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First Impressions of India

I arrived in Mumbai a few days ago. Everything since has been an absolutely amazing whirlwind experience. Big thanks to a friend of mine from Boston who met me here and offered his family’s place to stay in. A personal guided tour? Why thank you!

So far India has not been at all what I was expecting. Everyone enjoys providing unsolicited opinions and it seems everyone I met who’d been to India had a completely different experience to share. Travel can (should?) be a very personal experience, so it makes sense that everyone’s opinion of India has varied widely. But there are a lot of negative myths out there regarding India and I haven’t found a single one to be true yet.

India is a big big country so obviously each state, each city is going to be different. Different cultures, different foods, different people. I landed in Mumbai and have spent the past several days in a suburb about an hour outside the city (Nerul/Seawoods area). The family I’m staying with couldn’t be nicer and it’s been a wonderful experience so far.

So, what are some of the things people told me to expect when I entered India? And what, after less than handful of days, have I experienced?

The smell

There must be some sort of requirement to make fun of the smell of India. I don’t really get it. So many people (I’m not even sure if they’ve been to India themselves) said I would experience an overwhelming dirty smell the second I stepped off the plane. That’s not the case. Yes, it was humid and hot when I arrived. But that’s about it. Maybe Mumbai smells better than Delhi?

The toilet

The airport had western toilets. Since then, I’ve been using squat toilets. Surprisingly easy. Toilet paper is easy to come by, too. Rumor has it that squat toilets are better for your bowels, as well. After getting over the initial suspicion, using them is quite fine.

The food

So good! Seriously. It’s authentic, it’s delicious, it’s amazing! It’s also not nearly as spicy as I was expecting. Some things aren’t even spicy! (Again, this may just be a consequence of the region I’m in. Like everything, there are regional differences.) I can’t really tell you what I’ve had, but I’ve got several photos already and I’ll be sure to share once I upload them.

The people

I’m very lucky to be staying at a friend’s family’s home, so my experience may be different than others. The family has been so welcoming and accommodating that I’ve had a very easy time so far. It was especially nice to be able to celebrate Diwali with them.

I realize the first few days in a new country are usually exciting and interesting, and travelers are usually blind to things they don’t want to see. So it is possible I’m still in some sort of honeymoon phase, but I don’t care. This place is wonderful.

  1. Flipnomad says:

    the smell is different in calcutta… cant explain it…

  2. Eyal Aviv says:

    pics or it didn’t happen!

  3. Jeremy says:

    Not going to lie, I sure hope that Indian food is authentic in India.

  4. Maybe the horror starts when the rides on public transportation begin?

    • Adam says:

      hmm… i’ve taken the local trains around mumbai so far. it can get a bit smelly especially when it’s super-crowded in 2nd class.

  5. Claire says:

    ugggh. squat toilets. positively unladylike, good for your bowels or not!! glad to hear you are enjoying yourself!

  6. Tour Absurd says:

    Haha, the old squat toilet! In Tanzania they referred to them as “pit latrines.” I would have to agree that it’s a more natural, if sometimes less convenient, way to go. More hygienic, too!

  7. Sarah Peduzzi says:

    Sounds incredible if you ask me. Can’t wait to see some pictures!

  8. James Shannon says:

    Good to hear you weren’t as shocked as you thought you would be … has the honking got to you yet? :P

    • Adam says:

      “honk ok please”

      hah! it’s not so bad. most of the noise has come from all the firecrackers for diwali. once those stop, maybe i’ll be able to hear again.

  9. Annie says:

    So happy for you to be in India!!!! I can’t wait to see the pics of the food, it’s my absolute fav and high, high on my bucket list is getting there to try to real thing. Of course, I’m exciting for all the other pics and posts too! Have fun Adam!

  10. G @ Operation Backpack Asia says:

    Adam it makes a HUGE difference when you’ve got locals showing you around for sure!! Lol be sure to thank them a thousand times over, really. Just having a go-to point is providing you a harbor from much of the onslaught of overwhelm, PLUS enhancing the good stuff. That’s awesome!

    And yeah we found Mumbai in general to be a big relief compared to Delhi. It didn’t smell once we had one foot off the plane, however while the first bathroom I ducked into had a seat toilet, it also had female stains all over it (and the entire stall), plus was hot and sticky in there – yummy! THEN you walk into the arrival hall and try to figure out the money situation, try to walk out one door past the armed guards to look into the seething mass of men standing there all shouting at you to take their taxi and you’re just looking for the hotel’s car that’s meant to be there waiting for you but they didn’t say which side to exit on, then you try to go back into the airport but now the armed guard is shoving you back with one arm on his gun saying no entry, you feel a curious hand trying to open up the zipper on your bag, everyone is still shouting at you, you finally convince the guy to let you back into the airport so you can go to the other side and find your taxi, THEN ride white-knuckled into the night into the insanity that is driving in India – past the cows and people sleeping on the edge of the curb, horns blaring, lanes thoroughly ignored, cars stopped in the middle of the highway to watch the planes go by, and finally down the trash-strewn alley to your hotel. And that’s just your first hour! ;)

    Don’t worry…give it some time and you’ll get what people mean about the smell. Maybe it’s not *everywhere* but it may start to feel like it, or at least maybe you’ll remember it so, as so many of us do. But you’re rad and I’m sure you’ll find it as endearing as we (eventually ;)) did. I hope you find one thing true that I’m sure everyone told you to expect about India: there’s nothin like it in the world. :)

    Enjoy, friend!

    • Adam says:


      1. You are awesome. Thanks for sharing your story about entering India!
      2. You’re right – it’s so amazingly helpful to have a local help you around.
      3. I’m going to Delhi tomorrow, so I’ll be sure to check out the smell.
      4. I definitely think as I start backpacking alone through the country, I’ll start to have a different experience, hopefully still as rewarding and fascinating!

    • yenhsravkeviv says:

      So I don’t particularly know what is meant by the smell, perhaps you mean pollution? Maybe I’ve been so many times that I’m just used to whatever smell and don’t notice it? I will say the Delhi area in the 90s was MUCH more polluted than it is now; back then I would walk off the plane and start coughing as I couldn’t breathe; nowadays the air is a lot better as they’ve mandated CNG for all taxis and buses going into Delhi, as well as a host of other pollution control measures.

      What bothers me most is the dust everywhere. It’s a very fine sandy dust that quickly gets on everything no matter how hard you try to keep stuff clean…..on the tables, floors, on your hands, all over your electronics…..I guess it’s due to some combo of less rain than where I’m from (Boston, MA) and less filtration (if any) on HVAC systems.

  11. Anonymous says:

    How cool! I definitely want to try Indian food in India–I ate loads of curry in England and it made me want to eat the real thing. Keep an eye out for any awesome yoga schools for me :)

  12. enrolled agent cpe says:

    Your article gave me a whole new view about the country. Just like what you have mentioned I have heard and read different things about India and in most cases those people probably have not gone there yet. I have to agree that traveling is indeed a personal experience, it does not depend on the place but on one’s ability to welcome a new experience.

  13. Kimberly says:

    The “smell” is one of the most visited tourist attraction in India, i wonder why=)

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  15. Lynx says:

    I’m leaving for India next month to do a short study abroad program. Stumbling across your blog while you’re actually in the country is making me more excited for the trip!

  16. Emily Groffman says:

    Well, looks like you’ve found one thing that India and New Jersey have in common! Or perhaps it’s just a similarity between tourists in India and New Yorkers.

  17. Sailorsampath says:

    I will give you what the eye has not seen, and what the ear has not heard, and what the hand has not touched, and what has not arisen in the heart of man. -zesus chirst
    find out more at nice blog

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