All things you wanted to know about India – the colorful land that over 1B people call their home, too curious to know but didn’t know where to find! This detailed & fun (at least we hope we are!) will make you feel like a local! Giddddyyyyyy up…
I do not speak Hindi…HELP!
A bit of a background: India has 22 official ‘scheduled’ languages and of these, Hindi is recognized as the main Official Language of the Government (there is no National Language of India, since it is a multi-lingual country), with English acting as a subsidiary official language. There are also hundreds of other less prominent languages that are the main spoken language of some places.
A good rule of thumb, each Indian state = different Indian language.
While Hindi is the main working language of the Government, and also sometime spoken as a second language, it is by no means a gold standard for all of India. Majority of the people in Southern and North Eastern states cannot understand Hindi. Do not refer to the other languages as dialects of Hindi; they are separate languages, mostly mutually unintelligible with different writing systems, and some are completely unrelated to Hindi.
While fluency in English varies vastly depending on education levels, occupation, age and region; it is generally not a problem getting by with English in urban areas. English is compulsory in all schools, and is widely spoken in major cities and around most tourist places. English is also the second language for most of the Indians. However, if possible, you are better off picking up as many words of the local language of the place you are going to - people are proud of their state's (or region's) culture and language and will appreciate it if an outsider makes an attempt to communicate in it. English has been spoken by Indians long enough that it has begun evolving its own rhythm, vocabulary, and inflection, much like French in Africa. The English you are likely to hear in India will be heavily influenced by British English, although spoken with the lilting stress and intonation of the speaker's other native language.
One of the most delightful quirks of Indian English is the language's adherence to Pre-1950s British English which to speakers in North America and Britain will sound oddly formal.
So everyone talks about the Indian head bob…what is it and how can I do it?
Non-verbal communication is also important. Much has been made of the confusing Indian head nod for yes and no, but the only important thing to understand is that Indians have different nods for yes, ok and no.
Phew! That’s good to know! Next question, what should I expect about making purchases?
The currency in India is the Indian rupee (Rupaya in Hindi and similarly named in most Indian languages)
It is always good to have a number of small notes on hand, as merchants and drivers sometimes have no change. A useful technique is to keep small notes (10-50 rupees) in your wallet or in a pocket, and to keep larger notes separate. Many merchants will claim that they don't have change for a 100 or 500 note. This is often a lie so that they are not stuck with a large note. It is best not to buy unless you have exact change.
As of July, 2017
ATMs: ATMs are abundant across India - though often not found in smaller airports. Most ATMs will pay out at most 10,000 rupees in each transaction - some will pay 20,000. State Bank of India (SBI) is the biggest bank in India and has the most ATMs, and ICICI bank has the second largest network of ATMs.
Credit Cards: In many cities and towns, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other restaurants and stores. Small businesses (including hotels and guest houses) and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.
Note to self: Carry smaller Rupees …What about haggling? I hear you have to negotiate everywhere you go!
In India, you are expected to negotiate the price with street hawkers but not in department stores and the like. If not, you risk overpaying many times, which can be okay if you think that it is cheaper than at home. The harder you bargain, the more you save money. A few tries later, you will realize that it is fun.
Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below!