When you are a foreigner in India, you can’t just walk along the street and stay unnoticed. All the eyes on you! (Well, almost all). And it causes mixed feelings, but most often – irritation, because it is just not clear “Why?! Why do they stare??!”
My posts are usually not negative but this one can’t be positive for me. This is not to judge, but to bring a little bit of awareness. Staring is one of the worst things in India. Something that no foreigner likes here. How it feels – it can’t be properly described to Indian people, but every foreigner knows how uncomfortable it is. Sometimes you even start to understand the celebrities and surely don’t except fame as something cool anymore, but annoying! But if celebrities have done something for it and maybe wished to be famous, you are just a normal human which certainly didn’t do anything to receive never-stopping attention and weren’t mentally prepared to be not able to calmly walk along the street.
If you have visited China, you might think you know what I am talking about. But trust me – you do not. Chinese people do stare too but they do it very differently: giggling and photographing you hideously, which looks more like a childish immediacy. And there the girls are the ones who do it more, as well, as ask to take pictures with you, Chinese guys are usually very shy and they have certain restrictions in behavior towards the girls due to matriarchy in the country.
Indian stares are very different: long, steadfast, women stares can be judgmental and sometimes even hateful, men stares are often looking “hungry”, scary. And no, if you think that staring angrily or questionably back will help you – some people in India don’t stop staring at you even if you do so. A few times times I ended up asking them, why do they stare? And men have given a very surprised reaction, some were looking at me as if I have gone crazy, women just started laughing. But men in India stare more, much more than women, because Indian women claim that they are being stared at also.
Indians are not against to take pictures and videos with foreigners as well, random people, at random places…At first, for maybe couple of weeks it amuses you and you agree to take pictures. But after some time you start questioning it, because you certainly can’t imagine the same thing happening in your country. Really, you are visiting sight or exhibition but you are becoming an exhibit instead! Once, on one exhibition I have actually asked one guy who wanted to take picture with me, why he needs it? And his answer was: “My friends will be jealous”. But knowing how often Indian guys do send harassment messages, I have thought that he could even post it with the caption that he has a foreigner girlfriend, or worse…
Some people in India also look at foreigners as at real aliens, who have fallen from the sky. And have such perception of us as well like as if we don’t know anything about life on Earth, ha-ha – that much differently Indian people see life in India and another countries that they are being amused by every simple thing you can do. “I am just a human” – the words I feel like telling very often in India…
Foreigners even Google the question: “Why Indians stare?” In the most serious way. And the answers can be something like it is curious for them what a foreigner is doing in India, but they are shy to ask. And that they feel curious about foreigners in India but when they go abroad, they get used to see us everywhere so don’t stare anymore. And this is in the country that is currently one of the most famous travel destinations in the world, where thousands of foreigners come every year. And in Delhi – in the capital, one of the most famous places in India and where many foreigners are invited to come for work as well. People are still surprised, as much as they were 5 years ago, and seems like they will never stop to be, while in another countries where foreigners come a lot, people stop reacting at them. I can not imagine how foreigners in smaller cities of India feel.
By the way, if you think that it is the matter of clothes – yes and no. If you wear something short, people will obviously stare at you more, but if you dress up covered – people will still stare, just in “standard” way. Even if you dress up like an Indian, you will still attract people curiosity about why you are dressed such way then.
Actually, when I was coming to travel in India, I learned to feel calm about it…But, when I have moved here, it started to irritate me again, even more than before. Because I certainly didn’t expect that I will be still stared at even on the street where I live over a year! What to tell, sometimes people stare at me even when I am on my own balcony (and on 3rd floor, not the 1st one where everybody can see me, but no, people look up from downstairs even) when I just put wet clothes for drying. But when I am walking with my husband, I am being stared much less somehow.
If you ask locals about staring, they will not understand your irritation. Well, they will kind of, but they will not understand why this annoys you SO MUCH. Women will simply say: “They stare at everyone.” And from some point it will be right. But women here do not enjoy male attention at all, especially from strangers, especially in public places. And it is strange then, why they are so calm about staring? Especially when people talk a lot about women safety here, seems like staring is not something that makes them feel unsafe. But this is surely something that makes foreigner girls feel unsafe, maybe the most.
To be continued…
To read Part 2 of this article please Click Here.