Culture Shock! India [Book Review]

While we hurry up and wait – might as well keep reading!

I finally was able to get my hands on a dead tree edition of this at a local Borders, and happily snapped it up (along with a Rough Guide: India, and Adam’s new favourite, the Pocket Ref). I had read Culture Shock! Denmark before my year abroad, and fondly remembered it — but things do change in 10 years, so I wanted to make sure this edition was updated. It was – a 2008 edition.

The author, Gitanjali Kolanad, talks about things from the perspective of having Indian heritage but growing up outside the country, allowing her a unique perspective on the culture shock (especially when she’s assumed to be a native but isn’t). The book takes time to walk you through things that you might not initially expect and could be a concern for people of all walks during their travels – friendliness, how to host a party and the way to react when your guests bring guests of their own!, economics/money (especially bartering), travel considerations, and – for the more long-term visitors – the schooling system and expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see Woodstock listed in the boarding schools section at the back of the book (only one of 3 listed).

This book does recap material you can glean from other sources, especially with the internet out there, but it also covers material that I haven’t seen thoroughly addressed in web pages, particularly that aspect of schooling, and hosting parties/how to interact at some social events (not just dresscode, but tips on things to expect eating in different areas of the country, different religious things that may tie with meals, how someone being late and exhausted to one of your parties means that you’re on their list of ‘places to go’ – they made showings at other parties, but yours is where they ended up because they wanted to go there).

It also – very interestingly – discusses how to interact with your servants, any issues you may have, and ways to be proactive (making sure your servants see doctors if they look ill), how to behave or respond if your servants ask for a loan, etc.

This book is definitely worth a read if you’re going to be going to India. If you’re just travelling, grab it from your library – if you may be living there, consider buying a copy, then leave it behind for friends who may come visit to read! 🙂

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