While it is expected that India will be completely different in regards to sights, sounds, and smells, it’s often the things which are taken for granted which cause the most frustration and misunderstanding. Katey outlines the things which cause her the most consternation here.

The concept of time is not the same in India. It ranges from when things open (the sign may say 10, but people arriving to open the shop or at an appointment at noon is not uncommon), to estimations of how long things take (tomorrow is always the answer…and it never comes!), to universal understandings of the concept itself. The trick is to just treat time like traffic; you’ll eventually get there, probably in one piece, and stressing about it gets you weird looks and ulcers.

Personal Space:
This is not a concept which is fully understood in India. Much like Health & Safety regulations, the idea seems vague, impractical, and not truly Indian in practice. People have lived for centuries in extended family homes, regardless of the size, in villages where everyone knows everyone else or in cities where the crowding is so overwhelming that being alone starts to feel unnatural. Everything takes place in public, including personal hygiene. Queues are understood in concept, but much like driving, if you can squeeze in, you can stay there. So people rush and crowd and stand skin to skin so as not o lose their place. Including when disembarking on a plane. People rush to pull their luggage out and stand in the aisle while the plane is taxiing to the gate.

It is completely normal and understandable that things will be lost in translation, and that communication can be difficult if the dominant language is not native to the traveler. However, it is not always the language translation that is the problem; it is the concept translation. India is country of tradition. Things are done the way they are done because that is how they have always been done. Trying to change things, even a little, like by requesting a dish without an ingredient, or asking if a product could be made in a different color, is met with consternation, confusion, and then a reluctant agreement to look into the request. Sometimes it comes with a no, which is fine as it saves effort, but other times the answer is yes, then things aren’t changed. Because why should they? Just tell the foreigner what they want to hear and they will be fine later.

Despite the challenges of navigating a culture that is very different from the one in which you normally live, the rewards outweigh them almost every time. Just as Katey sometimes has to remember, have patience with the situation, and with yourself. And sometimes you just need to step back and have a quiet afternoon to recharge before jumping back into the experience!

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