a single word, it is actually quite refreshing to talk to someone!
3. Getting ripped off.
- ALWAYS negotiate a price BEFORE getting into a taxi/rickshaw/auto. If you ask the price at the end, you are guaranteed to get ripped off. By negotiating the price at the beginning, you can agree on something your happy with. Also, ALWAYS take change with you in the taxi/rickshaw/auto, as if you pay with a big note, they will definitely tell you that 'Sorry mam, no change'!
- When buying items, anything from crisps, water bottles, the item has a price printed on the packaging. It's quite small so you need to know about its existence or you'll probably never stumble across it. Since the price is printed on the product, you know if the shop owner is ripping you off and you can show him the price. On bottles its usually printed on the neck and on other items its printed on the back near the bar code. This is a good trick to know about!
I hope these tips and tricks prepared you a little more for your trip to India, but if you have any questions at all that you'd like to ask me, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
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