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    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

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    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

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    Japan
    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

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    Qatar
    Although little more than a deserted peninsula, Qatar has a thriving culture based on technology and immigration, with Doha (pictured) taking the lead. Explore Qatar!

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    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Culture & Identity of India

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in India, please read this travel warning before going!

Introduction

Indian Culture - Drummers from Kerala
Drummers from Kerala

India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. There are dozens of official languages, dozens of ethnic groups, and numerous religious groups represented in the country. The culture and way of life for each of these groups of people can be vastly different. Life in the Himalayas is incredibly different from life in the southern plateaus or marshy delta of the many rivers.

Although home to over one billion people, India is not heavily urbanized. Only about a third of the people live in cities, but even in rural areas the country is quite densely populated. Over half the population makes a living in agriculture, many of whom work small farm plots without any significant machinery to make farming easier. In these farming communities, neighbors are close and family is important as people live relatively close, unlike in the farming communities of other countries.

In more rural areas the people tend to live with the weather and seasons, but also tend to be more religiously conservative. In many rural areas the caste system is still very much alive as mobility, social and economic, is nearly impossible.

Indian Culture - Roma Girls in the Himalayas
Girls in the Himalayas

Despite this world, which is reality for most of the nation's population, in the large cities life is very different. Bangalore is the technology capital and perhaps displays the greatest contrast to that of life in the rural farmlands. The caste system is nearly non-existent here as education and ingenuity rule social and economic mobility. Religion is still important to many people, but the daily life is often times more strictly defined by jobs and working hours. Many people work regularly scheduled jobs, many of which run from about 9:30 am to about 5:30 pm.

Yet life is more varied in the Himalaya Mountains, among the religious Buddhists and Muslims, as well as others. There is no regular way of life in the country, although for many individuals and sub-groups life is fairly predictable and constant. Life runs on a schedule and opportunities exist, although some are more difficult to obtain. Nights also seem to be late as dinner isn't taken until 9:00 pm or later and mornings seem to start a bit later, perhaps in order to avoid the brutal hot and monsoon seasons.

Indian Culture - Food for Sale
Food for Sale

Among most Indians education is an important aspect of life. Most schools start at about the same time as the workday begins, but most schools finish at 1:00 pm. Higher education is also growing in importance, especially for the technical jobs that are quickly growing, particularly India remains a location for foreign investment.

No matter the lifestyle and culture in India, the people seem to focus on family and children as many couples have a few children. No matter the wealth of a couple, having children is essential to Indians and often times three or more generations live under the same roof. In some cases the working aged adults support the entire family financially, while the other family members maintain the house and help raise the children. Of course this is India, so there is no standard or normal.

Identity

Most people in India tend to identify as either a member of their local ethnicity, of which there are hundreds or as a member of their religion, of which there are dozens. This sense of identity is truer in more rural areas as each many towns are home to people of a single ethnicity, language, and perhaps even a unique religion. This diversity is great from town to town, city to city, and region to region. This tendency to identify on an ethnic, linguistic, and religious level is somewhat limited to people who are more static. For many young people, especially those who have moved to a large city, identity is a bit vaguer. As many people move to cities, some places are forming melting pots of ethnicities, languages, and cultures. For these people and the next generation, it is more common to identify on a larger scale, whether than be as a member of the city, region, or even the country. In this way, many of the educated youth are shedding the caste system and viewing themselves as "Indians" in the global landscape, although many people still cling to their ethnicity on some level.

This page was last updated: November, 2013