Blogger Anna Tihaya was born and grew up in Moscow.
But for the past 9 years, she has been living in Puducherry, South India, with her husband.
Her blog Indian Wife contains some pretty interesting facts about daily life and customs in India that you won’t find in your typical travel guide.
1 – Potatoes are never eaten alone.
Potatoes are one of the ingredients of a vegetable sauce served with rice but you don’t eat them separately.
One time, Anna cooked potatoes with vegetables which puzzled her husband who asked, “What are we going to eat this with?” Ever since then, she always boils rice with potatoes.
2 – Ants and geckos are as much part of the house as pets.
Insects and lizards are so prevalent that even special extermination only works for a couple of weeks before the critters come back as normal. It’s so normal that locals are unfazed seeing ants on their plate.
In Anna’s case, a gecko and its family decided to make a home in their house and they know it’s still there because of the noise it makes.
3 – Skin whitening and hair removal services are available in beauty salons.
Indians value light skin, big bright eyes, and long shiny hair and this is what the local beauty industry caters to. In salons, skin whitening, waxing, manicure, and pedicures are quite popular in salons and hair spas.
Additionally, many people rub turmeric on their faces in the belief that it removes small hairs from the skin. Of course, this also results in women having really yellow faces.
4 – Women’s health doctors are hard to find.
Gynecologists either run their own small clinics or work in big hospitals but either way, they don’t keep your medical history.
A doctor will listen to you while making small notes on a piece of paper then issue a prescription or instructions on what to do. But no one really cares if you will follow the recommendations or not.
5 – It’s normal for men to hug and hold hands.
In India, the sight of men hugging and holding hands doesn’t automatically mean they’re gay. They’re just normal behavior among all men. In fact, often you can see men riding motorcycles with the passenger hugging the one in front and it’s perfectly normal.
6 – People shower several times a day due to the hot and humid climate.
Hygiene is important for Indians with many taking showers at least once a day. During hot days, four showers a day is typical.
A lot of people also put sandalwood powder on their body, wash their hair often, and put a cream containing coconut oil on the hair afterward.
7 – Indians don’t eat food that was cooked the previous day.
This may be a holdover from the times when they did not have refrigerators and food could easily spoil. Even today, Indian housewives only cook one meal at a time, using only refrigerators for ingredients but not to store cooked meals.
They may tell you not to throw food away and that they will eat it the next day but for sure, the next day they will come up with a thousand excuses why they can’t eat it.
8 – Restaurants and cafes often don’t carry toilet paper but there is always a place where you can wash your hands.
In fact, these eateries can have between one to ten sinks, depending on how popular they are.
Also, Indians don’t use toilet paper although they do eat with their hands (only the right one). But their hands are always clean.
9 – Relationships before marriage are unacceptable.
Indians don’t have the typical “boyfriend/girlfriend” relationship except in 4 or 5 large cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. This is because marriages are usually arranged and there should be no romantic history between the two partners. Marriages can also occur at any age.
Talking about romantic problems is also unacceptable. While some people still do that, they keep it as secret as possible and only to people they absolutely trust.
10 – “Have you eaten?” is their way of saying hello.
A visit at lunchtime will definitely see them feeding you until you are full and only then will they ask you why you came.
And whether they know each other or not, when two people meet they ask each other if they’ve eaten.
11 – Important documents such as will and applications are still typed with typewriters on the streets.
Special secretaries that can type official documents still exist because many people in India still don’t have access to computers or even typewriters. They typically ply their business on the streets.
12 – A woman who is 7 months pregnant returns to her parents’ home.
This is because Indians believe that at this time, a pregnant woman is unable to be a full-fledged housewife and should, therefore, rest and eat more healthy food. Once the baby is 3 months old, she returns to her husband.
An astrologer’s prediction is crucial in choosing the exact day and time a wife can return to her husband and her appearance should also be traditional at that time.
13 – Birthing locations are typically not very clean.
Doctors understand the risks and once a pregnant woman gets to the hospital she starts getting antibiotic injections as a precaution. This continues up until the moment the woman is discharged.
One other thing is that hospitals don’t feed their patients. Anna’s husband had to bring her favorite foods when she gave birth (interestingly enough, her baby seemed to enjoy the croissants).
14 – Cafes serve very big meals.
The Thali is the standard Indian lunch. It involves a waiter bringing a dish with metal plates that are put on the table. Sauces are added to the rice any which way you want. Sweets and tea cap off the meal. Indians just love taking tea with milk and a lot of sugar.
Expensive lunches go for about $3 but the average meal is around $1.
15 – Many families don’t want to have daughters.
It’s all because of the dowry – what a bride gives when getting married. It can be a house, a business, or a large amount of money. Without a dowry, a daughter risks not getting married at all.
Because of this, the Indian government has prohibited telling future mothers the sex of their babies. Even Anna couldn’t get that information when she was pregnant.
16 – Muslim women wear colorful clothes.
While we are used to associating Muslim women with black burqas, things are different in India.
On a visit to Mumbai, Anna was amazed at how many Muslim women wore colorful clothing of different designs.
17 – You can only cut your nails at a specific time.
In India, it’s taboo to cut your nails and hair after sunset and this applies to people both in small villages and big cities. Nails and hair also can’t be cut on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Violating these prohibitions increases the concentration of negative energy in one’s house.
18 – Dads actively take part in raising children.
Indian families have 2-3 children on average and are devoted to them. Parents dress their kids in different clothes, take them to cafes and restaurants, and walk with them in the evening.
It’s normal to see fathers conducting business along with their babies. For example, a father could take his baby to the cafe as he drinks coffee with his friends. And he still manages to pay enough attention to the baby and his friends will even take turns holding the kid.
19 – If you visit the Venkateswara Temple you will go home bald.
The Venkateswara Temple is found in Tirupati. It is famous around the world because Indians from all over the country visit the temple to sacrifice their hair to the god.
It costs 50 rupees to sacrifice one’s hair. You will receive a receipt and a razor which you can bring to any of the dozens of barbers in the hall ready to cut the hair of devotees. Anna went once and took a photo of herself afterward and she was really satisfied with the result.
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