This question was recently asked on Quora.com (an awesome website by the way). I decided to give my two cents and had a positive response, so I figured I would share my answer here on this blog for anyone interested.
Here is what I wrote:
“I’d say it depends on the tourist. I can only speak from my personal experiences and thoughts. India was the most difficult country I’d ever traveled in. A big part of that was due to it being hot season, and I felt like I was going to die from the heat! I experienced a lot of culture shock and homesickness during the six weeks I was there.
I’d sometimes get into bad moods and find myself making judgments at the culture, like when the air pollution was so bad but then I kept seeing people burning toxic trash. Sometimes I had a hard time breathing. My boyfriend and I were getting tired of frequently being targeted for scams. I also got very bad food poisoning two times.
HOWEVER: India is phenomenal. It’s the most difficult and frustrating place I’ve traveled (I’ve traveled all over Asia), but by far the most rewarding, and it left the biggest impression on my heart and soul.
There is something about India that is magical: the kindhearted people, the colorful dress, the delicious food, the languages, the beautiful women and men. I loved the religious diversity. I loved how generous people are. Our times staying with local families was the best part of our trip, when we finally were able to feel more like insiders to the culture instead of dorky tourists.
I love India. After I returned home, I couldn’t get India out of my mind. I started to learn to speak Hindi and started watching Bollywood movies and listening to Bollywood music. I just bought my return ticket and will spend four months in India, to experience more of the culture, to find an internship to complete for my MA thesis in cultural anthropology, and to practice speaking Hindi. This time, I am NOT going during the hot season 🙂 haha.
Mujhe India bahut bahut pasand hai ❤ Aur aapka desh bahut sundar hai.“
It took me a long time after I left India to process all my inner and outer experiences I had there. Another, very well-written answer to this question was written by someone who wishes to be anonymous. I can also agree with many of the observations written even though the overall view is a bit more negative. India is a land of contradictions for sure. Here is the other answer written by anonymous:
“I traveled and lived in India for 8 years.
India can be such a horrific place for foreigners that is a common for people to land, not even leave the airport, and decide to fly back home.
It is even more common for people to cut their trips short- having had enough in just a few days.
India is known for getting foreigners violently ill (of which I have many stories from personal experience). It is full of scams- small and large alike.
I don’t know if it is still happening, but in Agra people used to ask you if you have travel insurance and if you reply affirmatively they’d either ask you if you want to fake an expensive hospital visit and share the insurance payout with them or they would be in cahoots with a restaurant owner and poison you to get you into their hospital/clinic.
Driving is madness.
As foreigners, we are very turned off by:
The water being full of pesticides and toxins banned in the West.
Produce containing neurotoxins.
Using gasses to ripen fruits in a very unsafe way:
The constant bickering, gossiping, and power games.
In most every way India is a backwards, messed up country. Corruption is so bad that the people are totally disempowered, and we feel it.
We feel the sexual repression. We feel the anger that repression breeds.
We feel the fear… and the resulting absence of confidence.
The whole country seems to be in perpetual decay.
We feel the enthusiasm of the youth getting destroyed all too quickly.
We’ve seen girls turn into wives and dry up so quickly, becoming aunties overnight.
We’ve seen women lose their figures and begin doing the side waddle.
We are saddened by the limited hopes and opportunities for women. Some of the world’s most beautiful, kind, intelligent, and loving people are Indian women, and yet society does nothing to support and empower them. They seem stuck in a miserable man-created society full of groping, raping, disrespect, and over interference.
We’ve seen teenagers destroyed by academic pressure- with the parents putting all the burdens on their children to step towards a brighter future.
And, many of us have experimented with Indian ways…
wiping ourselves with water instead of toilet paper, (I prefer water sprays to straight hands, but I can now never go back to using paper-only as it never feels clean)
urinating on a random wall in the middle of the city, (which, as a man, surprisingly felt natural)
dropping garbage on the street, (which felt so wrong- but I had to try it. It is, however, very convenient. I can see why people do it- it totally frees one of responsibility),
eating with our hands,
Now for the positive impressions:
Some Indians are extremely kind and loving- in a way that we’ve never encountered before.
Colors, traditions, festivals, foods… it is beautiful and exotic to us.
Indians have this strange way of switching off between being kind to you and exploiting you, so this is a tricky thing for us Westerners. In the West, we tend to label people as good and bad, and many of us assume that everyone is good. This is supported by the clear practices in our marketplace such as price tags and smart cash registers. Others have less opportunity to take advantage. In the West, you have to be more of a criminal to take from others, not the Indian ease of switching prices depending upon the face in front of them.
In India, there are different categories than good or bad (which refers to character)- instead it is role related- there are personal relations and commercial relations. When it is a commercial relations, prepare to be disrespected, cheated, manipulated, etc. This is just the Indian reaction to their environment. They are so defensive because everyone seeks to take from them. So, they do a pre-emptive act of selfishness, assuming a power struggle is inevitable.
So, despite having some of the strongest hospitality in the world in personal relations, walk into the typical restaurant or hotel and you’ll find poor hospitality. In the West, we expect to be treated very well when we pay, but then when we visit someone’s home, when it isn’t an organized meal/event, they often toss out the “mi casa es su casa” mentality (my house is your house) which literally means make yourself at home but the subtle undertone is “go pour yourself a drink if you want one.”
Entering an Indian home is like entering a high service zone. Water arrives the moment you sit down. Chai or coffee immediately goes on the stove. Crisply snacks come out. Often sweets follow. The Indian norm in hospitality is akin to the best in the West- which is not too common to encounter.
Indians lie easily. They’ve learned to be tricky because of all of their family/social games, and it makes lying normal for them. They don’t even consider it lying, they think of it more as social lubrication- a way to achieve ends without resistance.
Other interesting impressions:
Indians talk more about money than Westerners. Indians will ask you how much your shoes cost you, how much you make, etc. They also know everyone’s salary in their family- close and extended.
Indians don’t talk about sex openly- unless they are city youth or from more affluent backgrounds. And, if you are traveling alone they think it is strange and they feel sorry for you. They feel like you are unloved or something. They don’t know the joy of solo travel.
Indians love asking the same questions to you- what is your kind name? What is your profession? Are you married? What is your profession? What is your good country? What do you think of India? (Which can be translated as: do you appreciate my life? And, the answer is “absolutely yes- your life is wonderful”). etc. There is usually not a second layer to the questions- they seem content with the surface.
There is an absence of critical reasoning skills. They do more rote learning than in the West.
Foreigners are charged a “skin tax”- a surcharge on most everything that doesn’t have a price tag.
The pollution is beyond our comprehension- and is clearly related to the corruption and lack of critical reasoning skills.
The government is more than corrupt- it is incompetent. Corruption can still build great cities. But, lazy, selfish bureaucrats cannot. A huge amount of collected tax money goes unused because it takes work to spend it wisely and government employees tend to abhor work.
Selfish in India knows no bounds.
Love in India knows no bounds.
India has some of the most conscious people in the world.
India has some of the least conscious people in the world.
India is a land of contradictions.
I love India, and I hate it.
If I were to never go back again I would be perfectly content. However, I have flight back to India- for the second time this year- next week.”
Here is a link to the quora page: