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I'm an American who visited India for the first time. Here are 10 things that surprised me.
I've never been here before
Recently, I took a trip to India for the first time.
I grew up in America, so I consider myself a life-long American. That is me, and this is my country. A couple of months ago, I said, “Fuck it!” and bought one plane ticket to India, with no return trip booked. And what I found? People in India have a slightly different way of going about this grand old thing we call “Life,” and it’s pretty different from what I am used to in the great country of US of A.
Here are some things that really surprised me about this place—and for the record, I’m not one that gets easily surprised. Seriously. I did not even flinch at that one video of the car driving down the road for a while and then that scary man pops up screaming. I was not even one iota of surprised. So trust me when I say these things are surprising for an American. And they might even be for you, too.
The people are much more brown than the people I’m used to in the U.S.
In America, I am used to seeing white people. Maybe some Indians here and there, but for the most part, I’m seeing whites in my day to day.
In India, I mostly saw people who had darker skin. I literally am not making a value judgment here—please read this section as neutrally as you can.
This is just one thing that surprised me.
The people here do not speak English.
When I was growing up, my boys and I all spoke English. But in India, it seems like most people speak a different language. And when they do try to speak English—like to graciously help me get where I’m trying to go, or help facilitate a business transaction that I’m making much more difficult with my particular brand of American stubbornness—it sounds weird.
So I guess one difference is that in America, most people speak English, and in India, the languages are pretty varied. This surprised me.
Culturally, Kerala is a much different beast than parts of Northern India, like, say, Delhi or Rajasthan.
I’ve been surprised by how unique the southern state of Kerala is compared to my time up north. It is a veritable melting pot of religion (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity) and colonial influence (British, Arab, and Portuguese). And although a significant sector of the economy relies on repatriation, college-level education is highly valued, and skilled workers seem to be able to find knowledge jobs much more easily. The cuisine, too, represents a departure from the norm—seafood and tropical staples, like plantains and coconut milk, instead of the North Indian fare found in the average UK or US establishment.
This was surprising to me, but maybe not to you all!
The taxis here are weird as fuck.
Growing up in America, you’re used to a few precious commodities: condos and townhomes; chicken sandwich; beautiful, buxom babes; yellow taxi cabs. In India, it seems like they didn’t get the memo on taxis.
Cars are supposed to have four wheels, and they have steering wheels; I was taught this in Montessori school. Not in India, though! These things hit a max speed of 4 miles per hour, there is no door, and the guy driving it is steering it like a scooter with flip-flops on.
Another surprising thing about India—they don’t care about the vehicular safety of their tourists. Again, I’m not making any judgments here.
In India, old people seem to be treated like humans.
The best thing about growing up in America is that when my grandparents become aesthetically unpalatable to me and my lifestyle, I can shove them in a home with other old people.
But here in India, I’ve learned that old people still provide value to the great human experiment. And as you grow older, as you tend to the garden of your family, you do not cut out the aging oak tree that planted its roots for you—you bring them in closer, because they are the center, the beating heart. Instead of showing your parents the door, you show them compassion. Instead of abject disregard and, frankly, a vaguely punitive living situation, you are respectful, grateful for their wisdom.
I was surprised by this in India.
The food in India makes my mouth feel not good.
When I am back home in my home country of these blessed United States, I am mostly eating mozzarella sticks, apple pie with cheese slice, and Subway tuna footlong. These foods do not hurt my mouth.
In India, it seems like they enjoy inflicting pain on themselves. The food hurt me. My inside mouth part tingles. It does not feel good. I ordered a piece of chicken—I’ve had chicken before, but this was not like any other chicken I’ve had. Instead of being fried and covered in crispy, it was covered in saucy, and the saucy make my tongue go numb. I am heading to the bathroom now.
In India, there are no toilets.
When I was seven, I was potty-trained on a toilet. This was the easiest, most efficient way for me to unload my huge, corn-fed dumps.
In traveling to India, I’ve found that there’s no clean ceramic rim for me to sit on while I scroll through my phone. I’ve only tried one place, so this is my frame of reference, but I’m going to extrapolate and assume there are no toilets in this whole country. Right now, I’m in this restaurant’s bathroom, but I wouldn’t even call it a bathroom—this is a legit hole. How am I supposed to use this?
This is another thing that surprised me about India. If you ever make it out here, let me know if this surprises you, as well!
I’m currently stuck in this bathroom.
In America, if you fall into the toilet, it’s chill. You can call your mom and she will come pry you out with Paw-Paw’s old shovel.
In India, though, it seems as though I have no real way out of this hole. Both of my legs have fallen through, but my waist is just slightly larger than the circumference of the hole, so I’m stuck with my legs dangling, possibly going a bit numb. I don’t have enough upper body strength to hoist myself up out of the hole, so all I can do right now is call out for help.
Unfortunately, as I said before, the people here don’t speak English. So no one is coming to help me, I think. I also need to buy a return flight.
The girls are sexy here! Lol
Growing up in America, you think, “Oh, every American is hot. Everyone who is not is an ugly freak.” Turns out that’s not the case.
In India, there are some truly beautiful women. I’ve been a huge creep to them, as well, and guess what? In India, that also doesn’t really fly, more or less.
So that’s India for you.
Let me know if you’re ever in the area!
I hope you all had a moment to check out Nabeel Chollampat’s excellent post, “I’m an American Who Visited India For The First Time. Here are 10 Things That Surprised Me.”
What I really admire about this post is Nabeel’s affable guilelessness, and his rube-like, clout-free willingness to earnestly share casual, unresearched, and offensive observations about the world around him.
Reader of this newsletter LOVE to see the world through someone else’s myopia. They particularly love to see things that are very familiar to them described by someone who is unwilling to understand the forces behind them.
There are lots of reasons why!
One reason is that it is nice and easy to read things that are nice and easy. Another is that it is hard to read things that are hard to read :(