This is a the report for my local AIESEC chapter of my 6-month internship in India:
Before I came to India, the term “culture shock” didn’t mean anything to me. “What, shock? Is that some kind of medical emergency? Nah, something like that won’t happen to me…”. To prepare myself for India, I read a lot of blogs and reports. What I read was all very interesting and shocking but totally didn’t make up for the actual experience: Despite the name, culture shock has precious little to do with a medical condition. The travel to India was my first real trip outside central Europe, so India hit me hard. “India is in your face”. It is dirty, it’s unbelievably crowded and noisy.
Over the time, I got used to the permanent horn concerto on the roads; Or, to put it another way, the continuous battle of the cars who has the loudest horn and thus gets the most attention to push forward. In towns, to move forward was actually a challenge because the cars need to share the road with a whole lot of pedestrians, all kind of rickshaws, tired-of-life bus drivers and even some more exotic vehicles like horse carts. Docile cows in the middle of the road are contributing to the situation as much as the non-existence of lanes or the enforcements of any traffic rules. Well, actually there is one “rule”, and apart from about 100.000 traffic deaths a year, it “works”: Give way to the bigger one.
Paharganj, the area where I arrived, looked like a pile of god damned ruins in an end time novel where nobody seems to care for maintenance and the people nest in little holes and corners or use them as a rubbish dump. A friend who visited me later said that Old Delhi looks like the typical third world chaos only more extreme. Overall, “grossly fucked up”.
But don’t get me wrong here. In this report, I actually want to advertise going to India. It’s this thing,… somehow you can feel that this city is alive. It is unhealthy and hard to live there, but while I lived there, I felt more alive than ever. This is one of these magic things about India. A friend of me once said that while you are there, you hate it. But as soon as you are home, you want to go back to India. This is true for me, too. It’s some strange kind of hate-love with India. It sure is exhausting in India but it just gets boring in Germany after some time.
So, Germany has some downsides, too: There are no taunts here who try but fail to trick you into something all the time; You don’t and can’t bargain here; Our buses don’t look like artwork and you can’t travel on their roof, despite the great view; Everything is in order and quiet, you have to use your turn light and driving mirror all the time instead of just using the horn; You can’t bribe officials to bend the rules for you; And moreover, you are not the centre of all attention any more. This was really bemusing when I came back home… ;-)
I was one of the few people to do a technical traineeship with AIESEC. Most of my housemates were really cool people, we partied together, we travelled together and along the way, now I have friends and contacts all over the world. Many people who come to India shorten their internship because they are not content with their internship or because they want to have more time to travel. (I fall into the second category here.) But I haven’t met anyone who regrets to have come to India, for India is already worth the experience alone in my opinion. I was lucky and I am really glad to have done this internship at CueBlocks, I even made friends with my boss who is a really funny guy.
Now, I wouldn’t want to live in India permanently, but there is truly a lot to discover. I can’t say that India is beautiful, at least not in a classical way. What makes India worthwhile, is the whole thing, the India, the different ways of life, how things work (or not work). It’s damn fascinating and sometimes shocking. One thing is their religion which is so different, exciting and alive. Religion in India is very colourful, even cheesy. Hindu temples for example don’t feel holy, they feel like… a fair. As a Westerner, a materialist and logic thinker, it’s really difficult to understand their religion and to grasp how they think… probably even more for a religious person. I know some people who like to stress the contradictions in the bible. Let me take a laugh at them, for they have no idea that for Hinduism, you need a much much bigger cup of goodwill to believe in that. There are some things which are so obviously … totally unbelievable that nobody seems to bother to argue about it.
Once I talked with a local about religion. After he explained to me that he is a devotee of Shiva because he is also known as “the one that is easily pleased” (so it’s more easy for him), he asked me about my belief. He didn’t ask me if I am Christian but if I am “a devotee of Lord Jesus”. In Hinduism, it doesn’t matter to whom I pray. I could believe in “Lord Jesus” and be a good Hindu :-)
If you plan to go to India, you should see it as an experience, an experience that will rock your life.