India is a country made up of many different cultures and lifestyles. Although India has incredible temples, breathtaking views, and stellar food, it is also important to note that everyday life does not resemble a Bollywood film. India is still very much a developing country, and therefore studying abroad in India can be challenging at times. From the apparent poverty in the streets to the frequent power outages, life is much different from the USA. Yet, it is in these instances where you can get to know yourself on a deeper level and grow immensely as a human being. Here are a few things that may ease your culture shock in India when you arrive:
Bathrooms and Showers
It is not very common for bathrooms to supply toilet paper, so be prepared to carry some tissues with you. Additionally, bucket showers are the norm for many households due to the way hot water is supplied. It is a little hard to get used to but you soon become a pro.
Often times beggars come up to you on the road. It is advised not to give money to them because they usually are part of beggar networks and do not receive the money you give them directly. It can be very difficult, but it is best to stand your ground and tell them no.
When I first arrived to India I thought everyone was going to speak fluent English. This is certainly not the case. Many people do know a little English but Hindi and the local languages are more commonly used. Learning some basic Hindi phrases goes a long way.
Power and Water Outages
India’s power grid is not as developed as the US and sometimes there is not enough electricity to power the entire city. Therefore, depending on where you are, be prepared for a couple 1-2 hour power outages a week. Additionally, sometimes there are water shortages. If that is the case, many families stock up on water and wait. It usually does not last for more than 1 day.
Traffic and Getting Around
India is home for a lot of people and a lot of vehicles. Traffic laws are loosely followed, which can make crossing the street a bit challenging at times. The main source of transportation for students is auto rickshaws. They are little mini taxis that take you to your destination. It is recommended to have your destination address written down or memorized in the local language to ensure you get where you’re going. Uber and Ola (an Indian ride sharing app) are also extremely useful and easy to use. They also can be the cheapest option.
Trash and Pollution
Trash and pollution are prevalent in Indian cities. Be prepared to see a lot of trash on the streets and feel pollution in the air. Often times people tie scarves around their head to prevent breathing in the air directly.
Remember, it is normal to feel culture shock and homesickness while you are abroad. It happens to everyone in some way or another. When it does happen though, it is important to know how you can take time and make yourself feel better, whether it be watching your favorite television show or going on a walk while listening to your favorite song. When there was a power outage at my house, I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood. I discovered a park in my neighborhood that I had no idea existed. I now go there often with my favorite book and a cup of tea. It makes me realize that some things do happen for a reason!
Jessica Hyland is an International Affairs student at George Washington University and studied abroad with IFSA on the Contemporary India program in Pune, India in fall 2018. She served as the Health and Safety Advisor for IFSA through the Work-to-Study Program.