It will come as no surprise that India is a bit of a culture shock. India is such a vibrant diverse country that is quite different to Western culture. But then the differences are what makes travel so exciting. Even expecting certain things, the experience is something else. Here are my favourite “culture shock” surprises about India.

1 Juxtaposition of new and old

India is super modern at times as well as deeply traditional. It’s a land of extreme contrasts; new and old, poor and rich, high tech and …well, no tech. It’s hard to sum it all into a simple stereotype.

  1. Locals photographing tourists.

Normally tourists photograph and stare at the locals at get their selfies with them. But in India turnabout is fair play; locals are fascinated by and want to have their photographs with the tourists. Families want to pose with the Westerners. People will stop to stare and watch unabashedly the tourists. Women are more likely to be watched, and the more different you are to what Indian’s are used to, the more they will stare and take photographs; pale skin, red hair, blond hair, tattoos, etc. Mostly is simple curiosity.

  1. Mad Tuc-tucs

No need for rollercoaster or theme park rides, a tuc tuc ride through heavy traffic dodging traffic, cows sitting in the middle of the road, pedestrians, wild dogs,

kohl on baby
  1. Eye make-up

Kohl has been applied to eyes for thousands of years. It is now mainstay of Western makeup styles, but it is also has cultural meaning and symbolism and superstition. In some rural areas kohl is applied to babies and childrens’ eyes to protect them from “the evil eye”.

  1. Train system

I love trains. And I love India’s incredibly long 2km trains which travel the length and breadth of the sub-continent. I don’t love the way they can run hours late… like 5 or even 13 hours late.

  1. Holy Cow

Cows are holy. They are left to roam the streets and sit where they want.

  1. Native Dogs

The cows are holy. The dogs are not, but they are everywhere. And they are so very itchy. They never seem to stop scratching.


What are your biggest/favourite suprises/culture shocks of India?