The very first thing that strikes you is that there are just incredibly many people in
Of course living in a country with such an incredibly density of people affects the culture of that land. For instance Indians just don’t have the luxury of being particularly fussy about concepts such as privacy and personal space. Their standards are simply worlds apart from ours in the west. This can be seen for instance when standing in line. It is not as in e.g.
The missing concept of personal space also means it can be hard to have conversations with ordinary Indians (of course this doesn’t apply to Delhi upper middle class, who knows all about interacting with westerners and largely have adopted or developed many cultural practices similar to ours). They will simply lean over so close when talking to you, that if you stick out your tongue it will hit their nose.
When you combine this lack of respect for the +1 meter of personal space that westerner’s enjoy with the enormous curiosity that Indians outside the biggest tourist spots have towards westerners, it can for some people become quite unbearable to explore the roads less travelled in India. If you stand at a small town train station and start reading a book or looking through the pictures on your digital camera, you can be certain that within minutes you will have 4-5 Indians standing right behind you looking over your shoulder. I kid you not!
However, it is important to stress that none of this is meant as lack of respect. This is just the normal cultural standard of the land, and in most cases Indians are as respectful and friendly towards westerners as they know how to be. Their enormous curiosity probably underlines that. In many smaller cities the arrival of westerners is an event out of the extraordinary. It must also be said that slowly I have begun to adjust to the different standards of social interaction and the inevitable stares no longer affect me the slightest.
Of course there are many, many other aspects to
I include lastly a few pictures to illustrate my point:
Smalltown, Uttar Pradesh. We stopped for a cricket game and quickly found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of people. A totally surreal experience. At this point the crowds have quieted down a bit and we had managed to get out our cameras. But still many stares. As a point of curiosity, this picture was actually taken because a bus suddenly drove over the playing field.