India is a wonderful place to spend a holiday. At the same time, it can seem incredibly complicated and diverse, especially for people raised in the Western hemisphere. India’s culture is radically different in several aspects from that of the West, and this can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. So let’s look at three things to remember when you are travelling to India.
#1 Food Matters
Diet and culinary aspects are incredibly diverse in India, a land of 1.2 billion people and several groups, each with their own customs and traditions. Most cities have restaurants that serve up quite cosmopolitan fare, so that any palate would be satisfied. However, in a few cities such as Mumbai, beef is a bit of a sensitive issue in recent times thanks to Ghar Wapsi campaign, and only buffalo beef is allowed.
Seafood-lovers shouldn’t have any trouble satisfying their taste buds, especially in coastal areas. And of course, if you are vegetarian, you should find a whole host of delicacies to choose from. Regarding spiciness, though it is hard to generalize, Indian food tends to be a bit on the spicy side compared to Western fare, so eat with caution.
#2 The Caste System
The Indian caste system is a whole complicated issue by itself, but most Westerners misunderstand it thanks to incomplete reporting, and sometimes factual inaccuracies. Though historically designed as a system of training and work allocation, the caste system has been through some turbulent times, and especially when the British were ruling India, was used by them to split communities into factions and break resistance to occupation. Today, many Indians, especially in urban areas, aren’t all that bothered about caste, though it still a sensitive issue to many.
In general, unless you know someone well, stay clear of the subject until you are confident of raising it.
#3 Indian Mythology
Indian mythology is making a huge comeback in recent times with popular television shows on the subject. It isn’t that Indian’s had forgotten their myths, it’s just that they’re back with a bit of a bang. So you will definitely endear yourself to your hosts if you bothered to learn a bit about the akashic records (of Edgar Cayce fame), Krishna, Shiva, Mahabharat and so on.
There are a host of books and even TV shows and movies (you will need English subtitles though). Most of these can be purchased online, and there are even free public domain ebooks available.