India is one of those countries we all secretly want to visit. With its delectable food, exotic scenery and cheap cost of living, most travellers want the opportunity to explore this South Asian country. Many do. However, everyone has their own opinions about India. Some people who have visited didn’t like it as much as they thought, while for others India exceeded their expectations. At the end of the day, everybody has an opinion. What might be a big deal for one person, might be minor for another. That is why it’s good to form your own opinion about a country.

Still, it’s interesting to hear what travelers think about a new country they visit for the first time. It’s especially interesting when someone enters a whole new culture. It’s not really the same when one goes from one state to another in the U.S. Sure, things are different but not a whole lot different.

We’re keen on hearing what people from the Western world thought when they visited India for the first time. Was the food as good as they say it is? Just how affordable is it for your average meal out? Was it the India you imagined in your head? Let’s hear the most common thoughts foreigners have when they visit India for the first time.

20 Everything is so different!

That’s the reason so many people flock to India. Different is what they want. Still, even if we are expecting to be surprised, we’ll still experience a culture shock when we visit India for the first time. India is actually known for causing culture shock for many foreigners.

That is why it’s good to drop all our expectations prior to landing in this South Asian country. Whether we like it or not, the first thing we’ll notice about India is how different it is to our own country. Then again, isn’t that part of the fun? It’s boring if the culture is exactly the same as ours.

19 Am I really in the same country?

As you travel across India, don’t be surprised if one area looks totally different to another area. India’s landscapes are diverse. For example, if we go to Ladakh in the north it looks almost like a desert. Spotting shepherds in this area is common. On the other hand, if we went to Kerala in the south of India, it’s total vast greenery. The two look nothing alike. In fact, we would think we were in another country. Whether we’re going from Delhi to Rajasthan, Ladakh or Kerala, everything and everywhere is diverse in India. There’s a huge contrast between different areas in the country.

18 Look how many people there are!

Over 1.1 billion people live in India. We guess it’s only obvious that people are going to be everywhere we turn. Still, it can be a shock for first-time visitors who aren’t aware of India’s mass growing population.

If you like personal space, India probably isn’t the country for you because, simply put, you’re not going to get any. In some rural areas like villages, it is quieter. However, for the majority of our stay in India we are going to be in close proximity to people. It’s an adjustment at first, but it’s something we do get used to once we’ve stayed here a bit longer.

17 The people are so nice

Of course, people are people. There are good and bad everywhere. On the whole, people in India are warm and welcoming. They are polite people who will ask a lot of questions about your life. Sometimes they’ll even ask to take a picture with you.

Locals are interested in our lives and our culture too, so if it’s possible and you have the time, chat with them. You can learn a lot from their culture too. Some tourists give us a bad name, so we need to build back a good reputation for ourselves.

16 But I don’t appreciate the beggars

People in India are friendly. In fact, they are some of the nicest, warmest people we’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. Still, we will encounter beggars or people trying to sell us stuff on the streets from time to time and that’s not the best experience. Some of these people trying to make a sale can aggressive – especially when we do not buy or we tell them we’re not interested. Then again, if we look at it from a more compassionate point of view, these beggars are poor. They are desperate to make a sale because they depend on it.

15 It’s so colorful

There is nowhere quite like India. In spite of its negative points, there are so many things that make India one of a kind. For instance, all that color! From the women’s saris to the markets selling all those neon-colored powders, it’s a rainbow of color in India. Thanks to its food, festivals and costumes, India has long been associated with color.

We don’t just see it at Holi, a festival devoted to color. We also see it in daily life: women wearing bright saris, food peppered with colorful herbs and spices. Even some buildings are lit up in shades of purples and reds.

14 Maybe it’s not such a good idea to wear that miniskirt

Locals are well-dressed – well, the majority of them anyway. Some find it strange that foreigners dress messy. They are even more shocked when they see tourists wearing low-cut tops and miniskirts. In other words, locals will probably give us a strange look if we go around wearing barely anything. We’ll get a lot more respect from the locals if we dress more appropriately. It’s just part of their culture.

If you really want to experience the culture, why not buy some traditional clothes? They’ll help you blend in and keep you cool in the hot weather.

13 My stomach doesn’t feel too good

A bad stomach is not unusual for first-timers in India. We can’t always pinpoint the exact kind of food that makes us sick. Sometimes it’s the street food, but most of the time it’s the salads, ice creams, and tap water that makes us sick here in India.

Stick to bottled water, peeled fresh fruit, and anything that has been boiled or fried.

It may be hard to resist some of the street stalls selling all that delicious-looking food, but many tourists have experienced food poisoning. If you want to try the street food, look for stalls that are busy so you know the food will be fresher.

12 But the food is AMAZING!

Although we should be careful what we eat, there’s no denying the food is incredible in India. It is nothing like our traditional food and that’s what makes it so memorable. With its use of fragrant herbs and spices, the cuisine is widely appreciated by foreigners.

The cooking style varies from region to region, so what we find in one region will be different to what we find in another. In other words, India is an endless journey of food tasting. There’s Bengali food which is a combination of sweet and spicy flavors; Gujarati food which is largely vegetarian; and many more.

11 Trash is everywhere

With all those people, we guess it’s inevitable that trash is going to be a big problem in this country. It’s such a pity because India is such a stunning country. Something really needs to be done about their trash problem. It can make the place look dirty, which is a great shame because its landscapes are so beautiful. Some people even collect the trash, like water bottles, to sell.

A sad sight is watching the cows eat the trash because they don’t digest it properly and it can seriously affect them. This is one of the biggest culture shocks in the country.

10 It’s so much more than the stereotypes

Every country comes with its own set of stereotypes. It isn’t until we visit these countries ourselves that we realize not all of these stereotypes are true.

India is definitely one of those countries that people have a lot of opinions on. Some people think it’s a totally poor country. But that is far from the truth. India is both rich and poor; modern and traditional. It is such a diverse country, it’s impossible to label it as one thing. In fact, it’s unfortunate that so many define it with narrow-minded beliefs.

9 Why am I being stared at?

In some areas of India, foreigners are not often seen. So if we find ourselves being stared at for a long time by one of the locals, we usually shouldn’t take it as offensive. They are simply curious because they haven’t seen many or any tourists before. It would be no different if we only ever heard English being spoken and then suddenly someone entered speaking a totally different language. Wouldn’t that be strange?

We have to remember that not all locals are accustomed to seeing foreign people on their land. Plus, staring isn’t seen as rude in India.

8 I wish I downloaded Offline Google Maps

India is enormous. Before travelling to India, we should pre-download Google Maps and the map of the city we are visiting so we can save it for offline use. It’s not always easy getting around or navigating in India. And because it’s a totally foreign place to us, we’ll feel a lot more comfortable with Google Maps by our side.

It makes the trip more enjoyable and easy if we know where we are heading and how to get to the places we want to visit. It’s also good to have on us if we catch a taxi, to ensure they are taking us to the right place.

7 It’s as cheap as people say - in some regions

As a destination, India is cheap – in most areas anyway. We can get a room for $5 per night, food for $2 and transport for $1. These are not the prices everywhere and they are the lowest we’ve found, but still, it is cheap here in India.

However, foreigners need to remember it’s not free. It’s still good to create a budget before coming here as to not overspend. Things can still rack up without you realizing. Then again, we think we’re right in saying that the flights are still going to be the most expensive part of your trip.

6 Where can I buy a phrase book?

Not everyone in India speaks English. Sometimes, we’ll have a hard time being understood – especially in the non-touristy areas where shopkeepers rarely meet foreign people. If you’re planning on making trips to India a more common thing, it would be useful to pick up a phrase book to learn some of the basics.

To help you out a little, we’ve found some basic phrases you can use on your next trip. Namaste = hello. Krupiyah = please. Shukriyah = thank you. Acha = good. Kitna rupia = how much? Madat = help. Now you know some phrases to use on your travels!

5 Relax or burnout

It’s only natural to try and see as much as possible while in India, but it’s just not possible to hop around too much without getting burned out. India is a place where one should learn to relax. If we can relax and take our time, we’ll truly begin to appreciate India and its fascinating culture. India can be chaotic and so trying to hop around the country in a bid to see as much as you can just isn’t viable. Try to stay in the city you land in for a minimum of three days before heading to the next city on your agenda.

4 It’s a photographer’s dream

Don’t leave your camera at home. India really is a photographer’s dream. Here, there is so much to see everywhere and it would be nearly impossible to go home without capturing some incredible photos. Every day of your trip to India will bring something new. Therefore, there is always something new for your camera to capture: unique encounters, moments and experiences.

Forget about the common landmarks. Sometimes it’s the daily sights of a child picking up fruit at a street stall that make the best pictures. These are the pictures that give you an insight into the true culture of India.

3 It’s a free country

On so many levels, India appears to be an extremely free country. For instance, locals will be riding the wrong way down the street and they'll think nothing of it. Choosing not to use a bathroom isn't uncommon either.

We’re not talking about everything in India, but on the surface, it can seem like there are no rules here. For that reason, tourists do need to be careful when crossing roads or walking. Things can get chaotic in India – especially on the streets where cars veer in all directions.

2 Hidden gems are everywhere in India

India is rich in hidden gems. Of course, we can visit the well-known travel gems like the Taj Mahal, but India has so much more to offer than that.

If we get off the beaten track and away from the tourist traps, we will discover so much more in India. From the Spiti Valley in the Himalayas to Gangtok in Sikkim, to Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, India offers a plethora of incredible sights for its visitors. Sometimes it’s about exploring the unknown and getting away from the tourist sights. Once we leave these behind, we can appreciate even more about the country.

1 The topsy-turvy love relationship

One minute we will love India, the next minute we can't stand it. That’s not the case for every tourist, but it’s definitely common. That’s because it’s such a diverse country where different circumstances arise each day. One moment we’ll be angry that someone tried to charge us double for something, while the next moment we’ll be overwhelmed with love when a stranger invites us to their daughter’s wedding. These situations really do happen in India. And it’s this contrast of situations that can leave us with an imbalanced perception of the country.

Ultimately, if we learn to relax and appreciate India’s unique culture, we will all come to love this incredible country.

References: dailymail, chasingtheunexpected, culturalindia, global-gallivanting, statravel