Note: I’ll have to publish some posts without photos until I can get faster wi-fi. It’s been difficult getting anything uploaded.
After my experience riding the women’s car on the Metro, I realized it was a perfect example of how every culture has its own way of doing things. Every time I travel, it’s these small cultural differences that stand out the most in the first few days. Soon they become normal to me and a part of the way of life. Here’s a quick list of a few other things I’ve noticed in just my first day in Delhi.
- Driving is on the left, steering wheels are on the right (I keep walking to the wrong side of the car). It also helps if you walk to the left (very hard to get used to).
- Hindi is the main language. Many people speak English, but there are many, many that do not.
- Indians are very helpful, even when they say “no” at first. One example: I walked into a restaurant for breakfast and was told they were closed, but was then asked what I wanted for breakfast. A common response for any request is, “As you wish, sir.”
- There is a constant sound of horns honking, everywhere. Horns are not rude. Many trucks even say, “Please honk” on the back. It’s a friendly way of warning other cars you are there and about to squeeze into the tiny space next to them, or drive through the red light. A four-lane road can easily turn into a seven-lane road because no space is wasted. It looks chaotic, but it works, and amazingly, I rarely have heard any drivers yelling at each other.
- With 1.25 billion people (almost a fifth of the world’s population), it is not surprising that the concept of personal space is very different than what Americans are used to. Expect to be gently pushed and prodded when walking through crowds. If you leave a space in a line between you and the person in front of you, it will be filled by someone else.
- Despite the chaos of Delhi, there is a calmness about Indians. My host mentioned last night that most Indians think of Westerners as emotional, because that is what they see in the media. My first impression is that Indians in general are more patient and less likely to show frustration and anger.
- Men generally wear long pants, and often long-sleeved shirts, despite the steamy, sauna-like feel to Delhi. Women dress modestly with arms and legs usually covered. Some are wearing traditional clothing such as saris, while others are dressed in Western-style clothing.
- Security is everywhere. Bags are checked and a pat-down is given each time you enter the metro. Cars are checked for bombs before entering parking lots of fancy hotels and other places.
- The Delhi metro is among the cleanest and most comfortable metro system I’ve ever ridden. There are recorded announcements throughout your ride. In between announcing stops, a very polite British sounding man or woman’s voice says things like, “Please mind the gap,” “It is forbidden to eat on the Metro,” “Please remove your backpack out of consideration for other riders.” And in the same polite voice you’ll occasionally hear this blunt message: “Please report any left bag or parcel. They could be bombs.”
Understanding cultural differences goes a long way towards having an enjoyable experience while traveling.