Wednesday, 28 December 2011

10 Things I Have Learned About India

1.) Speaking English in an Indian accent really works if you want people to be able to understand what you are saying. I appreciate that it can feel strange at first (or even slightly racist like you are channelling The Kumars at No. 42) but it honestly has the desired effect. Just try it

2.) The infamous and occasionally infuriating, but also infectious Indian 'head bob' (a kind of figure of eight movement made from side to side) can mean either "yes" or "no" - you must clarify "haa yaaa na" ("yes or no") to get the answer you need

3.) Everything is negotiable - even food in a restaurant can be brought down in price if you haggle hard enough

4.) Train ticket bookings are not straightforward - if you have a 'waitlisted' ticket it does not mean that it is confirmed.  I recommend that you book in advance with a trusted travel agent who can help you to navigate the complex class system. Basically - sleeper AC for long journeys and ladies, do ask for a top bunk to avoid being groped

5.) Word of mouth is everything in Goa - food, parties, music and places to stay - all the best places come recmomended by locals / long stayers / other travellers - don't rely on hoardings / flyers on the main streets

6.) Go early to parties in Goa - there are often noise restrictions in enforcement from 10pm. I arrived at one party on UK time) only to be told that it was all wrapping up - at 9.50pm!

7.) Timing is a very loose concept in India - expect things to happen in a relaxed pace and learn to go with it

8.) Indian people are very attractive and charming - be prepared to fall for it but try and maintain a sensible head, for many people you are simply a dollar sign

9.) People often tell you what you want to hear - not what you need. Check facts and check them again, in shops and with official people rather than people on the street

10.) Don't be afraid to dig beneath the surface - there are adventures around every corner - particularly in Goa - whether that be playing with local children in the grounds of a temple or taing chai in a leather shop whilst being serenaded with Bollywood love songs by seasonal musicians, India is abundant in experiences and people are waiting to engage with you. Embrace it!

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