Common myths and misconceptions about India!

The misconceptions that American/foreigner may have about India and Indians!

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~Gandhi

Along with China, India’s global perception continues to improve. Today’s generation is very open-minded and has global outlook. However, while living abroad, we do get some out-of-the-blue questions about India every now and then. Here are some of the common misconceptions or myths about India:

1. Elephants in our backyards: This is one of the perceptions that elephants are everywhere in India, which is not the case. Actually, there are very few elephants to be seen, unless you venture into the remote area and jungles.

2. Everybody snake-charmer:  Again, snake charmer are not so common. The scene of a cobra dancing to the tune of a charmer is very rare; very few people make their living by putting on the snake shows.

3. The Indian Curry: Not every dish Indians eat is curry based. More and more Americans are trying and enjoying Indian food, but curry is invariably linked with India; nothing wrong with it. An Indian restaurant manager always has interesting anecdotes to share about his experiences with American customers, like this one:
“Can I have some curry samosa please” asked an American customer when the waiter came around to take order.
“How would you like it – spicy or mild” The waiter asked without reacting to the choice of entree.
“Medium”, he replied.
The waiter came back with 2 Samosas and the chutney/sauce to dip in.
I guess Indian sauce is also curry for some. 🙂

4. India is next to Iran or Iraq: India is sometimes confused to be in the Middle East by many. I don’t think much of it, my geography is not that good either – about small European countries and their locations, or all of the African countries for that matter.

5. Too many Gods: We only have one God, probably the same God that rest of world has. His/her skin color is debatable, because many Indians prefer fair skin as well. 🙂

6. The Bindi/tikka on the forehead is not a tattoo:The ‘dot’ in on a women’s forehead is not a permanent tattoo.  I heard this on a radio show where the host was trying to find out more about the tattoo that Indian women have on their foreheads. It took me a while to realize that he was talking about Bindi; also known as tikka or kumkum or sindoor….depending upon where you come from in India. It is a part of the ladies’ make-up accessories with traditional roots and customs.

7. Child labor, arranged marriages and Bollywood…: Unlike all the common documentaries on TV channels overseas, there is more to India than child labor, arranged marriages and Bollywood.

8. The tigers: We do have tigers, but only in the forests. The tiger population is fading quickly worldwide and this powerful animal has become an endangered species.

9. Taxi-driver and computer engineering only?: These are not the only 2 occupations we excel in. Gas stations and motels are other businesses often linked to Indians overseas. During a fund raising event once, Hillary Clinton joked about Gandhi by saying, “He ran a gas station down in St. Louis.” She later apologized. The reality is that Indians are successful in every walk of life overseas, and growing very fast.

10. The cricket is not ‘cricket, the insect’: The game of Cricket is not popular in North America, so very few Americans know about it. “Is it just like baseball?” is the common inquiry. That is when you should start to explain what a googly is.; good luck! 🙂

11. Indian ‘too’ traditional: Just because there are lots of ladies dressed in Saari or Punjabi suits in the mall and supermarkets, that does not mean we Indians very traditional. May be more traditional than American customs and attires, but India is modernizing (and westernizing) at a very fast pace!

12. We don’t speak ‘Indian’:  They speak many languages in India, may be too many, but none is called Indian. And, English with Indian accent does not count as ‘Indian’ either. 🙂

13. Hot and rainy: “Is it always hot there and does it rain all the time?” Seems like many of them have seen Monsoon Wedding movie! Weather in India is not much different from weather along the west coast or Midwest without snow. Indian does get very hot summers and equally cold winters. Overall, the variations in weather from region to region are just like we have in North America, Canada and Europe.

14. Every Indian is vegetarian:Not very popular myth anymore. The non-veg dishes in Indian restaurants sell like hot cakes these days.

15.Turban or chunary: Some confuse or mix-up the Indian tradition la attires with middle eastern wears.  Turban and chunary are not Muslim head-gears; these are just part of Indian traditional dress.

Related posts:

Custom Search

18 Replies to “Common myths and misconceptions about India!”

  1. U missed on th Myths/misconceptions we Indians have about Americans….Do Red Indians have a lot in common with Indians? Are there still gun drawn street fights? R all Americans Hyppies and smoke “Charas”? Do they really Not have a family system? Do American parents dont bother about their kids once they have grown? Are they so self centered? My dear friends…these r what we see in movies….. about India n the West….so rather than giving explanations to each other, let us sit together, open our Laptops n search the entire world and be learnered rather show our ignorance and name it myths/misconceptions……our ancestors who migrated in early 60s and 70s didn’t have the media to express to masses. But we do!!!!! I can hear “Hindi-Amy” Bhai-Bhai already……. Chao.

  2. you have a very good point there. Our movies do show a very limited, and somewhat negative side of other Western/American cultures, especially while comparing moral values….which is not the case.
    Food for thought…probably will have separate post on myths about Americans from Indian point of view :).
    Thanks for the sharing your thoughts.

  3. i went to india once. i really liked it and i want to go again and this time i want to get hanna on my hands. it sooo pretty.

  4. Tigers are not found in africa and i dont think anyone alludes to that, not even the americans!
    Also why are you so apologetic about indians being too traditional? Indians are traditional becuase we have a culture, tradition and a heritage that predates anything american by a country mile and even european for that matter. Establishments here like to boast by writing “since ****” so its pretty obvious they are proud of traditon, its just they dont have as many going back far enough. When we have it why not flaunt it.

  5. Yes the tigers are not in Africa…that’s why it says tigers and lions.
    Don’t really get your comments about too traditional and being apologetic..

  6. When above it’s said to talk about desi misconceptions about America, it reminds me of when I moved to study in Chennai. My classmates asked me if I had a gun ‘back home’. 🙂 No! 🙂 And of course, everyone thought I was ‘rich’.

  7. Good point jennifer. My friends thought i had divorced my husband, once when i returned alone from us to india.

  8. Don’t forget that Indians stink very bad and are the ugliest people on earth. I’ve been to India and the country is nothing but darkness, ugliness, diseased, and poverty.

  9. NICK! You are SO WRONG! In American television they only show the Ugly women… I bet you only went as a tourist and didn’t really live the night life/ modern life in Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore…Indian women (The modern ones) are beautiful! But the stereotype so embedded in the American mind that if you were to see an image of a beautiful Indian, you would say, “Wait, is she Indian?”

  10. LOL! This is so funny! You absolutely nailed it with the common Indian misconceptions! I had the privilege to visit India last summer for a week before heading to Egypt and to be very honest with you I had all of these misconceptions before actually spending time in the country. I love the Indian culture. I was lucky enough to befriend a lot of Indian students at my university. I learned so much about the history, religion and Indian culture. I think it’s so important for our society to break away from these stereotypes and to actually take the time to learn about different traditions and backgrounds. I loved my time in India and think everyone should visit the beautiful Indian country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.