Learning to Live Like a Local in India

Audrey Rattay is a student at Thiel College and an ISA Featured Blogger. Audrey is currently studying abroad in Hyderabad, India on an ISA Fall 1 program.

Very nice gentleman at the Bangalore Market showing off his fresh produce.

Rather than focusing on what I miss most about home, I am going to take you on a little journey about what I do not miss about home. Now please understand that I am not saying I do not like the United States, obviously I love the land from which I was raised, but living in India for three months now has influenced my daily routines and emphasized the not-so-good-points about my home life.

Food: I will admit that I miss my leaf lettuce salads and broccoli, however, Indian food is so delicious and fresh. Living in Pennsylvania, it is difficult to eat farm-fresh and organic at every meal. Most the foods are imported, processed, and fake which calls for an array of health problems. Moreover, it is so nice to go to the open-air markets all over town and pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. I am a vegetarian, but for those meat-lovers, the chicken, fish, and buffalo is all free range and “made to order”. I have been feeling so much healthier and cleansed living here and I am a bit nervous to see how my body will react once I return home and have to eat processed everything.

Night fish market in Goa – showcasing the catch of the day

Lack of Celebrations: It seems like there is a holiday/celebration every week here! Indians take pride in holidays such as friendship day, brother/sister day, teacher’s day, Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday, Holi, Diwali, and many others based on the Hindu idols. One holiday I remember in particular was friendship day. During this time, you tie a friendship bracelet on the wrist and spend the day with one another. I feel like celebrations such as these are just brushed off in the United States and taken as a normal day. We need to celebrate and rejoice in the relationships that our lives hold!

After the Puja/Celebration of Bells for our Kuchipudi Dance class

Concept of Time: Being a Business major, I am taught early on the concept of time. On-time is late and you must always be 15 minutes early for any meeting, class, etc. Americans are so hung up on exact dates and times when projects will be completed rather than just letting the natural flow take its course. What does it matter if you are a few minutes late or a project runs behind. We should stop being so uptight about deadlines because it just causes negative emotions in the atmosphere that affect others and their performance.

Lack of siesta: The other day, I was spending time on the south side of campus where there are boulders and fields of grass and wild mint. As I was enjoying the October sun, I noticed a goat herder motioning for the goats to lie down and rest as he himself laid on a flat rock nearby. About an hour passed until he got back up again and continued on his day. Napping should not only be for children; it re-energizes the mind and puts everyone in a better mood. Google has it right by giving employees a “nap time” in their work day; I mean look at how successful that company is.

One of the goats that guarded us while the herder was napping

The idea of family: When you think family in the U.S., it is mainly your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. When you think family in India, your cousins and friends are also your brothers and sisters. The unity of the people in India is astonishing to me. It also extends to the villages and towns were everyone seems to work as one big family. They help each other out and celebrate together. Additionally, families mainly live in compounds which house about 20 members of the “family” (immediate and extended). Generally in the United States, when a child reaches 18 years of age, they move out on their own and when a grandparent becomes too much to handle, they are put in a nursing home. Where is the love?

Shannon and I with our “uncle” who tailored our Sari’s for us!

Rigidness of class structure: Classes in India are so laid back and relaxed. When it comes to scheduling a test, if students have another test already scheduled for the same day, one will be rescheduled for a different day. In my International Marketing class, the students are also allowed to pick the general topic for what the test will be based on. There is a syllabus that is followed, however it is flexible. This laid-back class structure is very easy to get used to and it takes a lot of the pressure off of the course materials.

“Success” Kolam in the School of Management

Showering all the time: This is more of a personal point for me, but I used to shower twice, if not three times in one day! What is the point? The United States is not dirty and even if I worked out during the day, I would be doing the same thing the next day anyways. As I am here living in one of the most dusty, polluted countries in the world, I shower once every two to three days. Now before you run away in disgust, listen to my reasoning behind this: Pretty much every day the sun is extremely hot and everyone sweats. Anywhere you go there is dust and clothing never is truly clean. I wake up, go to class, workout and then spend the evening in at home working on homework. There is no need to shower every day when the same routine occurs and dirt is everywhere! (Plus, it is better for your hair; it helps it grow!)

Media-influenced pressure to be thin: It is so refreshing to see Indian advertisements and commercials with women who are full figured and have meat on their bones. American media puts so much pressure on women to be sickly thin because that is “beautiful”. Being HEALTHY is beautiful whether it is thin, curvy, large, and full-figured, however you put it. I feel that the media is to blame for a large percentage of eating disorders and self-harm in U.S. females. I hope there is a change soon because women come in all shapes and sizes, that is the beauty of being a female!


One thought

  1. Interesting observations! But I have to point out that schooling/college in India is extremely rigorous. Academic pressure is a huge part of student life there – the reason you may not have experienced it there is because you were studying abroad (and those classes may have been a lot easier). Also, I definitely need to shower at least twice a day when I’m there, I have no idea how you could manage without doing that everyday!

    Safe travels!

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