Top 10 Key Differences between Indian and Western Culture

It is important to know the contrasting cultures of the West and India, especially for people who wish to settle or study abroad. While we’re all human inside and show similar behaviour when stripped off of all the national and cultural layers, there are remarkable differences between the East and the West! And hence, we’ve got you this list of the top 10 areas where the West differs from India:

10) Movies:

Time and again we find ourselves, as a part of endless debate on which of the two is better in the league: Hollywood or Bollywood. However, it is wise to conclude that, while Hollywood has given us films like The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump, Bollywood has equally upheld great cinema by producing films like Lagaan and Mughal-E-Azam. While Hollywood makes our mind boggle with staggering plots and state-of-the-art technology, Bollywood films venture out to pluck those strings of our hearts, which we didn’t know existed. Let’s just accept the greatness of both, and put down the uncompromising tension to rest.

9) Food:

From mid-night pizza cravings, to afternoon chaat desires, the heart wants what it wants. While Western food has given us Mac & Cheese, Indian food makes us salivate for the perfect Paneer Tikkas. Western foods are loaded with wholesome breads, lip-smacking gourmet cheese, and Nutella infested waffles, Indian food can be a foodie’s paradise with its spicy aromatic Biryanis, scrumptious Masala Dosas, yummy Bhajiyas and the mouth watering Gulaab Jamuns to end it on a sweet note.

8) Family orientation:

While the concept of joint families is still widespread and a preferable choice for Indian families, Westerners prefer to step out of their parents’ houses and start living independently post adulthood. The concept of nuclear families is beginning to gain acceptance in India too, with Westernisation modifying our traditional ways. There’s no right or wrong here, as it rests on the mutual consensus of the family members to choose which system works out better for them, in order to preserve the harmonious relationships between them.

7) Music:

While Sia’s Cheap Thrills can instantly light up the crowd in a club, Jagjit Singh’s ghazals can set the perfect mood for a couple reminiscing stories of their love. While Western music has diversity from genres like Rock, Pop, Jazz, Country and R&B, Indian music has its heart in Folk, Hindustani, Sufi, Ghazals and of course, Bollywood numbers. The West has produced great artists like Lady Gaga, Chris Martin, Eminem and Kanye West, India has been home to the great A. R. Rahman, Arijit Singh, Mohit Chouhan and Kishore Kumar.

6) Dance:

Although Hip-Hop has taken the world by storm, one cannot go an Indian wedding and dance without the classic Thumkas. There’s Salsa, Break Dance, Ballet and Tap-Dance from the West that make one want to groove, whereas there’s Bhaangra, Garba, Bharatnatyam, Bollywood and Kuchipudi given by India that adorn the art of dance.

5) Work culture:

You may be surprised to find out the differences between the office culture in both counterparts of the world. Typical work hours in the West are 8-4, with very little scope for flexibility. Deadlines are taken seriously and punctuality is not just a word in the dictionary. However in India, work hours are quite flexible and employees tend to work overtime, sometimes as long as 12 hours a day, by taking regular breaks for meals and coffee/chaai. Deadlines are considered as a benchmark, however people tend to negotiate their way into getting an extension.

4) Gender Roles:

While the West is more open to having female positions for the top managerial and leadership roles, Indian statistics show that the ratios are majorly in favour of men occupying such positions. However, India is witnessing a revolution with respect to women rights and empowerment. Women are no longer expected to work as homemakers, and are free to pursue other career options. The concept of nuclear families has given way to dual working partners where both the husband and wife work and support the family.

3) Tolerance:

The West is more tolerant and liberal when it comes to accepting an individual’s personal sense of style, sexual orientation or career path. The Indian society, on the contrary, has a strong prejudice for clothing (especially a woman’s attire, in that revealing clothes are often frowned upon), homosexuality or inter-caste marriages. Having said that, India is also a land of peaceful coexistence where one can marvel how Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsees live together respecting every individual’s religious affiliation. The West can have its own set of stereotypes though, for example Muslims living in Western countries are constantly on the radar, which is not the case in India.

2) Lifestyle:

The West has a highly consumption-oriented lifestyle, where people tend to spend a large chunk of their earnings on improving their lifestyle. Indians however, believe strongly in the concept of saving for the future, where they give importance to having a comfortable retirement and saving enough to support the future family generations. One major lifestyle difference is when it comes to clothing, where Western women typically wear pants, jeans, t-shirts and tank tops, Indian women wear salwar kameez or sarees. For formal occasions, Indian men choose to wear sherwanis or bandhgalas, whereas Western men dress in suits or tuxedos. Another lifestyle difference is the way of dining, where Indians prefer to eat with hands, whereas Westerners like to use spoons, knives and forks for dining (barring burgers and pizzas of course, where Westerners prefer to go the Indian way!)

1) Marriage:

This is one institution where Westerners differ to a great extent from their Indian counterparts. In the West, relationships are considered as a way of knowing a person and eventually figuring out if the partner is compatible enough to get married to. There is a period of dating, followed by courtship, which generally lasts for years, after which the couple decide to get married. However, in India, the system of arranged marriage still persists. Parents select a suitable match for their son/daughter, preferably in the same community and having the same faith, and also of a similar socio-economic status. With agreement on the part of the guy and girl, the families get the couple married.

These differences make both cultures unique and exciting. Owing to this diversity, Indians are choosing to Westernise in their eating options as well as clothing, whereas Westerners are trying to incorporate Yoga and meditation, as well as Indian cuisine into their lifestyle. It’s great to experience the best of both worlds!

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Disha Jain

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