Relocating to India unprepared is a sure way to suffer from culture shock. Like the US, India is highly populated, business driven, and English is widely spoken. However, most of the similarities end there. India has a unique culture all its own as the second most populated country in the world. As an outsider moving into India, there are several things you need to remember to make your transition as easy as possible.
Tips for Indian Customs Regulations
India’s customs regulations are similar to most developed countries–you will need passports, visas, and personal inventories. Like any other international move, you should keep your shipment small and research India’s customs regulations extensively.)
- Beef products are prohibited. Cows are sacred in Indian culture. Slaughtering them for meat is prohibited in most Indian states. Beef is a bit like dog meat is to us, but with added religious importance. Hindus (the primary Indian religion) consider the cow a life-giving ally for her milk and view it as selfish to kill her for meat. Chickens do not receive this reverence, however, as they are eaten regularly in India. This may seem arbitrary and illogical to an American, but it is deeply rooted in Indian culture.
- Automobiles are strictly limited and highly taxed. You should not attempt to ship a car into India. The car needs to be under three years old and have a speedometer labeled by kilometers. Vehicles are also outrageously taxed. How high? New vehicles are taxed roughly 115 percent of their assessed value and used vehicles are taxed at 169 percent! This is mostly because traffic is a huge problem in India.
- Most electronics are highly taxed. You’re looking at paying 25 percent of their value. Limit the appliances and electronics in your shipment to save money.
What you should bring to India
- Heavy clothing- India is known for being hot. While you may not think that sweaters and jackets are necessary, some locations are quite cold. In winter seasons, hotter areas cool off considerably.
- Food and drink that you like- You probably shouldn’t try to ship food and drink into India, but you may want to buy some at the duty free airport shop when you get there. India has very little imported food and drink, so it may be a while before you can have your favorite brand of beer or candy.
- Travel adapter and voltage converter- If you brought any appliances from home, it is going to take some equipment to get them to work in Indian outlets. The adapter will fit them in the outlets, and the voltage converter will ensure that your mixer doesn’t explode into a sparking fireworks display in your kitchen. High voltage appliances aren’t designed to work with Indian electrical systems.
Indian culture is quite different from American culture. You may know that English is widely spoken in addition to Hindi, or that beef is usually off the menu, but there are a few other cultural differences to keep in mind when moving to India.
- There’s no need for pleasantries- To an American, the average Indian may seem rude, but their culture has not trained them to be outwardly nice like westerners. Indians will talk to you if they have business with you, and ignore you if they don’t. They don’t often say please or thank you, and will rarely say hello or goodbye.
- Your personal space may not be respected- India is overpopulated and people are forced to live in close proximity to each other. Indians will not find it strange to enter a friend’s room or house unannounced. Be ready for this.
- Adapt to the cuisine slowly, especially the street food- Indian food is notoriously spicy so it can be hard on your stomach if you are not accustomed to it. Since there are almost no imported foods, you will have to acclimate yourself to Indian food eventually if you are living there. Street food is often cooked in unsanitary water, so it would be best to avoid that until your stomach is seasoned with Indian tolerance.
- Women wear conservative clothes- Showing skin is considered disrespectful for females in India. It may be hot, but wearing short skirts or plunging necklines will get you a lot of unwanted attention. There is a relatively high incidence of sexual harassment and assault there, so you really should be careful.
- Leave the stray animals alone- There is an abundance of stray animals roaming the streets of India. You may be tempted to try to rescue them, but most of them are feral and dangerous. Luckily, rabies treatment is only about 300 rupees or roughly $5 in India. In America, you have to pay thousands for any type of comparable medical treatment.
- Be patient- India is very different and sometimes the foreign culture can make it seem like another world rather than just another country. Be patient with the food, customs, and people, and your time in India will be much better. You will love the clothing, the culture, and the festivals if you just learn to see it the right way.