Whether you are in India, considering traveling to India, or just curious – here is a bit of information I have gathered, based on my experiences in India so far.
Let me brief you on some key aspects of Indian culture:
Family: Indians, at least from my experience, are very family-oriented. This is actually one of my favorite things about India. It’s honorable. Families take care of each other. Boys grow up to help support the family household. In more traditional settings, daughters grow up, get married, live with and help take care of their husband’s family. Grandparents, parents, children, and their children can live in the same household. Respect is the reason this system works.
Respect: Not every Indian is kind and respectful, but you can bet that every Indian was raised to be. I have come across nothing but respect and kindness, and from my experience, most people are respectful. People who hardly know me are willing to help me in almost every way. I have been treated as a guest and even felt like a part of the family at times. Within families, there is a hierarchy of respect. Everyone gives respect to their elders.
Marriage: This may be hard to understand, but in India arranged marriages are common. Before your eyes widen and you say “WHAT?” please understand that arranged marriages (while I cannot speak for all of them) are arranged with the consent of both the potential bride and groom. It isn’t always like this, though. I’m sure somewhere, someone doesn’t have a choice – but for the most part: arranged marriages are actually consensual. It’s scary to think about, for people who have ever been in love… But there are some pros and cons to arranged marriages. (I’ll talk about that some other time.) “Love Marriages” are less common, but they do happen. ♥
Love: Love is universal. It definitely happens anywhere and everywhere… But because of traditions, it’s not easy for love to flourish in India. It’s even less often that people marry the person they love. It’s sort of an unsung tragedy. On the other hand, due to the mindset of Indian society (and how restricting that can be) love is somehow stronger. You may not get to spend time with your love (distance makes the heart grow fonder) your relationship is most likely a secret, and a simple hug is a powerful display of affection.
Society: Indian society is pretty close-knit. Everyone takes care of everyone else… But like all societies, people divide themselves into groups. Religion, tradition, and social status to name a few. From what I have seen so far, Indians can get along with any other Indian, regardless of their religion, etc… But like anywhere in the world, there are exceptions. Sometimes the “Indian Mindset” can cloud someone’s judgement, or restrict their ability to be accepting or open-minded.
In Indian societies, friends, neighbors, family and even acquaintances like to stay up-to-date on the latest news in your life. Moreover, they also like to tell everyone your business, their business and everyone else’s business. It really is like one big family, but it can be overwhelming at times, as judgement naturally follows. There is a lot of pressure to do what everyone wants you to do, and act the way everyone wants you to act. This happens sometimes in my family. :p (I’m assuming it happens in other families too.)
“Indian Mindset” (What my Indian friends call it.) : Anyone’s mindset can be developed by how they were raised, and their ideas of right and wrong. Many things shape a person’s mindset. The Great “Indian Mindset” is heavily influenced by tradition, religion, society and I’m sure many other aspects. The “local mentality” (another phrase dropped by my friends quite often) specifically applies to the mindset of people locally. Because of the “Indian Mindset”, Indians feel judged or pressured to behave a certain way, according to their specific family values, religious beliefs, etc. In turn, many end up becoming judgmental themselves. According to the “local mentality”, girls and boys cannot spend much time together (an example from experience), life flows according to tradition, and living otherwise can be socially damaging due to the judgement of others in the society.
Now that I’ve covered some basics (and it’s safe to say that after a month of being here, I have a grip on what happens around me)…