After so much time in India, it seems I am turning Indian, but I’m not the only one. I see many expat friends changing the longer they stay in India. It’s the small things I catch myself doing or someone points out to me. It’s almost impossible to immerse yourself in a culture for a couple years and not change a little bit. A culture like India that is so strong and unchangeable, which means inevitably you yourself will change to fit in.
Disclaimer: No, I don’t actually think I’m turning Indian. This is just a fun post! Try not to take it too seriously ;)
22 Ways You Might Be Becoming Indian
1. You start doing “the head wobble”
The most obvious to the people around you will be “the head wobble”. If you’re doing this, you’ve let India in. Sometimes I do it on the phone and I forget they can’t see me answering. You don’t know exactly when the head wobble became your primary form of answering questions but to be honest, you kind of love it along with the “tsk” noise you probably make (combined with the angry head wobble) when someone pisses you off (I’m talking to YOU, internet company).
In case you’re unaware the head wobble can mean literally anything from yes, no, maybe, probably, or it’s not likely but we’ll see tomorrow… just with a little different facial expressions, speed, and angle! Here’s a video to help you decode. Although, they make a joke of it you can really decode once you see people do it enough.
2. You buy VERY local food
You don’t like to buy bread from anyone except the local bakers that send out boys on bikes. They come by ringing their bell, and you have your 18 rs ready to get 6 pao or poi for the next few days. You might know which shawarma stand is the best or which shop makes the best sweet lime soda. You definitely have a secret restaurant to get home-cooked Indian meals or hot soup when you’re sick. You can even text the owner and ask her to please send it to your house when you really can’t be bothered to leave home.
3. You have a friend and helper, you call him “babu”
You need help in India and your best buddy, who you call “Babu” per his request, can help you with just about anything. Sometimes in conversation your expat friend will say “Babu” and it will take a few minutes to realize you’re not talking about the same Babu. Now you know you have to say, “my babu… her babu” to differentiate.
My Babu is a taxi driver and helps me with tons in Goa. He seems to know all the answers.
Then there are “the boys”. Need the car washed, the carry-out dinner picked up, ran out of phone recharge, or ran out of milk while cooking? If it’s become second nature to pay someone to go take care of things like a true “middle class” Indian would, you’re slowly becoming Indian. It’s nothing to feel bad about as it keeps people making money!
4. Your bindi obsession
If you’re a girl you want to wear one every day all day, and if you’re a guy you love to see girls wearing them. Girls hate when they get sweaty and it comes off!
But you’re really out of control when you start having this problem: even though a packet costs about 20 cents, you stop just before putting on your “good blue one” and think, “no I should save that one for a special occasion!” What?! You’re insane. (Also, I hear they’re going out of style but I pray it isn’t true.)
clearly dressing Indian is not on this list
5. You don’t need toilet paper anymore
You think it’s nice for an added drying off, but totally not necessary anymore thanks to the sprayer. No more details needed here.
6. Your Hinglish comes naturally
Sometimes you write/speak in broken hindi-english when you’re trying to text or speak English only. Example:
“Rachel, is it cheap?”
“ha, 70 rupees only.”
If you read my blog and think I sound like English is my second language, that would be a combination of my lack of true writing skills and the integration of talking with friends from Assagao all day, people who help at the house, or people I do business with on the phone.
You are starting to add “only” to the end of sentences and use fragments as sentences far too often. Oh yes, there are times that “time passing” comes up in your conversations. Maybe you’ve even learned to speak cow… aka you make the noises the cow herders make when they are in the road and sure enough, they scatter.
Conversations with local friends might go like this, “my allergies are bad.. because of the A/C… tsk tsk…it’s so bad..” Then the locals agree yes, allergies are 100% because of A/C (nothing to do with dust or animals, obviously).. You may have learned infections, rabies, and dry hair.. are also all due to A/C. You find yourself agreeing when a friend says, “The dog is behaving badly… maybe it’s the A/C! Making him crazy!” … Yes, you’re becoming Indian!
Many Expats Also have a housekeeper, although that’s not necessarily “Indian” and is more rich Indian just like rich Americans have them. The other guys are security (and gardeners, electricians, snake catchers, bug squashers, mechanics, and carpenters!)
8. You drive & don’t bat an eyelash at the craziness
You used to think driving was such a challenge so you started out living in India with a driver taking you everywhere. Now, you don’t break a sweat even in the worst of traffic. You pass two semi-trucks at a time now (around a curve when you can’t see what’s coming. Just kidding. I hope you’re not that Indian driver). 20 cows in the road? No problem, you, your cow noises, and your car or scooter will get through.
So much oil… on your skin… in your hair… on scars… You’re probably really into coconut oil. You might have also be deep-frying a lot. If you saw the commercial for an air deep-frier and thought “no, I’ll keep my big pot of pure oil to cook everything in!”, good job… you’re turning Indian!
Your beauty regime has changed. You put olive oil in your hair once a week and wrap your hair in a turban, or crack an egg and put the yolk on your head, and you’ve been warned to wash your hair way less. Hair dressers have told you your hair is not good at all, and have threatened to cut it all off. After you looked at the gorgeous thick hair of the Indian girls around you, you have finally started to trust their opinion. FYI, you might want to make a lemon sugar scrub and keep it in the fridge since you can’t buy your favorite face wash here.
10. Sweet lime soda or sugar cane?
You use to hate both, the sugar cane even made you sick. Then suddenly one day, you thought, “man I need a sweet lime soda…. Wait why am I thinking this.. I hate sweet lime soda!” Slowly, you started to like it. You stop on the street and pull over the car for a sugar cane. You’re starting to become confused about your identity now ;)
11. You know how to get by without an oven
Having no oven, frozen foods, or using a microwave doesn’t phase you anymore. You used to think you couldn’t live without these things. Hello, we all NEED frozen pizza! Although everything takes much longer, and you actually use a gas stove you light with some “clicker” (I know!)…
You might be unlucky enough to have one burner only (did you catch that only?)… so when you fry bacon, you set that aside, then you bake beans, set that aside, THEN you make mac n cheese… THEN reheat it all a little bit.. then eat!
12. Ok, don’t get mad at us… but we’re line jumpers
You jump lines like nobody’s business. It’s the ONLY way to get things done around here. Now, you won’t jump if the line is a nice straight single file… but if it’s a messy free for all, you’re going to be first. If someone is too slow to hand over your boarding ticket at airport security, you’re squeezing past. Indians don’t bat an eyelash, as they think, “ah smart girl” since cutting in line is an (annoying) staple in Indian culture. Western tourists on the other hand almost have their mouth fall off as the gape thinking, “screw that girl! Who does she think she is!?” 20 minutes later when you’re done with what you needed and they are still in line, not budging, you know they’re contemplating doing the same thing. Give them a few years and they will start doing it too.
On the other hand… just imagine someone trying to jump line in front of you! Hell no, you will step in front of them or smush up against them and bump ’em to the sidewalk!
13. You might not have played Holi
You don’t play Holi every year. Guess what, lots of Indian girls are “over it”. Shocking, I know. It was a thing to do as kids, or for drunk guys… but many of your Indian girlfriends stopped playing. You still like it but as each year goes by, it gets less appealing.
Plus, one and half months later you had multi-colored hair because you didn’t know you were supposed to oil it heavily before and the colors have horrible chemicals in them. Here’s a blog post about what Holi in like in North India.
14. You indulge in Indian celebrity gossip
Indian celebs are 10x more arrogant than US ones.. that’s the truth. You watch Looks Who’s Talking or Coffee with Karan and laugh over the crazy answers celebs give. “if you could have dinner with one person dead or alive who would it be?” Indian celeb answer: “Myself.. I am the most interesting person I know”. You find yourself clicking on Guiltybytes blog to see who Alia Bhatt is dating… even though she drives you crazy!
15. You speak a little Hindi or local language
Maybe you took classes during monsoon or in a big city class like ones in Bangalore, or you just started picking it up. You probably like to practice with your Indian friends and surprise drivers with grammatically incorrect nonsense.. “Hi friend… that tree is green. You are good. I like many vegetables. That cow is pretty!” Man, that felt good but the driver has no idea where to take you.
On the beach in Goa when the women come around trying to sell sarongs, you tell them in Konkani no thanks and they laugh, but leave you alone.
When someone cuts you and you’re not in the mood to play line jumping games, you crack out in Hindi, “I am standing here” with a mean little attitude. When someone pushes you in a crowded place, you say, “don’t touch me” or maybe even pull out a new gangster one friends teach you like “you’re finished!!”
16. Deadly wild animals are the norm
King cobra by the trash cans? Another 8 foot python in the back garden? Monkeys screeching as your wake up call or coming up to take a drink of the pool while you’re floating in it?
It’s all becoming pretty normal to you. While at one time, you couldn’t even look at a photo of a snake, now you swerve past a monster python in Goa or don’t take a second glance at a snake charmer’s open basket.
17. You have a shop for everything
It used to be a prime parking spot at Walmart and getting all your errands done in one place, easy peasy… so maybe it took you a while to get used to having to go somewhere new for each errand: the electric shop for special screw-in light bulbs, Royal foods for chicken, Ajays for beef, the market for veg, the flower guy, the hardware store on the corner, and the tailor to make new crop tops or a leather bag because you can’t buy them how you like them. What used to take hours, now you can do pretty fast!
18. You have new vocabulary for your phone (USA people)
What’s your mobile number?
“double eight, double eight…”
In the US we say cell phone not mobile, but you’re probably picked up the Indian/UK way of talking about talking on the phone. “I’ll send you SMS” you tell people, rather than saying text message. And double this, double that was something you got used to fast.
19. You act like you “know” India like a local.
You don’t… but who can blame us? Some things start to make sense from state to state. While driving in Goa and having some huge SUV almost run you off the road, or ride your tail but not pass when they can and you might say, “look at the plate.. of course they are from Maharashtra! They think they own the road!”
When talking about work in Kerala: “it’s impossible to get work done in Kerala… those unions!”
Or in Ratnagiri one might say “all the pretty girls are from Ratnagiri!” when you drive past clusters of gorgeous women in the fishing village. You might even catch yourselves talking politics of India, but let’s be real you’re only right 1/2 the time!
20. You’ve become a bit more demanding
You don’t want to admit it… but it happened. At a restaurant or hotel when you’re told it’s “not possible, sir/madam”, you want to know why. Here’s an example: I stop at the restaurant of the hotel on my way to my room and ask, “can I have an empty cup.. I want to make tea in my room.. there’s a kettle in there”.
“no, madam… it’s not possible. Have tea here.”
“why isn’t it possible… just give me the cup, I’ll bring it back”
“madam, new management… new rules.. we have never given a cup away…”.
Well, needless to say you take your cup and they can just stare in disbelief while you walk away with it. There are such silly reasons at hotels and restaurants where it’s NOT POSSIBLE when it easily is (sometimes for some people, but not for others).
Indians do this on a much bigger scale like when traffic cops try to stop the car saying you can’t go that way and the driver does whatever he wants anyways and pretends not to hear… but hey fellow expats, we’re getting there! Although, don’t be the one on the plane demanding they take your phone to the cockpit and charge it ;)
21. You have to ask for spice
You hate that because you’re a foreigner, they tone down the spice to non-existent. So, you have to tell them to make it normal. In Goa you used to think the Goan sausages were too much to handle, now you have it on your pizza! You eat the same thing as a friend in town and they get a very sick stomach, while your stomach of steel helps you feel just fine.
22. You ask the question, “What are you doing this monsoon?”
No more “what are you doing this summer?” You know what all your friends are up to “in monsoon”. Even people in the north will come south to explore Goa in the monsoon at amazing discounted prices.
(23. even though this post is titled ’22’… whoops!)
You love the funny laws and festivals
… even if you don’t understand them. You love when people go by with giant Ganesh’s and throw them in wells… or when they climb human pyramids to grab a bowl of curd and actually risk their lives (although it’s not curd, its money). You don’t bat an eyelash when people go past in a huge group singing and playing drums. It’s become the thing in India you love. Although, the dry days that accompany so many holidays aren’t your favorite.
So, are you becoming a little bit Indian?
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So funny, I think a lot of these are fairly universal for any expat. Especially liked the part about speaking Hinglish. I know that I find myself sprinkling in Portuguese words, phrases, and the occasional pronunciation when speaking to friends and family back home. Why don’t they understand that when I say huffles I am talking about Ruffles chips? Sometimes, instead of my Portuguese getting better I think my English is just getting worse!
Really enjoy your writing and your stories of life in India.
haha how funny thanks dale!
I totally loved this post. You have put up all the strange quirks of living in India in the best possible way. Truth with a pinch of salt and a whole lot of humour.Thanks for sharing this.
thanks so much
Chinese people have the same issue with the A/C! They blame everything on the A/C when it gets hot out. One woman even told me the A/C made her cat sick. How cold is your house lady?
This was very insightful. I’ve never been but now I’ll know what to expect. I always love learning about the strange laws in all the countries I visit.
Hahaha that was a fun post Rachel! Being Indian, I could so relate to it. That head nodding video is hilarious and oh so true. And to top that, it embarrasses me to say that I add only at the end of my texts and even when I speak though I totally know its not correct. By the way, did you know that the reason people add it because in Hindi, we tend to emphasize on sentences in a similar way, but in english, the easiest and most common way to do so, is by adding only hahaha. I cringe while doing so, but its such a bad habit!
hhaah i say it all the time! even in emails!
If you are checking whom Alia Bhat is dating and watching Coffee with Karan ,then you have certainly become an Indian :))
One of your best posts ,enjoyed reading it.
you are adjusting very well.. :-)
Head wobbling is incurable.
Haha yes!! I picked up a lot of these in India, but a year in Nepal sealed the deal :)
OMG I love this post soon much! I’ve never lived in India but it’s my favourite country to travel and so much of this rang true! I love how affectionately you’ve described the little quirks and perks of India:)
Even after just being in India for a few months, we definitely starting wibble-wobbling and it’s soo hard to get rid of it again! I’m sure people in other countries find this strange, so we are happy to be going back to India.
once you head wobble, always you head wobble ;)
Haha I still haven’t made it to India, but this post had me laughing. I’m hoping to make my way over there soon in a year or two!
glad you liked it!
Brilliant post Rachel.
As you may remember I’ve visited India numerous times so as an outsider I can relate to all these traditional behaviours of Indians.
Thanks for the fabulous head wobble video, that is brilliant. It is a little clearer for me now but I’ll have to watch it a few times. I often get confused when on business trips there.
Good on you for driving in India, I think you are very brave. Those roads scare me at times.
As for pushing in whilst in queues, I think I’m far too British. This really drives me nuts when people push in. I even had an argument with a rude American who was pushing in at an airport security line in Charles De Gaulle Airport. Maybe he’d just come from India……? ;-)
haha yes i think the brits have a very hard time cutting lines :) my boyfriend is just now starting to this year and he’s a brit living in india for 5 years… after 1 year i was line jumping – but really i cant get my shopping done in the market if i dont! and i dont cut outside india
All so true… I’m not even laughing at these (although some people might find them funny), because it’s simply the truth!!! Great list!
Haha a great list it’s pretty funny some of the things that you pick up.
This made me chuckle. Guilty of almost all when in India, but to my eternal dismay I can not head wiggle! And I have practiced!!
lol if you stay long enough it will just come to you and you wont even know you’re doing it :)
On my 17th Visit… still no wiggle! ;-)
LOL no way!! haha you have a broken wiggler I think ;)
hehe this is so true and considering Goa. The unique Goan thing what men and are you going to Mapusa, or what time is church service. When meeting Indians, it is very easy to spot a Goan among a group of Indians, when they open their mouth.