What are some things about India that are unbelievable for foreigners until they visit India?

33 things which you will not believe until you visit India. 

In our featured answers, series we got an amazing answer by our traveler community member Natasha Jain lives in the UK, traveled in India extensively.

My experience is based on my 5-year stay in India. All the viewpoints mentioned here are my own. 

I have known for quite some time that every country is unique in its own way. But even after exploring 40 different countries across the globe, I have found that India is something that is incomparable and unparalleled. It has so many things that blow your mind when you are someone who comes from the western side of the world. 

India is the land of culturally diversified elements that was invaded numerous times by Alexander the Great, Mongols, Mughals, Britishers and many more. Even after that it still maintains its cultural ingenuity embracing people from all caste, creed, religion, color, and language.

Traveling across the world made me realize how such a huge population of India is living in a peaceful congregation and democracy.

  1. Free Food in India – Yes you heard it right! India has temples, gurdwaras and other religious places that provide free meals to anyone and everyone. For e.g. Amritsar’s Golden Temple provides meals to hundreds and thousands of devotees every day. Can you believe this? Machines are deployed to make Indian flatbread known as roti. Another place I visited was the ISKON temple of Mumbai which served free food called “Prasad”. Anyone and everyone can have the food and you will be surprised by the quality maintained. It is up to the mark with no compromise. Golden Temple AmritsarDevotees eating food in Golden templeImage credit @nishant_amritsar
  2. Walking 500Km or more to reach temple – Yes you heard it right, India is also called as ‘Spiritual Capital Of The World’ as you will find devotees walking to reach the temple as good as 500Km for days. In Rajasthan, Ramdevra, a place near Jaisalmer attracts devotees in hundreds of thousands on a day in fair time (Aug/Sep types) who walk for an average 300-500 KM. Another temple in Kerala Sabarimala, which is located inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, typically in the first week of November attracts devotees who walk more than 100-200 KM. Another example I saw when I was in Mumbai and found hoarding of trusts who invite devotees to walk for Shirdi at a particular time. Mumbai to Shirdi is a 250 KM walk. And guess what? In these walks, you will find a lot of camps that give free food, water, shelter, and medicines as well. Where have you seen such things other than India? Walking people toward Ramdevra from JodhpurImage source:
  3. Free Water – Yes you heard it right? Free water. It’s so weird when someone has asked water-sharing for drinking but in India, you will find people treat this as a basic right. They have opened so many water stations locally you can drink filtered water for free. Even in the restaurant, they give RO filtered water, free of cost as an option along with the paid plastic bottles. Who does that on the other side of the world?  Free public water station in India at station
  4. Free Marriages – Unbelievable isn’t it? In India, communities do a social pooling of money for people who want to get married but cannot afford it. So around 10-50 couples get married once and guess what’s the real fun is? They also get some amount of money as part of the ritual of gifting or dowry by the community. What are some things about India that are unbelievable for foreigners until they visit India? 1
  5. Respect in India – Yes its respect this time. Young kids bow down and touch feet when they meet the elders of the family and take blessings. Not only young kids but I have seen old ones too bowing with respect to Elders and Teachers altogether. Image Mr Modi touching his mother feet in respectImage Source: Google.com
  6. Design of India – You will be amazed to see the architecture of various landmarks. Be it a temple or a palace, they have an intriguing history and philosophy to offer. I was in Khajuraho and got amazed to find the detailing they have done. Even in the ruins of temples, you will be amazed to look at the marvelous work. Indian Jewellery, oh my god! I cannot believe such fine detailing and art goes into jewelry making by Indian artisans. Khajuraho temple view showing amazing designPics credit: @Samantha_narate
  7. More than 720 dialects – So many languages! You will be amazed while traveling in Rajasthan, for every 100 km, you will find a difference in words and accents. 
  8. Colorful food – There is so much to say about cuisines of India that I can write endless chapters on it. Each part of India offers amazing cuisine which completely differs from one another. In North India usage of bread is extensive with exotic dishes and is also named royally. Be it Kashmiri Rogan Josh, Shahi Naan (Indian bread), Paneer Butter Masala, Samosa, Rajasthani Dal Bati Churma (wheat baked balls with lentils) or go to Southern regions where you will get Dosa, Uttapam, amazing seafood or Litti chokha which is a famous dish from Bihar. I can write a lot on this topic but the essence of it, you would only believe when you visit India. Indian big thali with varietyImage Source: @natasha-jain
  9. Spice knowledge –  India has thousands of spices and the best part is that they know the best how to use them to make their food so tasty. They know multiple usages of spices, be it clove used in making their dishes royal or turmeric which they also use for healing ailments like cough apart from making dishes tasty. Be it fennel flower or star anise, it is unbelievable how they learned to use these things.Indian knows very well usage of spices Image Source: Pixabay
  10. Cricket on Road –  This one is sure you won’t believe it. Kids playing cricket on the streets as well. Cricket is considered as a religion as its passion reflects in all age groups and generations. In the Non-Metropolitan cities, you can spot children playing cricket on the streets, using it as a pitch. India gully cricketImage credit @Akash mumbai_pune
  11. Reuse and don’t throw, People have so much stuff and keep collecting them, showing no inclination of throwing it away. You will experience this if you visit some local houses and stay there. They have made storage in every nook and corner. Any space possible where they can hide and store things, be it old utensils or extra bedding. One must experience this aspect. Indian kitchen ethnic decorated Image Source: credit of
  12. Antiques of India –  You can find a thousand years old things in India as the collection of historical stuff is amazing here. Trust me, they have genuine stuff or antique jewelry which has been handed down from one generation to another.Indian Antiques copper hanging Image source Antiques of India
  13. Art of living – Yes, they even an institute or organization named Art Of Living which is less spiritual but tells how to leave in peace and calm. Thousands of people have joined the institution.
  14. Yoga in India –  Of course, I don’t need to tell much about it but you will find that Yoga is everywhere and everyone is doing it. In the morning, if you take a walk in any park, you will find people of different age groups practicing Yoga.
  15. Helping anybody – People don’t hesitate to help a stranger. If your car is broken down on the road, don’t get surprised when some strangers are ready to help without asking. You may get scared at first but you will end up realizing they treat everyone the same and an equal without discriminating. 
  16. Criticize or comment even on the Indian Prime-Minister – This one is my favorite. People of India are so opinionated that they have an open culture to speak anything about anyone. So if their cricket team is lost a match, you can find people in the bar or restaurant, criticizing and explaining how bowler was supposed to bowl! India’s favorite topic is none other than Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. They can openly comment on him about anything that he has not done or he has done which turns into an endless discussion. 
  17. Morning Laugh in the garden –  Yes and you will also laugh along with them. Wake up in Delhi and talk a walk in any public garden. You will find elders above the age of 60 laughing openly, loudly. This is called laughter therapy as they do it regularly to release stress and stay healthy. Where else have we seen such stuff?  Morning laughter therapyImage source: @Vandana-delhi
  18. Burning dead bodies –  Yes it’s their ritual to cremate body under the fire with all the rituals. An ancient tradition where priest chant mantras and the sacred body becomes divine. One of the most of India’s famous places for cremation is Varanasi’s Manikarnika Ghat where bodies are burned along the Ganges bank, in a queue. This is a totally different experience found nowhere else on earth.Manikarnika Ghat cremation Varanasi Image Source: Google
  19. Temples of India – Well-carved temples and intricately detailed temples, pillars, ceilings, gates will amaze you. Temples are built at some of the most difficult places. I wonder how artisans and workers were able to work upon such difficult places without any technological aid. Visit either Khajuraho monuments as an example of an ancient temple or the Swaminarayan temple in Delhi which will leave you awe-inspired.Indian temple in south vertical photo for architecture Image Source: Pixabay
  20. Mobile smartphones – You will find that everyone owns a mobile phone. Be it a college student or elderly folk, everyone seems to have a smartphone in their hands.
  21. Queues, Yes queues are quite unique in India. Being a country with a population of more than a billion people, you will find queues everywhere. Be it a bus stop, a bank, temples, airports, train stations, restaurants. It is quite normal to find a systematic queue. 
  22. Kings living in royal palaces where you can also stay – Yes you heard it right! Some of the old palaces are converted into hotels. Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace which is converted into half a hotel also hosts the Maharaja on the other side of the palace. One of the world’s best hotels, you can experience royalty through lavishly decorated rooms, cutlery and the royal hospitality provided by the staff. 
  23. Noisy News channels –  It’s funny when you see news anchors debating on national television like crazy. Speakers in the show debate loudly, trying not to give chance to another speaker to say anything especially if its a political debate. I guess it hardly makes sense to the audience but the way they conduct debates is funny and entertaining. 
  24. Lavish marriages – You must visit one of the North Indian marriages. The kind of money they spent on marriages makes it royal. Super lavish buffets, amazing food, a fashion show of dresses, a burst of functions, dances, huge gatherings. Trust me, Indian marriages give the most fascinating experiences. 
  25. The festival capital of the world is India – Grand and amazing. The whole country gets decorated for every festival throughout the year. The major festivals celebrated are Diwali known as the festival of lights, Holi known as the festival of colors, Onam festival of Harvest in Kerala, Baisakhi festival of Punjab, Bengal’s Durga Pooja, Maharastra Ganesh festival and a lot more. You should not miss any of it so plan your visit accordingly.
  26. 5-star hotels and cheap stays – In a 5-star hotel like Taj, you can stay in India under $100–200 and am not joking. India offers amazing stay which is unparalleled when compared to the cost of accommodation in another part of the world. Staying in a 5-star hotel for $100 is a great deal. 
  27. Spicy food – I mentioned cuisines above but food in some places in India can be really spicy. Eating Kolhapuri food in Maharashtra can set your taste buds on fire.
  28. The traffic of India – My experience with honking has become music after a certain stay time. For the first few days, trust me it’s gonna be so frustrating to hear the noise of vehicles but then later you realize it’s better to hear the noise rather than complaining. Honking in traffic is a way of letting others know of your presence in India.
  29. Royal trains of India – You will feel like a Royal yourself when you would travel on these trains. I personally was not able to do it but I have seen the train called the Palace of Wheels. Its interiors truly give you the feeling of being in a palace which is moving on tracks. These trains are fully loaded for all the comfort you need and can travel extensively throughout the country. You can get anything from the buffet or a la carte menu depending upon your choice. 
  30. Kumbh Mela is the world’s largest religious fair which happens every five years as it hosts more than 100 million people in a city. This is the place where you will find different types of saints, philosophers, pilgrim camps called Akharas. All the devotees come to take a dip in Holy water. 
  31. Pedestrians don’t walk on the footpath – Shops and hawkers tend to encroach the footpaths and so people will walk on the road. There are no crossing signals as pedestrians tend to use their gut and casually cross the road without getting harmed. Not generalizing, but this is the common scene you will observe on Indian streets. 
  32. For cure and medicine you don’t need a doctor, visit the pharmacist and you will get basic medicine there. For headache, take crocin/Anacin etc, for cough take cough syrup. This is a common pattern for people of India who take medicine for basic stuff like headaches, stomach aches, etc.
  33. History of India – India is so culturally and rich that any historical place, food, festival etc you visit has an interesting tale to share. The richness and glory of its past can be heard from people of India, be it a guide or a local home visit. They take immense pride from where they came and where they are. Being exploited and invaded time after time, they deserve to share their rich history.
  34. Mothers are stay-at-home deities – Unlike western countries, where generally mothers work even after having children, Indian mothers tend to stay at home to nurture their family. They are the backbones of society and the reason why the youth of India thrives to be the best. Mothers in India do everything possible to make sure their children are healthy and successful. 

While this is my answer and I took so long to reply but being on Quora it compelled me to write an answer so I can give back to my community. I tried giving a holistic view of my experiences and if these answers have hurt anyone’s views, let’s not forget these are my personal opinions.

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