Everyone told me before I came to India that I would be in for a major culture shock. In a lot of ways, that was definitely true. After seventeen hours of flying, I walked up to the visa desk to get my first stamp in my passport. Although the lady at the front desk spoke English, I had a hard time understanding her accent and largely made a fool of myself trying to understand how to complete my visa. I’m fairly certain that she stamped my visa out of pure desperation to get me out of her hair.
Afterward, I grabbed my luggage and headed out of the airport to find my boyfriend who was supposed to be waiting for me. The first thing I noticed was how few people looked like me. Well…. nobody looked like me. For the first time in my life, I realized what it’s like to be in the minority. Not only in the minority, but to be the only person who looks like you. Of course, it probably didn’t help that I’m pale compared to most white people 😉 .
Throughout my first few days in Madurai, (I promise this is 100% true) every time I stepped out of the house people stopped what they were doing and stared at me. When we travelled to a smaller village, kids pointed at me and yelled at their friends to come see me (I only know this because my bf translated for me). At first, it was fun for me. I felt like a mini celebrity lol, but after a few days it felt exhausting. I just wanted to be able to blend in again.
On top of that, I had no idea what anyone was saying other than catching a few words here and there like yes and no which my bf had already taught me. Otherwise, I was completely dependent on my boyfriend translating for me. It’s amazing how blind you feel when you can’t communicate with someone. You feel handicapped in a lot of ways.
However, I think all of this has been a great experience for me. It’s always a good thing to get a new perspective on life and walk in someone else’s shoes for a little while. It’s so easy to take for granted being around people like yourself and not realize how it affects those who aren’t. It’s also so easy to take for granted even something as small as being able to understand those around you. Just something to think about the next time you encounter someone who may be struggling to learn your language or fit in with your culture.