I Experienced Culture Shock In India

I Experienced Culture Shock In India

The culture shock I experienced while abroad came entirely complimentary.

Traveling is humbling, inspiring, and exciting. Whether you take a fourteen-hour flight to an exotic destination or simply road trip to another state, traveling is something that everyone should experience. One of the many benefits that come with traveling is learning how other societies and cultures differ from the one you are used to. Broadening your view on the world makes the planet seem a lot smaller when you realize that every person has their own chapter in history and every place has a story.

In December of 2017, I traveled to India. Although I booked a flight and a hotel room, the culture shock I experienced while abroad came entirely complimentary.

Culture shock, by definition, is “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture.” As soon as I stepped off the plane, a wave of panic unexplainably fell over me. My breathing became narrow and sharp and my vision blurry. I began stumbling over my words in rapid succession, trying so desperately to communicate to my mom that I was about to faint. I had no idea why.

I could feel my heart beating aggressively in every part of my being as my mind raced to understand what was happening to me. Was I having a heart attack? Is this what a seizure is like? Am I going to be okay? These irrational and terrifying thoughts were the ones that ran through my mind as I sat there, face flushing and pulse pounding. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but there was nothing wrong with my body. My mind, however, had just suffered an anxiety attack.

This anxiety would, unfortunately, continue until around half-way through the trip. Upon arrival at our hotel, the trunk of our car had to be searched. After exiting the car, we were divided by gender and had to walk through a metal detector, then get frisked head to toe. This was a reoccurring practice that took place almost everywhere we went.

Our arrival time at the hotel was roughly around 4:00 a.m. However, jet lag paired with anxiety is a wonderful thing, and I can’t say I slept that night.

The next day, we drove to the city of Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. This was our first full day out and about. It was a three hour drive in the middle of nowhere. In India, drivers don’t exactly follow the rules of the road. The best phrase I could use to describe what it’s like to drive in India would be “controlled chaos.” Every half second, someone blares a horn or swerves across five unmarked lanes all at once.

There’s an ungodly amount of cars on the road, so you can bet the traffic is incomparable. Sitting in a car as the driver swerves through endless rickshaws, motorcyclists loaded up with four people, and stray animals is quite the stomach churner. However, to my disbelief, I didn’t witness any accidents (nor did anyone hit one of the million cows frantically clomping into the streets).

I am a blonde girl with green eyes and white skin. Why is this information important? Because not only did I stick out like a sore thumb, but everybody—and I mean everybody—stared at me. Picture yourself at Disneyland on a crowded day walking down Main Street, except every person that you pass intensely stares at you. Some people even ask to take your photo or reach out to touch you. That’s more or less what it was like.

One thing I noticed throughout my time in India was that there weren’t many women out and about in the streets. When I arrived at Agra, I stepped out of the car and a crowd of about twenty men began surrounding me and speaking to me, which made me very nervous. I couldn't understand it at the time, but the staring comes from a place of pure curiosity and interest, as blonde women are not very common to see in India.

Once we were in line for security at the Taj Mahal, the woman who was frisking me said, “you’re so white!” I had absolutely no idea how to respond, so I nervously replied, “I live in Oregon and we don’t get a lot of sun.” I’m unsure what happened with our language barrier, but this response made the woman seem very skeptical of me and she asked me to “repeat my statement,” then placed me into advanced security.

I will be honest and say that I was uncomfortable while in India. I truly experienced culture shock first-hand. Getting sick from everything I ate, stared at everywhere I went, and patted down upon entry into my hotel certainly were experiences out of my comfort zone. But that’s good. I shouldn't expect everything to be perfect and up to my Western standards of society when I travel.

India is a fascinating smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and smells. I believe that traveling throughout India for a week helped me appreciate the fact that every place lives differently. Not in a bad way, but simply different than what I’m used to. Culture shock is scary and confusing; but acknowledging that you feel uncomfortable is simply the first step to overcoming your fears and in turn, discovering everything this beautiful world has to offer.

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Neill

Popular Right Now

To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.

Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Living Life The 'Jay Way'

Success isn't built overnight, and Jay Leno is a prime example of that sentiment.


Success isn't built overnight, and Jay Leno is a prime example of that sentiment. Through the entirety of his career, Leno has had numerous amazing opportunities that allowed him to flourish and spread his wings in the entertainment industry; however, this wasn't something that happened instantly.

Born in New Rochelle, New York in 1950 to a mother who immigrated to the United States from Scotland and a father who was the son of Italian immigrants, Leno spent the majority of his childhood and adolescence in Andover, Massachusetts.

At one point while he was in school, Leno's fifth-grade teacher left a comment in his report card that read, "If Jay spent as much time studying as he does trying to be a comedian, he'd be a big star."

From a young age, Leno struggled with dyslexia, though his ailment didn't stop him from thriving. Leno would wind up graduating from Andover High School only to move on to Emerson College in Boston, where he would graduate with a bachelor's degree in speech therapy in 1972.

Leno has admitted that his career had benefited his career on multiple occasions. During one interview with CNBC, he shared, "My mother always said to me, since I was dyslexic, 'You're going to have to work twice as hard as the other kids to get the same thing. I said, 'OK. That seems fair.' And I did work twice as hard to get the same thing."

Leno added, "I remember going to the comedy clubs and people would line up at 6 p.m. for auditions to get a spot at midnight. By 9 p.m. guys would go, 'I'm not waiting in line.' They would leave and then I would move on up."

He started out his career in nightclubs, where he worked most nights out of the year until 1992 when he scored his own late-night talk show. Though this wasn't Leno's first televised gig. In 1977, he made his very first appearance on the Tonight Show, which was hosted by Johnny Carson from 1962 until 1992, when Leno finally took over. There, Leno performed a comedy routine, and would afterward serve as a substitute host for Carson until 1992.

Following his 1977 talk-show appearance, Leno took on a plethora of film and minor TV roles. Some television appearances included the "JJ in Trouble" episode of Good Times and an uncredited appearance on Fun with Dick and Jane in 1977. More major film roles came in the form of American Hot Wax, Silver Bears, and the straight-to-TV movie, Collision Course.

Additionally, Leno had appeared multiple times on the Late Night Show With David Letterman. During this time, Leno had met his wife Mavis while performing a comedy routine in Los Angeles in 1976, at the start of his comedic career; they married in 1980. In 1992, Leno replaced Carson as the host of the Late Night Show, where he would remain as the host until 2009 when Conan O'Brien emerged as Leno's successor.

During his run as the Late Night Show host, Leno had earned a net worth of $350 million. With such a fortune, it's not so much of a surprise to witness philanthropy from the comedian either. In fact, Jay Leno has contributed to quite a few campaigns for social change. In 1988, Jay Leno founded the JDM Foundation, which is where he moves his philanthropy. Issues that he and his wife focus on include education, women's rights, and animal rights.

In 2001, Leno and his wife Mavis donated $100,000 to the Feminist Majority Foundation's campaign to stop gender apartheid in Afghanistan.

In 2009, he donated $100,000 to Salem State University. The funds went to a scholarship that was named in honor of Lennie Sogoloff, who gave Leno his start at his jazz club, Lennie-on-the-Turnpike. Leno's contributions towards higher education don't stop at his alma mater either. He has consistently supported other institutions like Middlesex Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Boston University, McPherson College, and Northeastern University.

Leno is a known automobile enthusiast and has supported Kansas' McPherson College's Automotive Restoration Technology program for years.

In August 2012, Leno auctioned his Fiat 500, and all the proceeds were donated to a charity that helps injured war veterans and provides them with housing while they recover. The car was sold for a staggering $385,000.

Though Jay Leno was well-known as a successful comedian and late-night talk show host, he was also famous for his impressive collection of motorcycles and classic cars. Leno's interest in cars can be dated back to his younger years; the very first car he owned was a 1934 V-8 truck that he restored when he was just 14. (It should also come as no surprise that Leno's choice token for Monopoly is a racecar.) Leno owns over 170 classic cars and 150 motorcycles, one of which was featured in the 1997 Batman and Robin.

One of Jay Leno's most impressive cars to date is his McLaren F1 Supercar; there are only 106 units of this model in the world today.

Although Leno has dozens of classic cars at his disposal, including one of the fastest cars in the world, the vehicle he currently cruises around in is his 2015 Dodge Challenger. It's not a vehicle most people would expect the typical talk-show host to be riding in, but Jay Leno isn't typical.

Related Content

Facebook Comments