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Common misconceptions about India I was able to shake off

Religion. Food. Sport. Entertainment. Clothing. How a six-year stay in India broke misconceptions about the country

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

I had a lot of misconceptions about India before I moved there to work as a teacher.

Let me list these for you, and then I’ll share how I realised I was wrong about them all!

I didn’t think there would be much western music, and everyone would listen to Bollywood. There are lots of pubs and clubs (especially in Bangalore where I lived) that play western music, and even karaoke nights with western rock, pop etc. My (Indian-origin) husband used to sing in a band that played western commercial music in 5-star hotels in Chennai. There’s a radio station in Bangalore that only plays western music. During my six years in Bangalore, Metallica, Bryan Adams, INXS, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Guns N Roses, David Guetta and more played concerts. I learned that the local music is not just Bollywood. In fact, each state has its own music and film industry like Kollywood (Tamil in Tamil Nadu), Sandalwood (Kannada in Karnataka), Mollywood (Malayalam in Kerala).

Guns N’ Roses performing in Bangalore in 2012 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It would be hard to get beef. There are quite a few beef shops in Bangalore; it’s debatable whether it’s beef or buffalo, but it was too similar for me to tell the difference. There are steak houses in Bangalore like Miller’s 46. There are lots of shops where you can buy beef biryani. So you can definitely get beef.

There wouldn’t be many western clothes stores and I’d have to bring them with me or buy them while travelling. One misconception about India that was definitely shattered. You can get western clothes EVERYWHERE. Cheap t-shirts in markets, brand-name clothes in malls – Levis, Zara, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Steve Madden shoes, and heaps more.

Bengaluru Mall (Source: Makaan.com)

Indians wouldn’t know much about the West. Indians know more than I do about the West. I joined a fun quiz group and felt like an idiot. The rest of the group were Indian, and they would be answering questions about history, literature, music, science, geography, and the only questions I knew the answers to were TV related or ‘80s rock (occasionally biology).

Not just curries (Source: Supplied)

I knew more about different cuisines (other than Indian) than Indians. My  husband is very passionate about food and we have several friends who are chefs who are all far more knowledgeable than me about food. There’s lots of fine dining restaurants in Bangalore and lots of locals patronizing them.

 

All Indian food is spicy and everyone likes spice. I just had lunch at my husband’s aunty’s place and one of the dishes was too spicy for her husband! It’s quite common to meet Indians who don’t like their food spicy. I think there’s a misconception around the interpretation of “spice”. Cinnamon is a spice. It’s used in hot cross buns, but I don’t think many people would call hot cross buns spicy. Indian cooking commonly uses spices but that doesn’t mean the food burns your mouth. So my interpretation of the word spicy now means “gives flavour” rather than “burns my mouth” or “hot”.

I would easily be able to order butter chicken from any Indian restaurant. This was perhaps a major misconception about India that I carried with me. And yet, to find butter chicken in Bangalore, I’d have to go to a restaurant that serves northern Indian food! India’s food is so diverse that even within one state there are different regions with very different food. In Karnataka alone, Coorg has its own special dishes like bamboo pickle and pandhi curry (pork curry); Mangalore has coconut dishes like fish curry; Mysore has dishes like Mysore pak and Mysore masala dosa. And that’s just one state. Imagine the diversity of dishes across the 29 states of India.

misconceptions about india
In a ‘cricket mad’ nation, Pele shares sacred space with Mother Teresa (Source: Supplied)

Everyone likes cricket. There are a lot of Indians that like cricket for sure. As soon as I said I was Australian, people would go “Oh Ricky Ponting, madam!” But not everyone likes cricket, in fact the national sport of India is hockey. There are a LOT of people who like football, in fact that there is a statue of Pele (the famous football player) in Bangalore, next to a statue of Mother Teresa!

Kristen Dias’s wedding (Source: Supplied)

Most Indians are Hindu and I wouldn’t come across many Christians. Hinduism is the most common religion in India, but there are lots of Muslims, Catholics and Protestants (and other religions too). The churches are huge and packed every week and especially during Easter and Christmas. There’s a bakery which makes hot cross buns and sells out each Easter. The Catholic Club in Bangalore is well-known for its events such as Christmas dances. I even got married in a cathedral in Bangalore!

READ ALSO: Important things I’ve learned about Indian culture

Kristen Dias
Kristen Dias
Kristen Dias is the cofounder of Khushee Indian Food along with her husband Kayden who's the chef. A lifelong learner, she loves travel and adventure. Kristen loves writing about her experiences in India, the memories she made and what they taught her. She lived in Bangalore, India for 6 years where she met and married Kayden. With a career in education, Kristen has taught Science for over 15 years, including at an international school in India.

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