India

An Indian wedding

YES Students

Most students from India are Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program scholarship winners. Click here to learn more about the YES Program.

Country Information

Four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, originated in India; and Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam arrived with traders in the first millennium CE and helped shape the region’s diverse culture. While Hindi and English are the official languages, there are more than 1,500 dialects. Family life and school are central in India. Most of India is rural, though the cities are growing. India is the second most populated country in the world.

Stories

When I first came here the most difficult thing to adjust to was the food. As I was used to hot and spicy food it was difficult to be satisfied with the food that was very less spicy. My host mom knew that and on the very first day of my arrival she made some spicy food for me. It was really nice of her. After that we used to make Indian food together and it became our bonding time. She loved spicy India food. Our family would go out and try Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and other different types of cuisines every weekend. We then tried to cook them at home. Even though the foods would not turn out the same, we would have a great time. This is how I found my desperate love for cooking and eating! To continue learning about the foods around the world I have taken international foods next semester.

–Harsh Hudda, student from India to USA

Lifestyle and Family

Most families are big and several generations live together and family loyalty is very important. Parents provide everything for children, and families are the focal point of Indian existence. The schooling, subjects, college, even marriage is often decided by parents. Sons are generally pampered and spoiled. Most are not asked to do house chores. But in modern, urban families, girls and boys are treated equally and have the same privileges and sometimes even boys are expected to help at home.

India is still a rather hierarchical society. Small towns in the north and central parts may still have a rather feudal culture. Young people have great respect for age and elders, and to show respect, they may often touch feet of the elders so as to seek their blessings. The age-old system of Master-Student continues and teachers occupy a very high and dignified place in society.

Within families or with friends Indians share everything, including the food on their plates or in their lunch boxes. The concept of yours and mine is not so pronounced as in the West. Also, Indians do not say please and thank very often. Within families it is almost insulting to say thank you often, as Indians consider this understood within families. Even outside families, please and thank you are not used frequently. It is generally considered impolite or rude to say ‘no’ directly or to decline an invitation (even if you know you cannot accept). In cultures that are more straightforward this can lead to confusion.

Time is cyclical in India. The Indian concept of the meaning and relevance of time is different. Many Indians also believe in re-birth, so this time on earth is put in that perspective. Indians are not known for punctuality.

Teen Life and Sports

Dating is very unusual and discussing sexual matters is taboo. Physical contact or hugging is uncommon, except within the family. It is unacceptable to smoke and do drugs. Usually Indian teenagers know how to make-do with less. Because of its large population, acceptance in to schools is very competitive. Usually school is half to two-thirds of a day and in the evening students go to tutorials.

Diet

Usually Indians eat with their right hand. The left is considered unclean and is kept under the table. Many Indians are vegetarian and they do not consider this a dietary restriction. But generally it can be said that even if a person is not a vegetarian, if he/she is a Hindu then no beef will be eaten; if a Muslim, then no pork. Many Muslims who are non-vegetarian and eat many sorts of meat/poultry/ fish will only eat Halal (a method of slaughter, like Kosher). They may opt to be vegetarian in countries/cultures/families where it is not possible for them to get Halal. Indian food tends to be spicy, pungent, oily, and often deep-fried. Usually the main staple of the meal is a variety of freshly made hot breads or rice. This is supplemented with a small portion of vegetables, pulses or a meat dish. Pickles and chips are often eaten. Dessert or sweet dishes are not served daily.

Indians love to eat anywhere, any time and meals are a family affair or a time for socializing. Parents expect their children at the dinner table to tell them about the day’s experiences.

Language and Religion

English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the national language and primary tongue of 41% of the people. There are over 1,500 other dialects spoken in India. Religions are broken down as follows Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.1%.

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