A stereotype is a popular belief or generalization about something. And, let's face it, India attracts a lot of stereotypes, much to the annoyance of its citizens. Yet, India truly is a country of contrasts and contradictions. It's often said about India that where something is true, the opposite will also be true. Let's take a look at 10 popular Indian stereotypes.
1. India is a Land of Snake Charmers
Snake charmers conjure up images of the ancient and exotic for tourists, but are a bane for average Indian who feels that they portray the country in a backwards light. The reality is that snake charming is illegal in India and has been for a number of years, although snake charmers do still exist. Of course, there is much more to India than snake charming.
2. Indians are Poor but Happy
Slums, slums, everywhere! The movie Slumdog Millionaire had a huge impact on the way India was perceived around the world. The amount of beggars in India doesn't help the situation either. But what usually strikes foreigner visitors is that although many people in India have very few possessions, they still smile. Indeed, there is a lot of poverty in India. However, India also holds a significant proportion of the world's riches. Some of the richest people in the world live in India. In addition, the disposable income of the "great Indian middle class" is now increasing. As a result, people are becoming more materialistic, and concerned about status and appearance.
3. The "Real India" is Dirt and Chaos
Many foreign tourists come to India looking to have what they term a "real India experience". They like to live as frugally as possible, and delve into India's dirt and chaos. They overlook the fact that India has luxury hotels, shopping malls, nightclubs and bars -- which are also part of the country's fabric. Instead of the "real India", a more accurate term would be the "dual India".
4. Indians Speak Hindu -- oh, um, Hindi!
Unfortunately, many foreigners make the mistake of confusing religion with language in India. Hindu is the religion, and Hindi is the language -- but you may be surprised to find that many Indians don't actually speak Hindi. This is particularly the case in south India, where they speak languages of Dravidian origin. In fact, Hindi isn't even taught in many schools. Every region in India has its own language. Hindi is spoken in its purest form in north India. It will be a second language to many people elsewhere in India, and English is widely spoken across the country.
5. Indians are Uneducated
This is probably the worst and most inaccurate stereotype -- that Indians aren't educated. The truth is that education is extremely important in India. Even poor families strive to give their children the best education possible because they know it's the key to a better future. Doctors and engineers top the list of professions in India. MBAs and PhDs are common qualifications. India also has plenty of business schools, and the government is working hard on providing quality higher education. The education system in India is competitive, challenging, and thorough. In Mumbai, most children will go to extra tuition after school just to get ahead.
6. Cows Roam the Roads
One of the first things that usually comes to mind when people think of India is holy cows. They've got quite a reputation. And the question that's often asked is, "Do cows really roam on the roads even in cities in India?" This stereotype is actually true. It won't take you long to spot your first cow. They can even be found chilling on the beaches in Goa! Cows wandering the streets do pose a problem though. They will fearlessly walk out in front of traffic, so drivers need to be extra cautious.
7. Indian Cuisine is all Butter Chicken
While the Punjabi cuisine served in Indian restaurants across the world sure is tasty and popular, it's not an accurate representation of what Indian food really is. In fact, each region in India has its own style of cooking. In Kerala, the use of coconut is popular. In Kolkata, the menu commonly features seafood such as fish or prawns. Down south, rice is favored. In the north, people prefer Indian bread such as naan cooked in the tandoor.
8. Indians Worship Millions of Gods
330 million gods in India! Gods and goddesses with multiple heads and arms! What kind of crazy religion is Hinduism? Actually, it's not what it seems. While Hindus do believe that god is in everything, it's all manifestations of the one source and creator of reality -- Brahman. Therefore every living and non-living thing is viewed as sacred. Each of Hinduism's many gods and goddesses also represent individual aspects of Brahman. For example, Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge and the arts. Hinduism doesn't prescribe any set path. Rather followers can worship which ever deity they feel the need to.
9. If Your Name is Mehtar You Must be a Sweeper
The rigid caste system that India has been known for in the past is slowly changing. It's existed since the Vedic Age, but it was during British rule that Indians were especially categorized according to caste. When India achieved independence, the government wanted to build a casteless society. Education has played a huge role in changing the caste system. Nowadays, you can't just assume someone will follow a certain profession just because of his surname. Even lower caste people are studying to become engineers. However, caste still remains a significant part of people's mentalities, particularly where arranged marriages are concerned. Conversations amongst Indians also include jokes that refer to caste stereotypes.
10. Indians are Corrupt
Unfortunately, corruption is a major concern in India. The problem grew in the years after India became independent, and started from the top level of government. Without proper legislation in place to penalize it, it proliferated. Bureaucrats followed the lead of ministers, and citizens had no choice but to comply with it in order to get any work done. Hence it's spread through all levels of government and society. However, after the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the public's tolerance for corruption has reached an all time low. A number of measures are being put in place to curb it, including new legislation.