We all know about the things you can have while in India but have you thought of the things you may have to do without? Have you thought of the things you may have to adjust to?
Before I get to my main point, it needs to be stated that both the US and India each have their own quality of life standards. The climate, social structure and many other factors affect quality standards. My point here is not to compare and contrast as if the systems are equal but to highlight differences an expat may not have thought of. Whether or not they are good are bad are the decision of the reader.
There are also no set standards that everyone follows. There are always exceptions to the rules but these are things I or the people around me have dealt with.
Doing Things the Hard Way
Many modern amenities are available in India. However, there is an overpowering perception that one must suffer, or do things the hard way, in order to prove their emotions. So it is not uncommon to see washing machines set aside and laundry done by hand or food prepared at floor level when there are counters in the kitchen. Many times these harder traditions are carried on because of the belief they are better. Regardless of why, they are the hard way of doing things.
Lack of Modern Conveniences
Whether it be frugality or for reasons mentioned above, most Indian homes are not loaded with common western amenities. This includes the electric coffee pot, heated blankets, universal remotes, etc. You won't likely find seat covers in the cars or cigarette lighters. Most homes don't have their own printer or geyser, etc.
Western-style mattresses are available but come with a hefty price tag and are hard to find. It's the same for recliners, rocking chairs and gliders. Kitchen tables are fairly easy to find but not a hutch or buffet. These can be built to order, you just have to be able to communicate your wants to the furniture store.
Holding the Rupee's Hostage
Indian's didn't get the rupee-pinching stereotype for no reason. They are well known for going without so they can save their hard earned money. Bargaining is a distinctly cultural aspect and so is denying themselves of creature comforts. They don't go without everything of course but they are selective with what they spend money on. Long term goals trump any fleeting spur of the moment purchase.
Recycling Until It Just Can't Be Recycled Anymore
This one I personally applaud. Yesterday's newspaper is today's shopping bag. Things are not thrown away until they can't possibly be fixed or recycled anymore. Even after things are thrown out, people go through the trash and sort out what can be recycled. (Usually the plastic bottles and such since there is no separate recycling pick up.)
India Can't Be Bought in A Day
America is an instant gratification society. If we want something done, we go out and do it. This is not how things work in India. Most tasks take longer in India. Either you need to involve a friend, ask someone, go to multiple offices or something of the sort. There is very little opportunity for instant gratification under the current socially interactive system.
As an expat, it is likely you will need the help of an Indian familiar with your area. To get things done, you need to work around their schedule. Then they will in turn need to work around the schedules of others who they must interact with to complete the tasks. Working around peoples schedules could mean waiting for days, weeks or longer. Bribes may be involved to get some tasks done or you may have to wait until they can find someone capable of delivering your purchase.
What are some cultural differences you had trouble dealing with? Did you get frustrated with any of the things I mentioned?