Overseas perceptions about people from India

10 overseas perceptions about Indians

“People only see what they are prepared to see.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a human nature -we judge a book by the cover; we generally have an opinion about something or someone as soon as we see them. Most of these opinions and judgments are based on our preconceived notions resulting from the first impressions. These perceptions are often based our own ‘assumption’ and opinion about someone or something, that may or may not be true.

So, what kinds of perceptions and preconceived notions they have about people from India in other courtiers?
Here are some of the overseas perceptions about Indians:

1. Quiet, introvert, reserved: The people from India are considered to be reserved and a little shy; they are perceived to be a bit isolated from other communities, minding their own business. This perception is true to some extent, especially for the first generation of immigrants who tend to focus on their own lives and their own occupations. Many times, their socializing is limited to a circle of Indian friends and families, or acquaintances from Temples/Gurudwara gatherings etc. The tendency to isolate from Western or American society is not uncommon. This may be the fear of ‘unknowns’ in some cases, and the human nature of ‘birds of a flock..’ in others.

2. Hardworking: The perception that Indians are hard-working is true in most cases. An immigrant generally tend to work much harder to succeed in a foreign land, especially for the first generation folks who have language barrier and are new to the American culture. They have to deal with so many new challenges and hard work is the way around.

3. Frugal: Not sure how true this one is, this may a generational thing again, but Indians are assumed to be frugal. However, the older generation of Westerns is also frugal when it comes to spending. This could be due to their personal experiences of economic ups and downs. The Indians are often known for searching for best deals, and they always tend to drive a hard bargain.

4. Good work ethics: People from India are generally considered to have good work ethics. They work hard and follow the rules. At least that is what the common perception is at work places and among the American society.

5. Well educated: The Indians are perceived to have good education. This probably boils down to the fact that so many Indians are in highly skilled trades now-a-days. Also, the Indian parents tend to stress much more on education and its importance in life. This perception may also be due to the fact that overseas’ technical and medical fields are full of Indians.

6. Not the leadership type: This is a common thinking at many work-places abroad, though nobody will say this to your face. While there are lots of Indians in higher management positions at bigger companies, the perception exists. The notion of being reserved and ‘minding their won business’ does play a role in this.

7. Vegetarian: Gandhi, the most famous Indian known abroad, was vegetarian; many Indian restaurants have vegetarian section in the menu. The westerns often assume that vegetarian life-style is the mainstream and preferred way for Indians.

8. Teetotaler: Not sure where this one came from. To the contrary, the Indian parties and weddings have more alcohol than any other parties abroad. Many of the English or American weddings have a bar for the drinks where you have to pay for the alcoholic drinks, unlike Indian parties with ‘open’ bar where alcohol is expected and served freely.

9. Techies: Indians are considered to be experts in technologies. This may be because many Indians are in the fields of computers and technical supports. Also, the perception about being well-educated plays into this.

10. Muslims: Totally false perception, as many Americans will point this out themselves. However, some Americans who are geographically challenged think that India is in the Middle-East somewhere. Indians have seen many more incidents of discrimination since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It is worth mentioning that modern American and the Western generation is much more in-tune with world affairs and diverse cultures. Most of the stereotypes related to cultures and racial biases are slowly –yes, very slowly unfortunately- fading with time. The younger American or Western generation is not as quick to judge others based on the ethnicity. As a result, the overall beliefs in the outside world are changing steadily.

For common myths and misconceptions about India itself, you may want to take a look at the related article linked below.

Now, what did I miss? Share your thoughts and, dare I say, your personal experiences! 🙂

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7 Replies to “Overseas perceptions about people from India”

  1. One more perception is that Indians luv watching movies & tv, especially hindi. That is exactly true. Watchindia. tv an exclusive online tv brings u dozens of indian channels online. A special offer

  2. Interesting that shy, introverted is #1. I wonder if this stereotype is actually more now a days than used to be. Now a days so many desis come to America, so there is more opportunity to live in America and not interact with Americans outside work/school. This means that the confidence in interacting or relating to Americans may be diminished compared to of course the confidence in interacting with Indians. Some 30-50 years ago not many desis were here so there were fewer groups as there are today. This is also probably true for other immigrants from non-European countries. What do you think?

  3. Not sure jennifer. 30-50 years ago, America was struggling with race relations and Immigrants probably had bigger worries. They probably interacted less because the the racial barriers of those days and the work opportunities were limited to labor mainly. So, majority of America probably did not think much about people from India, to be honest, in old days. The society was mush different back then and immigrants did not get fair treatment.
    my 2 cents.

  4. Whatever the perception there are always those who buck the trend. We need to learn to see beyond nationality, colour, race, gender etc.

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