In this post I’m going to share with you the good and bad aspects of living in India for twelve years.

I didn’t live there all the time as I had to keep getting a new visa to be able to stay in the country. Yet, though I traveled in many other places during the last twelve years as well, it was India that was my base.

So let’s start this long post by firstly discussing the spiritual aspect of this country.

Spirituality in India

A temple in Kerala, India.

As soon as you land in India, you feel that the air is charged with spiritual energies. People who are sensitive to the energies of the environment will instantly feel more uplifted and supported. That’s the reason many people feel the need to keep coming back to India.

It’s told that those spiritual energies are in the air because of the ancient sages that walked the Indian soil. They achieved great spiritual heights, and their spiritually charged auras are still felt in this subcontinent.

Once you are in India and you feel those energies, you will experience many seeming coincidences. This is reported by many travelers. You feel in the flow, and you don’t plan at all. Yet you find yourself experiencing the most incredible meetings and events.

Listen to “What It Was Like to Stay in India All These Years | Simona Rich” on Spreaker.

Some people save for the Indian trip by working very hard; all they think about is saving enough to get to experience that energy again. Some come to India without enough money to return home, but they trust that somehow everything will work out, and it usually does.

Many spiritual seekers need that energy. It’s like milk to a child. When you are spiritually growing, the energy that India provides is very nourishing.

Yet eventually you get enough of that energy, you spiritually mature, and then you feel like you can live anywhere. India then is in your heart.

Spiritual seekers and other people you will meet

In India, you will meet many foreign spiritual seekers. One of the main reasons people visit India is for spirituality, so you will meet many kindred souls, and relationships can be formed almost instantly.

India attracts many kinds of people and not only spiritual seekers. It attracts the hippy-type individuals who are into weed and relaxation; it attracts health enthusiasts who are into yoga and organic food; it attracts many vegans, and also it attracts those who work for themselves and who love nature, Indian spirituality, and culture.

However, Indians themselves are focused on the material plane. Very, very few are spiritual seekers. There are some who come from rich families or from the office environment. They become disillusioned with chasing money and turn to the spiritual search.

Then there are those who since birth feel the calling to leave the world and become renunciates. Those come from all kinds of backgrounds. But true spiritual seekers are still very, very rare among the Indian people.

India as a whole is a developing country. So naturally here people are focused on establishing themselves in physical existence. Yes, they have wonderful spiritual festivals and their religion is beautiful, but for most, it’s about following the customs rather than trying to lead a truly spiritual life.

The excitement of unpredictability

Cows on the road in Bengaluru, India.

In India, you never know what will happen. There are much fewer rules than in the west, so life is not as predictable. Compared to the UK, for example, which has a million rules for everything, India seems totally chaotic.

Trains are delayed, buses come at their own time, people break promises and things can change at the last minute. This pushes you to live in the now, to be very aware, and so you feel more alive.

There are so many more freedoms about anything that you do.

For example, on trains, doors are sometimes left open. In the sleeper classes of the trains, there are no glass windows. So you can sit near the door to see the gorgeous view, or let the wind play with your hair when you’re watching the passing landscape from the window.

Trains are a totally different experience in the west, of course. Rules apply to anything that you do on the train, so your actions cease being spontaneous and become quite robotic.

I prefer the unpredictable kind of existence to the one stifled by rules, because it makes me feel alive. But I know some people would think otherwise.

Attention from Indians

A picture of a western girl with Indian children and adults in North India.

In India, you feel like a celebrity. Locals who don’t travel and only see white people on TV, really treat you like a star. They can ask you for a selfie, and they are so interested to talk to you. They also like to invite you to their homes, and some even follow you out of interest in what you will be up to.

So you feel like a star there, though sometimes this can get tiring. It really depends on what kind of person you are. Some people can’t take it, some – really enjoy it. I personally didn’t like it that much, being a private person that I am, but now I got used to it and I don’t mind it.

It also depends on where you are in India. The places that see fewer foreigners are more intense than those getting a regular influx of travelers.

You will always be a foreigner

Dua Lipa, a British singer, in a saree.

Though as a foreigner you are invited pretty much everywhere by locals, you will never be accepted as their own. That’s because the Indian nation has strong blood ties, and they tend to view those not belonging to their community as outsiders.

Yes, they will be nice to you. But they will never truly accept you as their own no matter how many years you spend with them.

There are very, very few Indian people who have crossed this community barrier, and my boyfriend is one of them. I think there’s more hope for the growing generation to be more inclusive, as they are less bound by the caste system mindset.

Brotherhood or segregation?

Girls from Kerala, India.

In India, communities are very strong. In Kerala, for example, the whole state is like one big community. That’s the reason, I believe, they were able to save their state from the British occupation to a large degree. They were given a sort of sovereignty – the British were not able to control them.

However, this is not so in many other parts of India. There, though communities are strong, they are very segregated. So the caste barrier is as strong as steel, though invisible. If you don’t belong to the community, you’re a stranger. And if you don’t belong to a family, you are also seen as more of an outsider.

In the west, such barriers have melted to a large degree. If you make friends with someone, if he’s a good person, he will be like a brother to you, no matter which country or race he belongs to. But most people of India fail to see beyond the skin or blood barrier.

I believe that the growing generation will be more accepting of people from all communities, nations and races.

Indian men

Kerala men playing ball on the beach.

My boyfriend is Indian, so what I’m going to say of course does not apply to all Indian men. Some Indian men are deep thinkers, caring and spiritual. Yet, because of the way that they are brought up, many Indian men become lazy, self-entitled and disrespectful of women.

Their upbringing, as I said, makes them so. Mothers spoil them rotten, whilst girls do all the duties. Were they brought up in the same way as daughters, they would be much more caring and responsible. Unfortunately, because they are not brought up in such a way, many remain childish, proud, and expect women to do everything for them.

I get many Facebook friend requests from Indian men. Sometimes it’s painful to accept these requests because as soon as you do, you start getting video calls and messages such as “Hi beautiful”. It’s so, so sad to see a male of thirty with the mind of a teenager. But again, I blame the parents and not them. They are simply the products of their upbringing.

Again, I must repeat that not all Indian men are like this. Otherwise I would never have an Indian boyfriend. Some men respect women and are genuinely helpful and good beings. But they are not many.

Indian festivals and marriages

Holi celebration in India.

I love Indian festivals because they are so beautiful. Diwali, Onam and Holi especially stand out in my mind.

I love the fact that festivals were celebrated in a very similar way hundreds of years ago. There’s so much that connects India with the past, and that’s why the atmosphere feels so ancient, especially in Indian villages.

Indian marriages are a beauty to behold too, yet those marriages often make people go deep into debt. Families sometimes borrow from banks to afford the marriage function. In traditional families, girls are seen as a liability because the parents have to pay the husband’s family to get her married.

But times have changed now and it’s no longer needed to get into debt for the children. Anyone now can make money by starting to create social media content or by becoming a YouTube star.

So there’s no need to borrow from a bank to get a daughter married. Not even education is now required to do something with your life.

Unfortunately, because many Indian people are heavily bound by tradition, I’m sure this kind of custom will still continue for a long time.

Wealth gap

The rich and the poor of India.

I’ve been mainly staying in Kerala, and there, the wealth gap is not seen as much as in the other states of India. Interestingly, the state of Kerala is a communist state, but their communism is not the communism that I witnessed in my own country Lithuania.

In Lithuania communism scarred the country and the people. It left horrible-looking soulless blocks of flats that make whole districts look depressing; and it crippled individuals mentally, so those who grew up under the communist regime are often pessimists and unhappy.

Yet in Kerala they made this brutal regime work, and now everyone has enough money to afford the necessities.

In the rest of India, however, the wealth gap is obvious. And it’s so hard for people to do anything about it because the gap got too great.

So, for example, if you give money to the beggar, what will happen is that the next thing you know, you are surrounded by many of them, who pull on your sleeves or touch your knees begging for cash. This becomes unsafe.

No wonder many Indians choose to stay disconnected from the beggars, but I’m sure if the government really cared, they could do something about this situation.

Entertainment

Beach cafe in Kerala, India.

Entertainment is what I love about India the most. You don’t have to spend a penny to get entertained. You can just take a walk through a jungle path and have a great time.

India has so much natural beauty. As I was mainly staying in Kerala, I can attest to the picturesqueness of this place. It’s full of tropical plants and tall trees, and even if you take the same road on a daily basis, you will never tire of the loveliness of nature.

I also enjoy going to cafes in India. If you go to a touristy place, there are many cafes located in the most beautiful spots. You order masala chai or coffee, and enjoy the view for as long as you like.

Or if you’re in a city, you go to an outlet such as Coffee Day and enjoy the atmosphere, look at the youth being dressed in kurtas and other colorful clothes, or look at a group of men dressed all in white talking business. This entertainment costs almost nothing.

Indian trains

A train in Kerala, India.

I love Indian trains because they are so old-style. Most Indians do not like the train experience, because those trains are a heritage of the British Raj. So they have bad associations in their minds about it.

Not so with foreigners, of course. Most travelers love the Indian train experience as it feels like you’re transported to a previous century.

However, because of the covid situation, the train sector started getting privatized. This means that soon India will witness modern trains, though that also means that the tickets will start getting expensive. I’m glad that I was in India at the time where those ancient trains were still running.

The rickshaws

How could I not mention those lovely taxis. Like motorbikes which are everywhere in India, this mode of transport has no sealed doors or glass windows, so the ride is so exciting. The wind plays with your hair and you get an excellent view of what’s around.

Plus, it’s quite an inexpensive private means to travel in cities and villages.

Walking in India

A beautiful road in Kerala, India.

This one could be tricky. If you walk as a foreigner, you will often be approached by different kinds of people wanting different things from you. Guys will ask you on dates, beggars will ask you for money, and sellers will ask you to buy something.

So walking can be a hassle, but it also depends on where in India you are. Kerala is a much more relaxed state. Many people are well-off there, so they are less needy which means fewer people will approach you. Though the sellers from Karnataka settled in the state can really try your patience.

But if you stay somewhere for a long time, locals will get used to you and will approach you less. Since I stayed in pretty much the same place most of the time, local sellers and hotel owners got to know how unresponsive I was to their attempts to sell me anything, so they left me alone to enjoy my daily sunset walks.

Though because in the west you are pretty much never approached, some westerners really enjoy all the attention that they get, and readily engage in any sort of conversation with interested locals. It’s all a matter of preference, therefore.

You can live like a queen (or king) in India

A tree house in Goa, India.

If you get western wages, living in India will feel very comfortable. You will get much more value for money than what you get in the west.

You will be able to live in the best locations, eat out in the best restaurants every day, and may use the rickshaws to go anywhere you please. Also, you could buy pretty much anything that you want without looking at the cost.

This is because it’s much cheaper to live in India than it is to live in the west. So your lifestyle can be twice or thrice as good as it is at home.

Food

Traditional South Indian food: a plain dosa with condiments, vada and chai.

Most people are familiar with Indian food. But those who never visited India may not know that food from India is so much better than the food gotten in any kind of Indian restaurant abroad.

I personally like the South Indian cuisine most, with their dosas, appams and parottas.

Indians use all sorts of spices in their foods and in South India they often add coconuts, jaggery, cashew nuts and bananas to their dishes, making them sweeter and less spicy than, for example, the North Indian cuisine.

In Kerala you will find many beef and fish dishes. Even most Hindus eat beef here, unlike in other Indian states. And since it’s a coastal town, fresh fish of all sorts is abundant.

The beauty of Indian dress

The elegance and beauty of Indian dress.

Indian dress is my favorite. Female attire in India embodies the feminine principle at its best. On the other hand, the western feminine attire got very cheap, with so much flesh showing that nothing is left to the imagination. For me, it looks like a desperate way to grab attention.

The Indian dress is not revealing. It enhances the shape and makes you look elegant.

In India, you will find women wearing even the boldest colors, and the color mixing is very different from that in the west. They also use various patterns and materials. The quality of materials is very important there, as it’s a hot climate country. The better material, the more expensive it is, of course.

The beauty of Indian people

Here I especially would like to mention the people of Kerala.

Their bone structure is excellent. Their smiles are fantastic. That’s because they live in a coastal area where most men till recently used to be fishermen. So they eat fish and beef on a daily basis.

This shows in the beautiful structure of their faces. Daily vitamin and mineral needs are met.

You can even witness very old people in great shape and with all their teeth intact, without them ever going to a dentist. This is not heard of in the west.

Conclusion

These are my experiences and opinions of India after staying there for twelve years. I tried to provide a realistic view, without idealism or too much criticism.

Like every country, India has both good and bad points about it. I, however, enjoyed staying there, and I’m sure I will visit this country again sometime in the future.

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