5 Things I Learned My First Week in India

Chelsea Beaulieu is a student at Salve Regina University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Chelsea is currently studying abroad with ISA in Hyderabad, India.

Beaulieu, C

I’ve been in India for about a month now. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this country and its beautiful chaos. I was not nearly as culturally ‘shocked’ as most people told me I would be, and I feel that I’ve adapted pretty well so far. I’ve learned a lot, about both the culture and about myself. There are a few things though, that have stood out to me as noteworthy. Some are minor quirks, and others are major cultural faux pas. Here we go:

1) Do NOT use your left hand for eating.

In India the left hand is associated with going to the bathroom. As one of the first things I did when I arrived was eat, I was immediately informed by my ISA resident director about this cultural rule. Most food in India is eaten by hand, so as to avoid getting looks of disgust shot at me when eating in public, I am working diligently to perfect my right-hand-only eating skills.

2) Sporadic power outages are normal.

They are to be expected, at least once a day, from anywhere between a few seconds to a few hours. Nobody is really fazed by them, and they happen even in the swankiest of places. You just carry on in the dark with whatever you’re doing until the lights come back on.

3) The majority of dogs here are wild.

There are many stray dogs in India. I’ve had such a hard time resisting the urge to smuggle some of them up into my dorm room and keep them as pets, or at least play with all of them. I was awakened to the fact that these dogs are not pets when I witnessed puppies viciously fighting over some scrap food, baring their teeth and being straight-up terrifying. These dogs can hold their own, and in addition to that they are incredibly greasy and dirty. After petting one or two of them an immediately needing to wash the filth off of my hands I think I’m all set with the dogs here.

4) It gets really, really hot here.

“Well duh,” you’re probably saying to yourself. But it is hard to explain the heat here. It’s not monsoon season right now, so it is always completely sunny, there is rarely a breeze, and everyone seems to be fine wearing pants, long sleeves and scarves. I guess this is just something I’m going to have to get used to because it’s still winter and the cold season right now.

5) Haggling is imperative.

I knew that I would have to haggle for most things here. Rickshaws, bazaar food and clothes are sometimes priced way too high and someone may be trying to rip you off. I have also been informed, as well as learned from my own experience, that foreigners will never get as low of a price as a person who is native to India. This is a fact that I will have to accept, but I know that it s possible to still get a decent deal if you know what you’re doing. Haggling is most definitely a skill, and it’s become one of my top things to work on perfecting while I am here.

2 thoughts

  1. Hello there! My name is Shakera and I semi-recently came back from a two week study abroad in India with a few classmates from my university! We had a couple of professors that were native to India, but unfortunately they didn’t brief us on not eating with our left hand! Ha! I don’t think it occurred to our professors to tell us. No matter, it didn’t bother us anyway! Also, our group stayed in Northern India, mostly in Delhi. However, we did get to travel to Jaipur and Agra and a few other places! I hope you did, too! Oh, and here’s another thing to add to your list: do NOT give money to people begging! You may want to feel generous, but they will call their friends and follow you until you get back to wherever you’re going! We were followed for a good 30min once thanks to one of our late-coming comrades! My apologize for the lengthy comment. Happy travels!

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