Cultural Sensitivity and Jaipur

One of the most famous landmarks of Jaipur is the Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds.

Life in India is not as it is in any other country and Jaipur is no different. The city has its own beauty, however it may shock a first-time visitor. Jaipur has a different culture and the city has evolved over the years. The people are used to seeing domestic and foreign visitors and therefore are more culturally sensitive than any other city in India. This doesn’t mean that you should not expect a complete stranger to come to you and say Hi, or ask you to take a picture with him! They don’t mean any harm, they are only curious.

India has a more ‘touch friendly’ culture. It may be because of the number of people, but people may walk past you, brushing against you, or you may find men holding hands with men. It is not an indication of their preferences but because of their upbringing, where they do not find it inappropriate. Do not feel embarrassed when someone wants to shake hands with you and you are not willing. Bend your elbows and put your palms together, smile and say ‘Namaste’. They will like it.

People may stare at you. It is normal and is not considered impolite. They are not trying to look for something in particular, they are only curious. Foreign tourists are generally more ‘interesting’ subjects because they look different. If you find a pair of eyes following you, it may be better to ignore and not make contact. A contact or a smile may appear inviting and they may come to you to say hello and shake hands, leading to a Namaste!

It is normal to throw garbage on the road and you may not find many bins. A heap of garbage in the street may be common. Hygiene and civic sense have a different meaning in India. Jaipur is much better than most cities in the country (winning the cleanest city in Asia award in 2006). It is suggested that you do not expect much on these fronts. The nice and friendly population will make up for it.

People in Jaipur are very friendly. The city gets a great share of revenue from tourism and international exports, and a lot of people have traveled abroad. They understand the problems faced by a visitor in a new country and the importance of tourism in the economy. They will be genuinely willing to help. It is recommended to ask men as women are shy in the male dominant society and may not speak much. This is not to say that they are any less in society or they cannot help. Women are respected and hold a high position in the Jaipur culture.

If you want to indulge in anything that requires money, learn the art of negotiating. There is a strong possibility that a cab driver may charge you twice the amount or a shopkeeper may ask you for more money than printed on the bottle of water. With all its good, Jaipur still has people who may want to cheat you. If you are confused, ask for help from a local citizen. Police is also a good option, you may find men wearing khaki or white and blue uniforms in most areas. Ask them to help you figure the right price or to negotiate for you.

Credit cards are yet to find a place in India and may not be accepted at all places. Always keep cash with you and try to keep most denominations. General rules like not keeping a lot of cash visible, keeping change in a separate pocket, etc., apply. If you really want to give (strictly disapproved), it is alright to give 1 rupee to a beggar, who you may find aplenty. It is a business for them, do not consider this as a donation.