Britons thinking about Indians

What do British people think about India and Indian people?

Jack Calnan

Jack CalnanI spent 2 months backpacking around India this year.
Upvoted by Martin StrohmeierBeen living and studying in various pla…

I’m assuming the OP here is Indian, and, if so, I think I can guess why this question has been asked.

I am a Brit who recently spent 2 months backpacking around India. Whilst I was in Shimla, Himachel Pradesh, I got chatting to a guy in a cafe. Neither of us had nothing else to do that day, so he ended up showing me around. We got on so well, that he invited me to come and stay at his family home with his parents for a few days. I got to know them all very well, and had some fantastic conversations about our different cultures.

One of the things that kept cropping up in conversation was this very question: “What do Britishers think about Indians?” And I was surprised to learn that they believed that the general population of Britain are in fact quite racist towards Indians.

First and foremost, let me say that I think it is patently ridiculous to assume that the question has a reasonable answer. There are 63 million of us. We don’t have the same opinions on anything. The concept that this question has one true answer, is the same as expecting one true answer to the question “what are Indians like?” There’s 1.2 billion Indians in India, it would be impossible to answer such a question with a reasonable answer. Individual people are unique in a lot of ways.

Now, let me be 100% honest with you:

There is a small ignorant minority of people in the UK who bear certain negative stereotypes against certain ethnic groups. I have no interest in perpetuating any of those here.

According to the last census, 1.8% of UK residents are Indian. There are also 1.5% Pakistani and 0.5% Bangladeshi. To this ‘ignorant minority’, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people would fit in the same stereotype category. Trust me, they wouldn’t bother to come up with some new stereotypes when a different group looks a bit similar. This makes a total percentage of 3.8%, third largest after White British (85.65%) and White (other) (5.27%) and therefore the largest visibly, non-ethnically British population in the UK. Also in my experience, Indians tend to populate particular areas of large towns such as London, Birmingham and Leeds. Why not? I’d do the same if I moved somewhere that had a British population in a certain area.

All this makes the community an easy target for the ignorant minority, who are simply looking for a direction to spew their casual racism.

The UK is an extremely ethnically diverse nation. Anybody that does not fit inside the ‘ignorant minority’ group will typically have no interest in anybody that they do not know. An Indian walking down the street in London, is not the same as a Brit walking down the street in Delhi. In Delhi, it is much more out of the ordinary to see a white person than it is to see an Indian in Britain. In India, I was constantly being smiled at, shaking hands, asking where I was from etc etc because I was white. If you did this in London, you wouldn’t have time for anything else.

My point is, who has more of an impact on you, the 999 British people you saw that week that ignored you because they don’t see any difference between you and themselves, or the 1 person that shouted a racial slur from a car? Of course, you remember the racial slur. 

And this is how the idea that British people have racist opinions and stereotypes of Indians is perpetuated.

Now, I suppose that was a pretty long answer based upon an assumption I’ve made about the OP so I should probably just answer the question based upon my own experience!

From home:

I work with a number of Indians, most of them are carpenters. All of them are extremely friendly, hard working and highly skilled. I got a lot of help from some of them when I was planning my trip and was given a lot of helpful advice. It seemed that they really cared.

From my travels:

I found Indians to be the friendliest and most hospitable people I have ever met. Talking only of first hand experience (ignoring what I read in the papers), I don’t have a single negative thing to say about Indian people. I felt welcomed at every turn and, if I ever looked lost, it wasn’t for long because someone would be there to help the poor tourist within seconds.

Obviously, this is a country with issues to deal with such as overpopulation, the economy, corruption and certain social problems. But it is a country with great times ahead. The youth in India are extremely educated, active and socially mobile. They care about the future of the country and are interested in its politics a lot more than in other countries I have visited.

I really hope that the friends I made graduate and find jobs which allow them the stability to come and visit me in London one day. They have already been cordially invited. If not, I’ll certainly be going back to see them at some point.

Clive Parkinson

Clive Parkinsonteaches in Shanghai

Fantastic food! Just like dad makes it, but better!  …hmm

What fascinating use of English! Really excited to have the English language enriched by such diversity of experience! …not really their choice though, was it

Wow, to finally see where my grandfather spent so many years during the war! …what was he doing here anyway

In short, the visible British cultural influence (especially in the language, but also in the political culture) makes India so much more accessible than you would expect, and you even see relics of your own culture that have been lost and forgotten back home. One the one hand you’re tickled to see it there, but there’s also a nagging sense that it shouldn’t be, and a deep wish that the cultural exchange had been more mutual or at least not so coerced. I was relieved to see that no Indians (openly) held it against me, and I was deeply moved by the apparent capacity for forgiveness. Not many people or peoples can do that. 

Despite the comforts of English, India is without question the most culturally rich and distinctive country I have ever visited. Whether on the superficial level of colorful dress or the deeper level of religion and philosophy, there’s a lot going on. I felt that many of Indians’ cultural habits served them well– the people struck me as being especially grateful, thoughtful, and humble. 

On the other hand, someone tried to cheat me just about every day I was there. But India made me feel optimistic that humanity could have diversity of thought in an interconnected world, confidence apart from material acquisition, imagination alongside technical expertise, and natural preservation alongside population growth. So I feel very optimistic about India. 

Of course, I am only seeing what I wanted to see… There seems to be a great distance between the best and the worst of India. I’m sure that concerned Indian citizens face many serious struggles against ingrained prejudice, as concerned citizens elsewhere do as well. 

But India has so much to offer the world that I feel a success for India would be a success for the best values of humanity.

There have been a lot of questions asked on Quora like

and there are many more…
People have a very wrong perception about India. Especially Indians, as they see a lot of movies and television series and then compare India to the US or the UK and then compare the living standards and the culture. No country is perfect. The citizen of the country make it perfect. Today, I would like to share a different perspective of looking at my country, India, by clearing out some misconceptions and faulty perceptions about India that most of the people, who have never visited India before, have.

  1. India is poor and poverty struck.
    This is what people perceive of India – there are slums everywhere. You go to India and everywhere you will find “poor and hungry” people. I met two tourists one day – one was Spanish and the other was American. They had come to make a documentary with their crew. I had a detailed conversation with them. This is what I found out – “Every year some or the other group in their institute pick India for their project because everyone thinks that it is very easy to make a documentary on India as everyone in India is so poor.” This is not the case. Indeed, there is a lot of poverty in India. However, India is the home for a significant amount of the world’s richest people. In a report by forbesthis year, India is the home for world’s 70 billionaires.
  2. The “Real India” is dirt and chaos.
    Foreigners and tourists visit India to experience what they think is the real India – dirt and chaos. But they overlook the fact that India is developing its infrastructure and aesthetic beauty at a very fast rate. Everything is getting organized and unchaotic (if there is a word). India has a significant amount of luxury hotels, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping malls. Visit an Indian home and you will know how neat and beautifully Indians decorate their homes. India is not ONLY chaotic and dirty. It’s a very common perception among people who have never visited India.
  3. Indians speak Hindi.
    Not all Indians speak Hindi. India has almost 1635 languages. Different parts of India speak different languages. In the southern India, very few people speak Hindi. If you want to visit India, I would suggest you to learn the language you will have to speak, and not just learn Hindi and come.
  4. Animals roam around everywhere.
    Animals do not roam around the cities. I still remember Russell Peters, the comedian, making two jokes in his Green Card Tour about Calcutta, India – that he saw a horse walking on the footpath without its owner or anyone handling the horse and a cow crossing a road, which I want to mention, is in the heart of the city. It is absolutely incorrect. You can make stereotypical jokes on India but it doesn’t make it true. I am sorry but you won’t generally find cows and horses walking in the heart of a mega city like Calcutta.
  5. India is uneducated.
    I don’t think this point needs any explanation – just check the list of people you’re following and I am sure that you’ll find at least three well educated Indians in that list.
  6. You can only get spicy food in India.
    Absolutely wrong. And most of the non-Indians have this perception. I want to clarify this incorrect perception. There are some best Italian, Chinese, Thai, Continental, Mexican cuisine restaurants in India. In India, people do not eat only spicy food. The Indian food is spicy – should not be confused with India only having spicy food.
  7. Indians worship millions of god.
    Thanks to Tanya Shrivastava for sharing this website – Just go to this link and you will know how many gods are from India and how many are from rest of the world.
  8. Slumdog Millionaire depicts the culture of India.
    Slumdog Millionaire only depicts Danny Boyle’s perception about India.
  9. Indians do not sing and dance around.
    This point has been stated and overstated – please stop judging Indians based on the Bollywood movies. That is the most illogical misconception anyone can ever have about anything.
  10. Everyone is not Hindu/Vegetarian/Gandhi follower/tea drinker/poor/dirty/poverty stricken/god worshipper.

You should not judge people based on stereotypes created in the past about that culture or tradition or country. See them from a different perspective and you will know that they are just like every other person in the world.


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