Tag Archives: culture shock

Real India? No thanks, could I have mine airbrushed and airconditioned please?

The search for ‘Real India’ usually comes up when tourists and visitors see something that does not match their Googled images of India. Like tall buildings. And large stretches of smooth road with no traffic.

At this point, person A usually says something like,

‘This is not the image of India I expected. Let’s get away from the commercial areas, I want to see the real thing.’

Which, of course, is claustrophobic streets reeking of urine, dirty kids begging for money, cows  weaving in and out of traffic and lively market scenes that will later be Photoshopped into artistic black and white pictures that supposedly capture the beauty of Incredible India.

And then everyone goes home happy that they experienced the Real India, not like those fake ass tourists who lounge about in air conditioned coffee shops to complain about not being able to wear tiny shorts in public.

hey! let's travel  like the natives do!
hey! let’s travel like the natives do!


But even getting followed by drunk men in small towns, sampling whatever the locals eat at roadside restaurants with questionable hygiene and traveling in rickety, old buses is still not real India. That’s called budget traveling.

‘Real’ anything happens to you when you have to take on the systems of the country: It could be going to a hospital in the middle of nowhere, or having to file a report at the police station. (None of which have happened to me yet, touch wood)

Or it could be being given two days notice to find another place to live due to ‘cultural differences’ with your housemates. It could be having to negotiate with people so that you can keep your job after getting into a massive amount of shit.

Real India is when you start to realize that cultural differences are not ha ha, these people all use bidetsbut are more like,

Oh shit, I’m in trouble because I broke rules I never knew existed and how do I get these people to understand my perspective?

Let’s take the house example. Before, the other trainees had a list of somewhat reasonable complaints:

  • the washing machine looks funny
  • it’s too hot in here
  • the shower does not have enough water pressure
  • I can’t stream movies here because the internet is too slow
  • these guys are always scratching their balls when talking to us.

First world problems (source: http://imgace.com/pic/tag/rfirstworldproblems/)

And now, new housing options:

  • Creepy old female landladies hiding knives in the folds of their skirts
  • paying to live in a building with 20 other people and only sharing one toilet
  • opting to stay in a girls’ only prison ‘Paying Guesthouse’ with a 10.00pm curfew
  • Not being allowed to bring ‘non-veg’ food into the premises

Nothing like being downgraded to bring a little perspective into your life.

Chandigarh’s most famous trainee was a guy named Edward. On his birthday, he convinced a bunch of other trainees to go sleep at the train station, in order to experience ‘real India’.

A friend of AIESEC gave the cops a small bribe to keep an eye on these idiotic daring and adventurous youths. And so they got to experience ‘Real India’ in all its mosquito infested glory. And a feeling of accomplishment because they survived a night at a train station.

Congratulations! thanks for showing us how pointlessly hardcore you can be. (source; http://travelawait.blogspot.in/) )

Congratulations! You just showed us how pointlessly hardcore you can be. (source: http://travelawait.blogspot.in/)

My point? I rarely ever travel  with the explicit goal to make friends with the locals and experience ‘real‘ life in that country. I don’t want to because its difficult. And frustrating. And I would just rather have a good time and let things happen,  than going around smiling at the natives like an idiot, trying to show how well I can fit in.

And in any case, ‘Real country x’ will come around and smack you when you least expect it.

Chandigarh is…

I work six days a week. And one Just Jere has been asking me why I am not yapping away about India.  So here is another shallow analysis of India..

As you read this post, you will notice that there is scant mention of alcohol, ‘night life ‘, ‘being social at night’, clubbing or anything that involves loud music or large amounts of alcohol.

Remember the Sikhs I mentioned earlier? Well it turns out that they are not too crazy about this booze thing either. So, while we don’t live in a dry state, booze is relegated to a pitiful little corner where no-one wants to play with it or be its friend.

I don’t know if this will change as the number of trainees rises, but that thing say…when in Rome….yeah.

So, India for me (so far…) is:

  1. Eating chapatis with potato curry and lapsing into a food comma
  2. sitting at the back of a motor bike without a helmet, roaring up the mountains at 2.00am just because we can
  3. Talking about food for at least half an hour a day (what I have eaten, what I will eat, what I will eat later on in the day. Repeat before and after most meals)
  4. Realizing one bite into a meal that, in a couple of minutes, the entire contents of my digestive system will be violently expelled. For my own good
  5. Staring dumbly as our irate house help yells at everyone in Hindi. (If she does not want me to clean her room, then why are you paying me? was the subject of one  such rant, I have been informed.)
  6. Not receiving any advance warning about any major changes that will affect me. (oh, our new house mate will be here in ten minutes.)
  7. Being asked to press ‘control jeero’ and ‘joom in the image’ and not bursting into giggles
  8. Doing that automatic, closed lip smile at people who stare for too many seconds long
  9. Smiling politely because after an entire sentence, the other person (or I) have no idea what has just been said…even though it was in English
  10. Standing awkwardly in a temple as our companions honour their deities…and going to sleep each night under the intense stare of one heavily bearded guru’s picture, not to mention Lord Ganesh over there in the corner (Angie has a great post about religion these sides)
  11. Impressing my colleagues with my knowledge of Indian food, culture and religion (thanks to Wikipedia)
  12. Learning not to ask the locals what’chute’, ‘panthre’ and other potentially offensive nicknames mean
  13. Waking up every morning and wondering what (mostly) entertaining insanity will be brought my way

Coming soon: meeting people I can make fun of, new friends and something interesting to say.


Even my picture is boring. Sigh…

Guest Post: Pakistan Zinabad

Some of you may know that Jeremy and his giant balls of steel are currently in Pakistan on internship. Here is what he thinks so far….

Tuesday September 20th 2011

 And then the culture shock set in. I got tired of the constant staring, I got tired of the slowness, I got tired of the conservatism, I got tired of the weather, I got tired of not drinking beer at free will, I got tired of overpriced, secretive disgusting beer, I got tired of the lack of personal space, I got tired that everyone does things so slowly. I wanted to book a flight home NOW NOW at 1.56pm sitting at my desk slouching in my chair. .ac whirring behind me.

And then I wanted to continue saying what I was tired of: I got tired of everyone speaking a different language, I got tired of how the food makes me lazy (I just overate at lunch as usual) I got tired of people speaking about me in Urdu, I got tired of reading blogs at work, I got tired of being told ‘its not safe’.

But then I realized, I keep writing, ‘got’ meaning its not a permanent state. Before I came here, I made the conscious decision to like this place, I do like this place. Until now, when I feel I just ‘got tired’.

I decided to tell you that the people here are warm and kind; but I also have to tell you that violence and risk is part of life here. I didn’t tell you that we go to places with armed guards cause ‘its not safe’. I also didn’t tell you that nothing is definite in Pakistan; brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘God willing’ or more fitting here ‘InshAllah’.

I decided to tell you that the food is awesome. I didn’t tell you that I almost died from the diarrhea. I thought I left my stomach in the toilet, ‘look, there is my rectum in the toilet’. I also didn’t tell you about 1am trips to the roadside restaurants, sitting there until 6am..that was awesome.

I decided to tell you that we go out at 1am. But I also didn’t tell you that I was at a roadside restaurant at 6am and some crazy guard with his standard AK-47 (note I’m not talking about a policeman) started shooting in the air…a few minutes later I ate that food like nothing happened..cause life goes on here.

I decided to tell you about the wonderful people I met. I didn’t tell you that some of them carry guns out of necessity, and I learnt how to use a gun. It was lying there, next to the Pepsi (coke has its ass kicked out here) as we sat around at someone’s dinner table. As I shifted from glass to gun, I sipped my pepsi, and then put the bullets back into the clip causally. And cocked the gun, and pulled the trigger, and then asked for more pepsi as we discussed the rules of handling guns and what we would do in the situation that a gun was needed..guns are NOT cool, they are cold, hard, heavy and sexy..? I am never getting one for myself.

I decided to tell you about all the places I have been to. I didn’t tell you about the violence that comes out of nowhere in the places on the way to my destination. I took a few pictures, except of the guy with the semi-automatic (he was with us though…)

I decided to tell you that I had a long Eid holiday. I didn’t tell you that I was listening to live gunshots and all kinds of guns with people celebrating all over. Ps. bullets come down bitches, don’t kill us in celebration!

I decided to tell you that I love the experience in Pakistan, but I also made a mental note to myself, that I like the experience, but do I like the country…hm…Pakistan Zindabad (google that)…

ps, don’t tell my parents lol