Notes on traveling to IndiaMy girlfriend Courtney is leaving for Delhi, India on business this week. It's her first visit there. Nick Gray, having just returned from Mumbai, sent her the following advice, which I think is great:
Pack like a normal trip to a big city.
Dress as you usually do, but lean to the right (conservative). I felt comfortable in slacks and a button-down, long sleeve Oxford every day.
"Dhost" means FRIEND (rhymes with toast). "Merry dhost" means MY FRIEND.
You don't need to get any immunizations or malaria medicine, but you could take two Pepto Bizmol capsules starting on Thursday night and continue them while you are there. Your output will be black, but it gives your stomach a little protective lining in case anything bad goes down.
Sandals! Everybody in Mumbai wore sandals, even when it was raining. All Indian people seem to like sandals.
A simple gift would be some SOUR SWEETS. Indian people almost universally love sour sweets. I am talking like Sour Patch Kids, lemon drops, Mega Warheads, etc. I brought about 3 lbs of sour sweets and my host families LOVED them.
Indian people stare. A lot. It's friendly and curious.
If you take the time to learn even a few words in Hindi, people will give you MAD respect.
"Ha" means YES; "Nay" means NO.
"Bod-meh meh-len-gay" means SEE YOU LATER. Have Zach call me if you need help with pronunciation.
Awkward silences are not awkward.
Things can take forever. Most business doesn't start until 10am. Many people might stay in the office until 7pm, and dinner could be as late as 9 or 10pm.
Indian people are really smart and savvy.
I would avoid sarcasm; my jokes were rarely understood.
Everyone you interact with will speak fluent British English. Enunciate your words, and don't talk too fast unless you are sure that you are being understood.
Orkut is the most popular social networking site in India, but Facebook is gaining fast.
"Gulab jamoon" is a typical Delhi sweet. It looks like a soft, maroon golf ball and it might be served in a bowl of sugary water. It is delicious and safe.
A paratha (pa-rah-ta) is like a multi-layered tortilla. A chapati is like a wheat tortilla. Both of these are good alternatives to naan bread.
To avoid getting ripped off, take someone from the Hindustan office with you if you go out shopping.
Go to the Taj Mahal if possible. I did it in one full day - 6am to 6pm. If you don't have enough time to go to Agra (city where the Tajis), then you MUST go to the Lotus Temple in downtown Delhi. It is a very chill space.
You will almost definitely have a car and driver, so it is likely that you may never encounter beggars. But DO NOT give money to any beggars.
If you want to give money, then give it to a temple or donate to a charity. Tell beggars to go away ("Chellay jow!"); don't be afraid to be forceful. A lot of the beggars work for gang-lords.
India is the safest country that I have ever been to. In over five months there, I have never once had anything stolen or felt threatened. The people are VERY curious and VERY nice.
That "Chellay jow!" line can come in handy ... especially on bad dates!
Those are super tips from Nick!
The Hindi words should get you around well. I'd also recommend picking up a little phrase book - something very basic. But honestly if she's only there for business English is the lingua franca.
Although I'd agree with Nick about India being safe overall, Delhi is not the safest place for women after dark. Just exercise normal rules when going to a new country - don't lurk around in the night alone, especially in deserted areas. 100 is the Indian 911. Keep that handy. Along with some kung fu moves and pepper spray to taste.
Don't leave Delhi without tasting some 'chaat' (samosas, Delhi chaat, sev puri would fall under this category).
Delhi has an awesome nightlife! Check event listings on Facebook or hook up with locals - once again, avoid going out alone.
For shopping, I think Courtney may like Indian clothes, henna (mehendi), bangles and such. Bargain shamelessly! :)
Lastly, DO try to visit the Taj!
And oh - at the airport - try and get a pre-paid cab so you don't get fleeced. Delhi cabs, unlike Mumbai - don't adhere to the meter card. So you gotta negotiate beforehand for the fare.
Courtney -- how long will you be there? Call me if you want women-in-Delhi tips. You should be fine without them, though.
It's funny that he says avoid sarcasm. I think this should be a rule for all travelers. When I was a kid I was on a trip to Europe with my family and we were at a restaurant. It was a great meal and when my dad was paying he pointed at his empty plate and jokingly said "We hated it".
In an english speaking country this joke may have gone over well...but it was quite obvious that the waiter didn't understand it. She looked to be a little offended actually :P
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Hi, I'm Zach. I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and graduated from Wake Forest. After college, I moved to Manhattan to get serious about a company I ran with friends. We sold it to Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp in 2006. I just wrapped up with a project I co-founded called Vimeo and left CV to focus on being a twenty-five year old.
I have another blog called Copy and Taste, where I post about learning to cook.
I live in Brooklyn now.
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