I have been hearing at work that the word is spreading throughout the office that I am writing a blog of my experiences in Hyderabad, so the pressure's on to make it good (and accurate)!
Living in India, I've come to realize how fortunate Americans really are. We have such high expectations and standards, we forget how luxurious our lives generally are. Time is more relative in India, whereas in America time can be much stricter depending on the situation. In India, streets and buildings are not as clean, the air is more polluted, sidewalks are broken and uneven, and it's common to see trash on the side of the road in places. The tap water is not safe to drink or even brush your teeth with, and so these large water jugs (Kinley seems to be a popular brand) are used a lot for safe drinking water instead. I often see trucks driving around with a bunch of them piled in the back being transported around. America has poverty, but it is so much more visible in India, and to a higher degree, and it is common to see beggars in the streets.
Something that has caused me frustration this week is getting my Employment Visa registered at the foreigner's registration office. With all Indian Visas you must obtain them before entering the country, but then with certain visas a foreigner is required to register them once in the country as well to obtain a residency permit. After 5 visits to this office, getting different answers each time on certain documents, I am still dealing with an error made on this permit. But, I have been told by many people here that it does not surprise them, and that getting a passport is even worse, so many people don't get one unless they really have to because it is such a hassle. So, one of the not so fun things to deal with when traveling, not to deter others from traveling, because my experience so far has been rewarding, but just to be aware that things like this can and do happen.
Although, I did meet an interesting guy from Kenya the other day at the foreigner's office who came to India for his college education. In Kenya, he said, it would have cost him 3000 US dollars in tuition, but in India it only cost him 600 US dollars in tuition per year! And since Bachelors Degrees in India are obtained in 3 years instead of 4, he could also get both his Bachelors Degree and Masters in only 5 years, and then he was planning on heading back to Kenya to find a job once he completed his education. Both, however, are cheap compared to the US, where tuition at a University for a Bachelors degree varies from around 7000 to 25,000 US dollars per year depending on the public or private University (plus University room and boarding expenses it's about 14,000-45,000 US dollars per year total). I have also learned that BFA programs in India are not very common, and neither are specializations. So, my BFA in Art with a Concentration in Graphic Design is much more difficult to find in India (I guess concentrations don't really exist, and I don't think minors do either, such as my minor in Business, but please correct me if I'm wrong here!).
It is a new experience for me trying to communicate with people with whom we cannot speak any, or very little, of each other's language, but I am gradually learning. It makes it more difficult when nonverbal signals can also different sometimes as well (such as with the horizontal head shake I mentioned earlier). People in India I think may be more accustomed to having a language barrier, because so many different languages in India are spoken, whereas Americans are used to almost everyone being able to speak the common language of English (although Hindi and English are widely spoken, neither are completely universal throughout India). Another difference in lifestyle is that in India it is very common to hire other people to do things I would normally do myself in America. Laundry, driving, cleaning, and cooking are all very common to hire help here, at a low monetary cost, whereas in America I would do them all for myself (although this can also vary depending on situation).
I really like having the coffee at work, but usually the help at the office serve it with sugar and it is too sweet for me, so someone taught me "Coffee mein cheeni mat dalna," which means "Coffee without sugar," in case I need to say it in Hindi. Interestingly, people here drink much smaller doses of coffee, which is served in about 5 oz dixie cups at the office. Some of my coworkers were saying that 4 is way too much to have in the course of one day, and I mentioned that in America it is pretty standard for coffee shops to serve coffee in 12, 16, and 20 oz cups. Apparently, we like a caffeine overload in the US. Although, I've seen Red Bull around here as well. My coworkers have also been introducing me to many new Indian dishes each day, ones that aren't as spicy, and today I tried something I believe was called Aloo Paratha (Stuffed Potato Chapati) which was very good.
The other day one of my co-workers was talking about something called "P Language," and the closest thing I can equate it to that we have in America is "Pig Latin." I still don't understand all the particulars of P Language, but it has something to do with inserting p's into words, creating a made-up language without much purpose. Pig Latin is kind of similar, because it just takes the first letter of a word and brings it to the end with an "ay" sound (my name would be Ellikay in Pig Latin). I thought it was really funny.
Something else I wanted to mention was how cell phones are different in India (also normally called mobiles in India). When calling or texting someone on their mobile, it is only the sender that has to pay, and not the receiver (in America people have to pay for incoming and outgoing calls). So a person can receive as many calls as they want for free, even if they don't have any more minutes on their phone, they just wouldn't be able to call anyone themselves. The ringtone is also different, when you dial a number and are waiting for the person to pick up, it is more of a low beeping noise instead of a higher pitched ring which it sounds like on American phones.
Almost everything is much cheaper in India than America, but as relative salaries are also lower, it makes sense. At 48 rupees to the US dollar, often I will pay 40-60 rupees for a lunch, 50 rupees for a ride, and I just bought a loaf of bread for 20 rupees (particularly good deal). Clothes I have bought for a few hundred rupees for each article, and the most expensive thing I have bought so far was a new mobile that would work in India for 980 rupees (it was the cheapest one at the store).
A subject that could probably fill at least several posts is Hindu weddings. They are apparently very glamorous and lavish affairs, and very large celebrations. I learned that they usually last 3-4 days, with music, food (perhaps 65+ dishes), and dancing all throughout. In America, we only have weddings for one day or night, usually with a ceremony and reception following with music, food, and dancing. I guess how a marriage is celebrated depends on where the couple is from, as different Indian regions have their own traditions. The bride is adorned with layers upon layers of jewelry and fabric, around 13 kg in weight of garments, and if she goes even more traditional the weight could be in the 20s. Gold is very popular for jewelry. A bride's wedding garments can cost 50,000 rupees, a huge sum. Additionally, the bride is made-up in very ornate henna decoration, and I have learned women also use henna sometimes in their hair as a dye to give it a reddish color.
Cheers for now! Thanks for reading.
P.S. If there is anything particular you would like to know in a future post, please comment at the end of this blog and I'll try to answer it.