A variety of religions abiding on the territory of the present India makes it totally different depending on a place. Popular touristic destinations demonstrate one India, whereas the countryside hides quite the opposite India. Though, the mainstays are similar for all 29 states: numerous ancient customs and traditions that are still observed, clear social ranks (castes) that are still in place, and strict (or relatively strict) social norms of woman treatment that are still practised.
India: ubiquitous filth or gorgeous spirits?
India does combine in itself both filth and spirituality. But in the Orient, such notions are typically very nominal and rather depend on your perception than eyes. The only certainty is that no drugs are good in law in India, and any drug spread or consumption are severely punished, no matter if you are a tourist or not. So it`s not a brilliant idea to pursue such a poor target and travel so far. The same goes for drinking strong alcohol in public places – you may be severely fined, and if USD 150 does matter to you, refrain from hard drinking.
Generally, India can turn into a sweet home if stick to the fundamental rules.
As everywhere in Asia, local women are more restrained in their emotions in public than men. You may not touch a Hindu woman in the street, but, of course, you may talk to her, unlike in the Arab Orient. This both concerns male and female tourists, still the former should be especially cautious. As well, avoid too warm emotions in public like hugs and kisses – don`t forget you are in the East, no matter the fact you are not in the Hinduism. The Hindu men are less restrained and can tap you on the shoulder if feel you are friendly, but only if you are a man. Still, if not sure how to behave, just give a light nod or smile – the two winning tools that always take the edge off.
As regards communications in the markets, always bargain. It`s anticipated, and usually the locals friendly agree to your price.
The Hindu widely speak English, and the overwhelming majority do it right. Another thing is that their articulation leaves much to be desired. But the key issue – for you not to get lost – is definitely closed.
Notwithstanding a traditional richness of sari colors known to us from colorful Bollywood movies, India is not the country minding much the clothes. You may wear whatever you want, whether shabby or rotten (as, say, many downshifter tourists wearing thick socks instead of shoes). The only “but” is as little unclothed skin as possible (this again goes about the countryside far from touristic places). For women, it is vital not to choose short skirts and shorts, as well as avoid slim and skinny attire, and always hide the shoulders. Actually, this is not legally punished, but it`s just the case of respect to the Asian culture, and the choice is yours.
Most temples are traditionally entered shoeless.
Some more curious facts
• Never buy white flowers as a gift: white flowers are traditionally taken to funerals.
• Be ready to eat with your hands, and touch the food with the right hand only. This doesn`t concern touristic places where you can easily find forks and spoons (as well as meat, which is quite rare on the rural tables).
• Don`t lose your consciousness if a bit late for a meeting: the Hindu people are not very good at accuracy, so no crime.
Some ask if there is any sense for them to visit India. And there is only one answer possible: India is certainly recommended for everyone, because it can offer a lot for your insight – the matter is your perception.
About the author: Traveling is her life! Ann M. Johnson philologist and Orientalist, gained her degree at the Department of Linguistics, University of California (USA). Born in Santa Barbara, USA, she has long been living in the Indian Rajasthan and traveling across the country. Irene authors a number of India-related books and articles. She is a conscious-minded member of the local community. Ann M works as a freelance writer at chicessays.com. This combination of trips and writing is perfect for her.