A nation that is huge but overrun with its massive population and relatively less job opportunities is bound to have a issues like illiteracy and poverty.
In many mega cities like Mumbai and Kolkata you can easily see that the city shines brightly on one side and still have slums in it.
But that does not stop India from dashing forward and making positive strides towards become a great super power in the world.
If you look up Sriharikota, India’s advanced satellite launching center, you would be amazed at the knowledge and expertise of its scientists.
People are the same all over the world
Yet, our media tends to highlight the bad and discount the wealth and goodness of our subcontinent. Issues including scams and poverty are always on the front page.
Agreed that pick-pocketing is an issue in touristy places, but is it not the same case everywhere around the world? Everyone who has visited Paris or London would vouch that those cities are filled with pickpockets too.
Naturally, because of negative media coverage, many myths about India are floating around. Some of them are innocent, some not so much!
Myths about India – busted
Fortunately, many people from all over the world who have lived or traveled in India for a while are coming to see that India is extremely misunderstood.
A few awesome travel bloggers have helped me bust the most common myths and misconceptions about my motherland, India.
Read on to learn more about the most common misconceptions and myths about India. Spoiler: No, it is definitely not a land full of snake charmers 😉
1. Myth: Everyone in India is trying to rip you off.
Alex Reynolds from Lost With Purpose says:
Anyone who ever visited India—or who ever thought about visiting India—knows it. People just want your money. That friendly guy in the street? A tout getting a hefty commission. That smiling rickshaw driver? Charged you 5 times the going rate. To go to India is to part with your money.
Recognizable as this may seem to some, the idea that everyone in the country is out for your money is wrong.
Sure, in very touristic places where the whole economy depends on tourism and the money that comes with it chances are people will try to part you from your money in unscrupulous ways. But if you go off the beaten track another picture emerges altogether.
In one year in India, I’ve had rickshaw drivers tell me what I was offering for the ride was too much. Store keepers ran after me because I accidentally gave them too much. Waiters refused my tips. And, above all, I’ve been shown hospitality practically impossible in many other countries.
For anyone considering going to India but daunted by being perpetually ripped off, realize that the majority of Indians are happy to see tourists. They’re happy you’re interested in their country and culture… and are not at all interested in what’s in your wallet.
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2. Myth: All Indian food is spicy.
Sarah and Tom from TripGourmets say:
It is a fact that some Indian dishes are indeed super-spicy hot with chillis, and pretty much all Indian dishes contain some kind of a spice. It is thought that hotter countries feature more spices in their cuisines in order to cool down from the heat by encouraging perspiration. However, it is a total myth that all Indian food is spicy hot.
We recently spent more than seven weeks in India, travelling around Rajasthan and Agra in the north, and Goa and Kerala in the south. We found plenty of variety in dishes, both spicy and non-spicy. During our first stop in Jaipur, we discovered the famous and fiery dish of Laal Maas but we also found the far less spicy Mohan Maas. Both are mutton dishes, however Mohan Maas involves a gravy made from milk and cream together with the mild flavor of nuts and cardamom.
In Kerala, we were in fish heaven. As well as fish marinated and grilled with some fierce masala spices, we also discovered milder Kerala fish curries cooked with coconut milk.
However, one southern Indian classic that is not spicy at all is the famous dosa. A pancake made from rice or gram flour, it is eaten stuffed with a mix of potatoes and chutney. They are utterly delicious!
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3. Myth: It’s guaranteed you and your kids will get Delhi Belly.
The Jenny Lynn from Travelynnfamily says:
We got a few raised eyebrows when we told our family and friends that we were moving to India for a year with our boys (then aged 1 and 3 years old). Everyone had a tale of ‘Delhi Belly’ to share with us. Indeed, on our travels pre-kids, we both fell ill… in Delhi of all places!
But… we learnt our lesson and during our year living in Bangalore, our boys never got sick! Honestly. Us parents, perhaps a couple of times. But the boys were absolutely fine. That is, until we headed back to the UK for a visit in Autumn and returned with snuffly noses! And we traveled in autos (tuk-tuks) daily, slept on overnight sleeper trains, played in local playgrounds, and traveled extensively across the country.
Don’t let the myth of ‘Delhi Belly’ put you off travelling to incredible India. Use your travel nous and be careful.
My top tips are: to never have ice in a drink, eat in reputable restaurants where the food is moving, wash your hands before eating, and carry hand sanitizer with you and use it. I also ensured we all washed our feet once we got home as our local streets were rather dirty and we always wore sandals/flip-flops.
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4. Myth: Indians are uneducated.
Nicola Lavin from Allaboutrosalilla says:
There is no doubt about the fact that Indians face many stereotypes from the rest of the world. Before my recent trip to Kerala I received so many “warning” text messages to enjoy the Dehli belly and the dirty rubbish and to keep my handbag close.
In reality I arrived into a land of paradise with clean unspoiled beaches and palm trees as far as the eye could see. Kerala translated literally means land of coconuts. Far from the slums I was advised I would see were luxury hotels of the highest standard.
Billboards remind us about the problems associated with using plastic and hotels run initiatives such as clean green and green earth. The warmth and hospitality of the Keralites meant that I felt safe wherever I went and there will always be a special place in my heart for the people of Kerala.
One rumor that I want to dispel is that Indians in general are uneducated. This is probably the worst and most inaccurate stereotype. The truth is that education is extremely important in India and Keralites boast the highest literacy rate in the country of 93%. We toured the length of Kerala and what really struck me was the abundance of schools, universities and business schools.
Even the poorest of families strive to send their children to school in the hopes of a better life for them. Doctors and Engineers top the list of most desired careers, and MBAs and PHDs are common qualifications. The Indian government is also actively promoting and providing higher quality education.
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5. Myth: You can never escape the crowds in India.
Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World says:
One of the most common misconceptions about India is that one can never escape the crowds, especially in tourist attractions. This is only true to a certain level. As with any other country in the world, cities tend to be crowded in India, with large numbers of people concentrating around big cities (Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata just to name a few). Yet, the countryside can be incredibly quiet, with little to no traffic.
Places like the Taj Majal or the City Palace in Udaipur do get crowded, especially during national holidays when Indians also travel.
Yet there’s many others that feel (and indeed are) incredibly quiet, no matter what. One of them is Alsisar, a lovely desert station in Rajasthan. Life there goes on at a much slower place, compared to the rest of the country. While it is now opening to tourists, these are still an unusual sight and the village has retained all of its charm. And, most importantly so, it is incredibly quiet, with none of the traffic, noise and crowds that one may see in other places in India.
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6. Myth: All Indians speak Hindi.
Clemens Sehi from Travellers Archive says:
When I went to India in 2014, I met two friends from Kerala in Goa. We traveled through the area, enjoyed the monsoon season and met lots and lots of other Indian friends. Many cultures, many backgrounds and many different people on one table – all connected by one language: English.
And by that, I do not mean me as only European at the table talking to all Indians, I mean all of us talking English to each other as we all spoke different languages. For me, back in the days, it was clear that the majority of Indians spoke perfect English. However, I didn’t 100% know the reasons behind it.
Travelling through India opened my eyes and taught me that the country is too big for only one language. Almost every single region in India speaks an own language and this language is so diverse, that mostly Indians from different areas of the country can’t talk to each other unless they use English.
Surprisingly, there are two official languages, namely Hindi and English, but no national language. English is spoken by about 125 million people among the 1.3 billion people living in India. Apart from that, there are 23 different languages, such as Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali or Bodo and Urdu.
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7. Myth: India is a quiet “Yoga”-land and everyone here says Namaste.
Nick Kembel from Nick Kembel Travel says:
India is sometimes portrayed as a kind of enlightenment-inducing spiritual utopia. This is not to deny India’s diverse religious landscape; it is the birthplace of four major religions, yoga, and so much more. But the reality of traveling in India is that it can be challenging, and some leave feeling that their India travel experience was anything but tranquil.
To give a few examples from my own travels in India for six months total on three different trips, I’ve been groped, robbed, had severe food poisoning, and nearly became the victim of an elaborate gem scam. The streets of India can be a chaotic assault on the senses and heart, from traffic and pollution to child beggars, animal dung and the scent of urine. To be clear, NOT ALL of India is like this, but I also can’t deny my experiences.
At the end of my first India trip, I felt so overwhelmed (in both positive and negative ways) that I was in tears. I had been forced to recognize my own privileged position. I was in awe from the places I’d seen, yet felt helpless towards all the poverty I’d witnessed. I wanted to go home. But months later, returning to India was all I could think of. India affected me more than any other country. That’s why I always cite it as my favorite destination. Apparently India WAS a spiritual experience for me, just not at all how I’d expected.
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Let me also clarify that not everyone in India says ‘Namaste’. It is used by hindi-speaking folks to greet one another. But we always see Hollywood linking Yoga, Namaste and India..fun to watch 😀
8. Myth: You will be surely forced to get a selfie with a local.
Sally Lucas from Our 3 kids vs the world says:
We recently traveled to Jaipur and Agra in Northern India to film a family travel campaign with Scoot Airlines. I have been warned about the ‘selfie’ epidemic that a number of people experience when travelling in India but I have to admit we didn’t find it that bad.
Granted we have done a bit of travelling and the kids are use to getting approached but our experience in India was no different to many countries in Asia particularly with Chinese tourists.
I don’t have an issue with people asking for photos with us, it is usually the kids but I got asked a couple of times as well. I understand that we are different particularly if they come from rural areas of India and its human nature to be inquisitive.
I was prepared to be quite stern if this was happening to often or frightening the kids but I can happily report that we didn’t experience anything to over the top.
Could that have been because we had a film crew with us, maybe. People were definitely interested in what we were doing and would often stop and watch. After the film crew called cut, Keira would often approach the local children that had stopped to watch and have a chat to them.
We found India an amazing experience and would gladly return another time.
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9. Myth: India is poor.
Natalia Shipkova from My Trip Hack says:
For long, many western media sources have been patching India as a poor country. India was one of the richest economies in the world before the foreign rule. Even despite centuries of foreign rule, India has managed to pull itself back from being poor to the 6th economy of the world by GDP (its current GDP is $2.45 trillion).
Note, that all this growth is driven not by the exports of the country but by the consumption power of Indian people. This is the biggest reason why many western brands are competing to enter Indian market.
Latest example, Walmart is aggressively looking to buy Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart to compete with Amazon in India. And Amazon says India is number one priority for its growth and revenue. You can get enough idea from this about the consumption power of Indians.
If not, the next argument hopefully will. Indian households (not government) collectively possess more gold than US Federal Reserves. Indians buy gold like vegetables on festivals like Akshay Trirthiya and Danteras.
The truth is, India is not poor, but it has a huge inequality between different straits of population. This means that you will encounter both rich and poor Indians if you live in the country for a longer period of time. But as a person from a developing country, I would say India is rather rich than poor.
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10. Myth: Indians are aggressive. India is a third-world country.
Andra Padureanu from Our World to Wander says:
Almost every time I tell somebody that I love India and that it is my favorite country, I get the standard reaction “Why?”. This is because there are way too many misconceptions about this fantastic country.
One pretty common myth is that Indians are aggressive. Travelers get this feeling because they say locals stare a lot. And yes, they stare! But that doesn’t mean they all want to attack you! They are rather curious and intrigued.
You might even come across a local that has never met a foreigner before. It’s a natural reaction to something new. I’ve been to India four times now, and I haven’t had any violent or aggressive encounters with locals. Smile to them, and they will surely smile back.
Another question that I sometimes get is what do I find so appealing in Hinduism? Leaving aside my passion for world religions, you must know that India is not all about Hinduism. It’s probably the most diverse country regarding beliefs.
During my travels around India, I’ve managed to explore Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh, Sikhism in Delhi, Jainism in Jaisalmer, Islam in Kashmir, Christianity in Kerala and Animism in Manipur. So no, India is so much more than Hinduism – which, trust me, is indeed fascinating!
And one last thing – the world has forgotten the numerous inventions and discoveries attributed to Indians. Let’s remember that the concept of “zero” started in India. The first cataract surgery was performed in India. Tons of medical remedies were discovered and first applied in India. And the list goes on. So we should all think twice before we say that India is a third world country.
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11. Myth: Many people think that there are no top-class hiking routes in India.
Miguel from Travelsauro says:
Many visitors traveling in India tend to stick to touristy and well-known places such as Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra, Goa and Varanasi. Those who want to explore the Himalayas and hike high-altitude trails usually cross to Nepal, wanting to get to the Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Sanctuary. These, of course, are great mountain trails. However, most people don’t know that India also boasts some of the best hiking routes in the world.
If you travel to the eastern state of Sikkim or the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Ladakh, a beautiful and remote province within the Kashmir state offers amazing routes for the most adventurous.
If you decide to hike the Markha Valley, you’ll be rewarded with an unmatched experience. This trail can be completed in 7 to 9 days, and it will take you along giant valleys, deep cliffs, a pass at 5,260 meters of altitude, strong rivers and isolated Buddhist monasteries.
The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, there are local houses in which you can stay and get to meet the locals (really friendly people), and you won’t encounter hundreds of other hikers everyday like in Nepal. If you want to hike the Himalayas, give India a chance.
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Also read: Trekking at Tikona, a magical experience!
12. Myth: India is dirty.
Abhinav Singh from A Soul Window says:
It is a myth that all of India is dirty, dusty and polluted. 10 years of travel across 21 states of India has taught me that there are many places in India which are very clean and offer fresh air.
While Mawlynnong is already famous for being the cleanest village of Asia, I have observed that residents of many rural and mountainous regions keep their surroundings clean.
For example, hill stations such as Ranikhet, Bhimtal, Mukteshwar etc are spic and span, while the same cannot be said about some parts of more touristy Nainital, Shimla, Manali or Mussoorie.
I found Gunehar, Bir, Billing much more clean than the nearby Mc Leodganj. Or for that matter even Coonoor is a far cry from the adjacent Ooty which is commercialized and crowded.
That said, even some urban spaces have impressed me with their cleanliness. I would say the cleanest city I have seen till date is Navi Mumbai. Having lived there for 7 years in past, when I returned again, I was shocked to see that it was as clean as any international city. The government has taken conscious steps to clean up their act. I found Mysore, Coimbatore and much of Ladakh region also very clean.
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13. Myth: Indians do not know English.
Richa Joshi from My Tickle Feet says:
As an Indian living in the US for over a decade, I’ve heard a myriad of questions about life in India. However, one question in particular has lost neither its charm nor its cadence and that is –
“You speak English very well, did you learn it here or in India? Do they teach English in schools in India?”
To be honest, I used be taken aback in my earlier days primarily due to the sheer ignorance of this question. But over the years I have tried a different and somewhat humorous way to deal with it.
When someone asks me this question now I try to remind them of this Great Nation which once upon a time colonized half of the world including the US. Unfortunately for the Indians, we got our Independence from the British two centuries after the US.
But the English did leave us a great gift of their language just like they did in all other colonized countries. So yes, we certainly speak English, that too Queen’s English. In fact, many schools in big cities and towns have English as their first language of education. 🙂
I may not always answer that way. But any time I am asked this question now be it in an Uber, at work, by friends, I use it as an opportunity to explain them not only India’s education system but it’s technological advancements as well. And by that I don’t mean call centers (another big cliché question!), I mean take our space program for an example. Even though the world media is still interested in snake charmers and the Slumdog millionaires of India.
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14. Myth: Jodhpur is blue all over.
Lola Mendez from Miss Filatelista says:
One of the biggest mysteries I debunked while living in India for 6 months was that my adopted city of Jodhpur was indeed not entirely blue. Whimsical Instagram images and devious travel agents position the city to be completely blue, almost just like the blue city of Morocco, Chefchaouen. However, only a tiny portion of the imperial city is dusted in a hue of blue.
This area is called the old city and it is located behind the hilltop Mehrangarh Fort and it is a residential area. There are many rumors about why the old city is blue.
Some say it was a form of air con and that the color kept homes cool in the hot desert summers. Others say that it keeps away termites, which is also a popular theory in Chefchaouen.
Some attribute the blue to Brahmin families and others trace it back to Jewish settlers. No matter the reasoning for the blue hue it makes for a lovely afternoon to traverse the narrow alleyways, be sure to go to a guesthouse roof terrace for a mango lassi and a spectacular view!
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