Bright Side

A Russian Girl Has Lived in India for 9 Years and Is Still Struggling to Get Used to Local Traditions. Here’s What Surprises Her

Meet blogger Anna Tihaya. She was born and grew up in Moscow, but she has been living in South India for almost 9 years, in Puducherry.

Anna writes a blog called Indian Wife, and Bright Side was interested in the facts that she talks about. You can’t find these things in regular travel guides.

1. Potatoes are not a separate part of the meal.

In India, potatoes are considered ingredients of a vegetable sauce that is served with rice, but they’re never eaten alone.

Once, I cooked potatoes with vegetables. When my husband came home, he was amazed and asked me, “What are we going to eat this with?” Now, I always boil rice with potatoes. I don’t eat it myself, but I watch my husband mix rice with potatoes and eat all of it.

2. Ants and geckos live in houses like family members.

It is practically impossible to get rid of insects and lizards in your house. Special extermination helps for only a couple of weeks and then everything returns back to normal. Locals are accustomed to this and they never worry when they see an ant on their plate.

We also have an uninvited family member — a gecko. It invited its friends to our house and created a family, right in front of our eyes. We know it’s still around here somewhere by the noises it makes.

3. In beauty salons, you can get skin whitening and hair removal

The main signs of beauty are light skin, big bright eyes, and long shiny hair. This is what the local beauty industry is oriented toward. The most popular salon procedures are skin whitening, waxing, manicure, pedicure, and different hair spas.

Many people rub their faces with turmeric because they believe it removes small hairs from the skin. This is why there are women with absolutely yellow faces. Me, personally, I’m not sure which is better: extra facial hair or that yellow facial color.

4. It’s hard to find a woman’s health doctor here.

Gynecologists either work in big hospitals or have their own small businesses. In either case, there is no medical file with your history.

When you visit a doctor, they listen to everything you want to tell them, then they make small notes on a piece of paper, and give you a prescription or an instruction for what you need to do. Nobody really cares what you will do with these recommendations.

5. Men’s friendships include hugging and holding hands.

In India, men’s friendships are more affectionate than in other countries. Friends here often hug each other and walk holding hands. And it is not that they’re just helping each other walk, but they actually hold hands!

You can see friends riding the same bike, with the one behind hugging the one in front and it is considered perfectly normal here. This is really cute and endearing, in my opinion.

6. Because of the hot and humid climate, people shower several times a day.

Indians really care about their hygiene. An average person takes a shower at least once a day, and when it is hot, they do it around 4 times a day.

Many people here put sandalwood powder on their body. They wash their hair very often too, and put a cream that contains coconut oil on it afterward. They also always wear clean clothes.

7. Indians would never eat food that was cooked yesterday.

This is most likely because they still remember the days when they did not have refrigerators and the rice that was cooked one day before really could cause food poisoning. Indian housewives still cook only one meal at a time right now. They only use refrigerators to store ingredients, but not meals that they’ve already made.

They may swear that they will eat something the next day and ask you not to throw it away. But rest assured: they will find a thousand reasons to not eat a meal that was cooked yesterday.

8. There is no toilet paper here, but there is always a place where you can wash your hands.

In many restaurants and cafes, there is a special room for washing your hands before and after eating. Depending on how popular a place is, there can be from one to 10 sinks.

No, Indians, do not use toilet paper. Yes, they do eat with their hands (well, only with the right one). But their hands are always clean.

9. It is unacceptable to be in a relationship before marriage.

Aside from the 4 to 5 large cities like Mumbai and Delhi, in the rest of India, there is no such thing as “boyfriend and girlfriend.” In most cases, a future spouse is chosen by the parents and there should be no romantic history between the 2 people who are chosen. A marriage can also happen at any age.

It is not acceptable for people to talk about their romantic problems. Even if some people do that, they do it as secretly as possible and only with their closest friends who will never betray them.

10. The first thing they ask when they see you, “Have you eaten?”

If you are visiting someone at lunchtime, they will definitely put you at the table and feed you until you are full and only then will they ask you why you came.

When any 2 people meet (it doesn't matter if they know each other or not), they ask each other if they have eaten. At least, it's typical of the Tamil language.

11. Applications, wills, and other papers are typed right on the streets.

In India, many people still don’t have access to computers or even typewriters, so official documents must be typed by special secretaries.

Once, I was walking down the street and I saw a group of people with typewriters. I could not help but smile. Because the last time I had seen a typewriter was about 20 years ago. And they already hadn’t been used for a long time.

12. When a woman is 7 months pregnant, she returns to her parents’ home.

It is believed that during this time, a pregnant woman can’t be a full-fledged housewife and she should rest more and eat more healthy food. She returns to her husband when the baby is 3 months old and by that time, a new mother is supposed to have learned to live in a new role.

Needless to say, that the exact day and time of the departure back home should be chosen according to an astrologist’s prediction, and when she returns home with the baby her appearance should be traditional.

13. The places where children are born are not very clean.

Local doctors understand all the risks very well and from the very first time a pregnant woman appears in the hospital, they start antibiotic injections. This is just for the prevention of possible dangers. And they do it right until you leave the hospital.

Interesting fact: they don’t feed people in hospitals. My husband brought me the things I love: vegetable sandwiches, chocolate croissants, and yogurts. And the most interesting thing was that my baby was perfectly fine and seemed to enjoy the croissants.

14. Meals in cafes are very big.

A standard Indian lunch is called Thali. A waiter brings a dish with metal plates that you should put on the table. You add the sauces to rice (in any order and combination). At the end of the lunch, you eat sweets and tea. Indians love tea with milk and a lot of sugar.

The most expensive lunch you can find here is about $3. An average price is around $1 which is really cheap.

15. Many families are not very happy when they have daughters.

It is all about the dowry — what a bride is supposed to have to get married. It may be a house, an apartment, a good car (preferably, several cars), a business, or a significant amount of money. If a family does not have a dowry, there is a risk their daughter won’t get married at all.

The Indian government now prohibits telling future mothers the sex of their babies. Even I couldn’t get any information.

16. In India, there are Muslim women who wear colorful clothes.

Many of us are used to seeing Muslim women wearing a black burqa. In India, everything is different.

Once when I was in Mumbai, I was really amazed at the number of Muslim women who wore very colorful clothing. Only later did I find out that these clothes can have a lot of different designs and they are all allowed here.

17. You can have your nails cut only at a specific time.

In India, people don’t have their nails and hair cut after sunset. This rule works for both people in villages and in big cities.

My husband learned that nails and hair also can’t be cut on Tuesdays and Fridays. So, he had this conversation:
— Look, what happens if I have my nails cut now?
— Any Indian person will tell you that you increase the concentration of negative energy in our house.

18. Dads take part in raising children.

Every Indian family has 2-3 children on average. Here, they love children: they dress them in different clothes, they take them to cafes and restaurants, and they walk with them in the evening.

You will often see fathers doing some kind of business along with their babies. A father here will often take his baby to drink coffee with his pals in a cafe. And he will still pay enough attention to the baby, everyone will talk to them, and they’ll even take turns holding them.

19. If you are bald, it means that you have been to the Venkateswara Temple.

The famous Venkateswara Temple is located in Tirupati. It is known all around the world because people from all over India come here to sacrifice their hair to the god.

Anyone who wants to sacrifice their hair has to pay 50 rupees. You get a receipt and a razor. In the hall, there are dozens of barbers and benches for people in line. Once I saw a vacant spot, I sat in front of the barber who grabbed my hair and quickly shaved all of it off. Right after that, I took a photo of myself and I was really satisfied with the result.

Have you ever been to India? Did anything seem really odd and unusual about this country?