• slums mumbai airport

This is India! (thirteen)

Welcome back to This is India! I always have funny/weird stories about India to share with friends or family when I talk to them. This is just meant to be an honest portrayal about my life in India through short anecdotes. I also share here what I’ve been up to online outside Werkenntwen.

What I was up to other than here:

  • Day to Day: Goa, India on Paper Planes. I shared what a typical day is like for me as an expat here.
  • I also was so happy to be included in the Top India Journey Blogs chosen by Myoksha

Now your story,

I never thought I would experience reverse culture shock and really, I haven’t much at all. I figure if I’ve been in the U.S. for 22 years on and off and in India only 2, then really America is pretty engrained in me.

India and the US are polar opposites, yet I don’t really get hit by it at all. I went back to the US for a month in May.

There was one thing that kind of made me go WOW I’m back in the US now…

I fly domestically in India really often; most times out of Bombay and see this view below a lot.  You can see the mumbai slums; some of my Indian friends say you can smell them when you get off the plane but actually I’ve never noticed this. The houses are uneven, almost on top of each other and there are more satellite dishes than you can count.

slums mumbai airport

slums mumbai airport

slums mumbai airport

slums mumbai airport

When I landed in NJ after a year in India, looking down at this was so strange!

slums mumbai airport

One thing that most travelers love about India is the chaos and crowds, the smells and colors. I have never toured the slums because I get a weird feeling when I think about doing it- like I’m exploiting people if I do. Comparing these two images really puts things into perspective!

This is India!

I do want to ask though, when I’m in Bombay is a post about what the slum life is like something you’d like to see? Through Viator and just friends and touts I could go into them and write about it, but I’m not sure if that’s ethical. What do you think?

Did you enjoy this post? Let me know in the comments or by sharing it with the social media links! I’d love to keep giving you travel tricks & tips so feel free to subscribe by e-mail in the big purple box below. Don’t forget you can follow me on , ,  & bloglovin‘.


About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Michelle | Lights Camera Journey August 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    I’m really loving this series! I would like to know about your experiences with the slums of India, since this must be a very real part of the country too. But if it doesn’t feel natural or ethical to you, how about a collection of stories through your friends?

  2. Andrea Anastasiou August 29, 2014 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    What a contrast!

    I know what you mean about that ‘weird feeling’ by the way – I get it sometimes when I’m walking around some place that’s really local and remote, especially if I cannot speak the language. I don’t like looking around too much because I feel like I’m treating the place like some sort of museum!

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      That’s a good point! and I hate to feel like that as well.. especially when I’m just curious but I don’t want to offend anyone. In India I get stared at alike crazy, so I think its ok I stare back a little bit :)

  3. Miguel August 29, 2014 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    From where you are taking those photos, it sure feels like looking at the other end of the spectrum. :(

  4. Renuka August 29, 2014 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Strangely I have never noticed these slums in Mumbai. I have only seen them in the movies. Yes, Mumbai is a pretty dirty city. There’s a dark side behind the glitz and glamor.

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      Really!? If you take off in the day time you’ll see them out the window but maybe it depends which terminal you are at.

  5. Justine August 29, 2014 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    I was just reading a post on Tammy and Chris on the Move where they took a tour of a favela in Brazil. It was really informative but I really appreciated the fact that they chose a company that was reputable and gave back to the community. So I would love to hear about your experiences in India’s slums. But I think that doing it as ethically and non-exploitatively as possible is so important…Good luck! I would love to hear about it!

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks Justine, It seems people do want me to do this tour, actually I hate that it’s called a “tour” but I suppose that’s what it is! I’ll have to look into it more and find a company I agree with!

  6. Veena August 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Hi, it’s me again! I know exactly how you feel about wanting to visit the slums but also not wanting to exploit them. If you’re ever in Bombay, you should check out Reality Tours’ Dharavi tour. They have been working in Dharavi for a number of years now, so they have a good relationship with many people in the area, and 80% of the proceeds from their tours – they also offer sunrise cycling tours in south Bombay as well as a street food tour – go directly back into the community. Reality’s sister charity, Reality Gives, operates a community centre that teaches English, interview skills, computer classes, art classes, etc., and they also sponsor a cricket team and a girls’ football team. In the spirit of full disclosure, one of my good friends is the CEO of the tour company, but I had heard about them long before she took that position. Let me know if you’re interested and when you might be in Bombay next, and I can put you in touch with her. I know she’s coming to the States for 2 weeks in September, but otherwise she’s usually around, and I’m sure she would love to have you feature them on here. Their website is realitytoursandtravel.com, and you can check out their reviews on TripAdvisor as well. Let me know how it works out for you!

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      You’re the second person who has mentioned Reality tours, so I think I need to really look into that. I would love to get her information and chat with her about a visit. If you want to give her my e-mail you can!

  7. Neetole August 29, 2014 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    I don’t know if you would consider this as much of a logical way to approach this subject but I don’t think you should write about slums or anything which is below your own economic standing until and unless you are comfortable with knowing and accepting that they are not expecting pity. That living in a slum is as much a part of their reality as being an American is yours. And also you should I guess only do it when you are doing it to find out about that life – you know out of curiosity.

  8. vaidehi August 30, 2014 at 8:27 am - Reply

    I really enjoy reading your series.Please keep on writing.

  9. Joella J in Beijing August 30, 2014 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Hey girl, I completely understand why you are asking about writing about the slums. I hate when people are like “ooh look at at all these poor people..ok glad I’m not one of them, here’s a few intrusive and offensive photos and off I go” which I know YOU would not be like and that’s why you have reservations about doing the post. I agree with what other commenters said about writing about slums. You have to do it in a way that feels ethical and right to you- e.g if you visited with a local person who knows that area well or with an ethical company/charity. Do what feels right for you. Also, wow the difference between landing in Bombay and back in the US is crazy- I can completely imagine my brain being slightly confused at that!

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks Joella, I think you’re right. I hope I can find a company I like and want to work with that can help people too.

  10. Agness August 30, 2014 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Reverse cultural shock is something we all experience at some point :). Great story from India Rachel. How long are you gonna stay in India? By the way, I’m very interested in what the slum life is like in Bombay so go for it!

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      Ahhh how long?! that’s the big question haha… for a long time I think :)

  11. Sarah August 30, 2014 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    Hello! Love the pics from the plane- I remember when I flew into Mumbai and seeing the slums and just thinking ‘uh oh..we’re in India!!’ .. Similarly landing in Miami recently was a bit of a shock- it was so planned and perfect compared to what we’re used to in the UK/Europe!

    I actually took a slum tour when in Mumbai, and recently wrote about the experience. I completely understand your reservations as I felt the same before going but eventually curiosity won. In the end, I was mostly very impressed with the way it was carried out (by Reality Tours) as it felt like the main purpose of the trip was for education. It’s obviously a massively personal decision though!

    My post is here- http://teaandcakeplease.com/2014/08/01/slum-tour-mumbai-dhavari-reflections

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Yes the US has a very planned out look from above compared to even the UK! Thanks for sharing your post. I’m going to look at it now. and I’ll check out your tour company too. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Karisa September 1, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

    This definitely reminds me of my first thoughts of flying into Cambodia. It was my first time in Asia and the view from my plane window was starkly different from the places I’ve flown into in the US: NYC, Miami, Boston.

  13. Laura September 1, 2014 at 10:37 am - Reply

    I know what you mean about feeling “wrong”. I felt that way in certain parts of aboriginal Australia. I suppose it would have to be a tour that was giving back in some way to the community. You’d have to see whether or not the people that live there really want to be sharing their lives and experiences with outsiders as well.

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      You’re right. I’ll need to do some research first to make sure!

  14. Hidden in a Book September 2, 2014 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Is there a way for you to do some voluntary work in the slums? I was thinking that might be different, and very interesting to read about.

    • Rachel Jones September 2, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      That’s a good idea, I just don’t know how much time I’d have up there & it’s sometimes bad to do short term volunteering and hurts more than it helps! I’ll look into it. Thanks!

  15. Anurag September 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    You should go tour the slums. Looks like the reality tours company puts the profits back in helping the people there. I do not see how it can be morally wrong. If your intentions were to understand what kind of life they live, that is a step in the right direction.

    • Rachel Jones September 11, 2014 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      You’re right. I’d like to go and see what it’s like there.

  16. Michelle September 27, 2014 at 4:08 am - Reply

    Yes, I think this would be an excellent topic for post(s).

    • Rachel Jones September 27, 2014 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks Michelle! I’m planning on it after so much positive feedback.

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