Differences in Culture / Lifestyle

Noah Montemarano - India


November 5, 2017

Seeing that my last blog post emphasized shared humanity within my host family,  I thought it fitting to now emphasize the differences in both local culture and lifestyle.

I’ve written a short list of the most noticeable and unexpected differences in the local community. Out of respect, I’d like to preface that this is not necessarily a list about everyone in Pune but a reflection of things I’ve repeatedly in the city.

  1. TRAFFIC: Traffic laws are not regulated at all. Cars drive through red lights. They drive on the side of the road. Motorcycles cut between standstill vehicles. The honking is near incessant. Over the past two months, I’ve seen an auto rick shaw plow through a newspaper stand and have been in minor accidents several times.

  2. BUSES: The bus system is widely inconsistent. Buses can arrive ten minutes before or after the scheduled time. The buses are often packed to the brim. Several mornings, I've found myself with one foot literally hanging out the open door.

  3. SEGREGATED AISLES: On a crowded bus, women will sit to the left of the aisle. Men sit to the right. Early in September, I received many uncomfortable looks after accidentally sitting on the wrong side.

  4. STRAY ANIMALS: Stray animals roam everywhere, from the outskirts to city sidewalks. On an average day, I’ll see about fifty stray dogs and several roaming cows.

  5. SHOES: Shoes are always taken off before entering a home. I've often passed apartment doors with large piles of shoes sitting outside.

  6. CHAI: Drinking chai or coffee in the afternoon is fairly common. When I visited several homes in South Goa, every family offered to serve me Chai and biscuits.

  7. FOOD: With traditional Indian foods, you're not supposed to use utensils. Instead, you eat with your hands, chapati or other bread.

  8. MEAT CONSUMPTION: Most families are vegetarian. Because of the predominantly Hindu government, beef is banned throughout most of the country.

  9. WATER: Many people I've met will not drink anything with dinner. They wait until at least 10 minutes after the meal to drink.

  10. BATHROOM: There is literally no toilet paper anywhere! The toilet can be either western or traditional, a small hole in the ground. You do your business, then use your left hand to wipe while spraying with a small hose. Note: This is why you eat with your right hand

  11. SHOWERS: The bathrooms have no showerheads. Instead everyone bathes by filling several large buckets with warm water. Then then they use the smaller bucket to douse themselves.

  12. CHILDREN: Most of the children I’ve met at school and in my society love rollerblading and WWE.

  13. MOVIES: Second to Bollywood, American horror flicks are strangely popular with some of the nearby families. I’ve already watched “Annabelle Creation” and “The Ring” with my host siblings.

  14. SLEEPING: Most families with young children sleep together. In general, sharing a bed with family members or friends a bed is not very unusual. I experienced this firsthand during my time in Goa, when I shared a bed with my host grandfather.

  15. WRITING: All students at school write with a different hand formation. They use the tips of three fingers to write, as opposed to just two.

  16. POWER OUTAGES: Smaller cities without underground power grids will often experience short power outages. In both Pune and Goa, I've experienced outages several times a week.

  17. MOSQUITOS: Every afternoon, my family closes their windows and bathroom doors to keep mosquitos away.

  18. MENSTRUATION: The more orthodox families are strict about periods. If a woman is  menstruating, she can't touch anything. She's confined to her room for the whole day. During meal time, she can't enter the kitchen but must eat in her room.

Noah Montemarano