7 Everyday Things I Took For Granted With The Western Way Of Life
Updated: Jan 13
When I first arrived in India there were many things I wished that I had packed with me that I didn't even give a second thought to as I just assumed I could obtain them anywhere in the world. But alas, I was only too shocked to discover I could not buy these items anywhere during my travels in Punjab. Basic things that I simply never even thought to appreciate. You don't realise just how convenient the western lifestyle is until you move abroad to rural India. It certainly teaches you to appreciate the simple things in life. Although we may understand that there are many people worse of than ourselves, it doesn't truly sink in until you have to go without.
1. Buying Everyday Essentials
Since everyday essentials like tampons, makeup remover wipes, hair conditioner in a bottle bigger than 100ml, acetone nail polish remover, yeast, stock cubes, cheddar cheese and diet softdrink are so readily available in the west, you just assume that these things will be easily obtainable. But they simply aren't in many parts of Punjab.
Little things that make our life easier in the western society, aren't even missed in the Indian culture. Who would think that women here didn't use tampons, although now it makes perfect sense. Or that they don't condition their hair because they use hair oils as treatments to condition their hair. Products are modified to appeal to the Indian demographic therefore you can expect to find such things as whitening agents in face lotions and washes. This is because many Indian women believe that being fair skinned is beautiful and are always trying to attain a fairer complexion. Or that only dark coloured hair dyes are sold since women are naturally dark and it is very uncommon for women to bleach their hair.
2. Bathrooms With Showers
This one came as a shock to me, that people here have washrooms. It's basically just a large tiled room with taps and a toilet. There will be a large bucket underneath the taps which they fill to wash with rather than a shower or a bath tub. Some people opt for showers but living rurally you will simply find that people bathe from a bucket. In the Summer I have no issue but in the freezing cold of Winter you wish you had heated tiles and a hot running shower.
3. Cooking Utensils & Appliances
Given that people eat differently here cooking utensils will also be different. Most kitchens will simply have a couple of gas burners to cook with and a fridge. There is no need for microwaves, coffee machines, kettles, toasters, food processors, ovens or any form of modern kitchen appliance. However you will find that in cities of Punjab people will live a more modern lifestyle, though there still won't be as many appliances as you are probably accustomed to.
Women also prepare food here with a paring knife as they traditionally prepare food in social gatherings, therefore they have no need to keep sharp cooking knifes. Curry with roti is the traditional food for breakfast here, however I stick to my coffee and porridge. Which all have to be made the old fashioned way - in a saucepan!
4. Eating Normal Food
As I have mentioned before Indian people love Masala. It is even added to western take out foods therefore it is challenging to find any takeout that doesn't have masala sprinkled all over it. This is not the only difference, even pizza is not made the Italian way but has been modified to the likings of locals. A pizza here will have every topping applied that you can possibly think of. More is more here, not less. A pizza could have anything from corn kernels, olives, capsicum, pineapple, strawberries, papaya, onion, gherkins, jalapeno and so on.
Global brands such as Domino's also have a modified menu for the local palette, however they at least stick to minimal toppings and a deep pan base. They just don't sell beef or pork. McDonalds also have a modified menu however it is very similar to the Australian franchise. Again no beef or pork only chicken is available. And when it says spicy they mean spicy!!! A spicy McChicken Burger is not the same in India.
5. Over The Counter Medicines
This one can be quite frustrating if you are sick and need medicine. Most medicines are available and easy to find over the counter. But then some medicine such as codeine related pain killers aren't sold anywhere. So if you have severe pain the best you can buy is paracetamol or ibuprofen. I always bring as much as I can of any medicine I will need for my period of stay. That way I also know they are regulated and not an inferior product. It also means I have them on hand as soon as I need them without running around looking for them when I am sick.
6. A Good Cup Of Coffee
Do I miss a decent cup of coffee or what. The best you can buy here is Nescafe Instant Coffee. There is no alternative and there certainly aren't any barista coffees available such as a latte or cappuccino. A good cup of coffee can be difficult to find in Australia in any instance. So there is no hope of finding one in India. You will need to travel to Italy for that.
7. Western Toilets
I am lucky that my family have both a traditional and western toilet as do most of our relatives. The traditional toilet is just a hole in the ground that you squat over. It's not the worst to use but they do tend to get filthy. If you are travelling its difficult to find a western toilet and if you do it will most likely be filthy since locals use them in the same manner. So there are typically foot prints and fecal matter all over the toilet seat. Remember that people here don't use toilet paper either but rather wash off with a high pressured spray of water or the old fashioned way with a cup of water that you straddle. I always have to carry my own toilet paper if I go anywhere. This is just a comfort preference of mine.