• this is india two

This is India! (two)

[I always have funny/weird stories about India to share with friends or family when I talk to them, which has inspired this new series This is India! It’s not that I want to make fun of people or have a rant- this is just meant to be an honest portrayal about my life in India through short anecdotes.]

We walk into an Indian shop in Little India, Singapore. The Indian man reminds us of home and Ben asks, do you do Indian recharge? The man says, “you have Indian SIM, Indian phone?” Ben assures him he does. He tells him he needs 501 Vodafone recharge.

In case you aren’t familiar with the recharge process, most people have cell phones with refill-able SIM cards in India. You go to a little shop and the guy will send a text message for you to add credit. You pay him there and he gets a cut for the sale.

this is india two

The guy at this Indian shop in Singapore gives his best head wobble (it was a very reassuring ‘most likely wobble’, rather than an I’m not sure, ‘perhaps wobble’) and takes Ben’s phone.

He scrolls through it. He opens the Internet browser. He closes it.

He flips through the pages of the phone. Then, he pulls out his own cell phone and scrolls through his list. We assume he’s thinking, “Who in India do I know that does recharge… I can call them and ask them to do it!”

He swtiches back to Ben’s phone. He opens his text messages. Scrolls a little more. A couple minutes go by with awkward silence.

Ben says, “So, you can’t do recharge…”

The Indian man looks up to the ceiling… to the right, to the left, anywhere but Ben’s eyes. Speechless. We take the phone and walk away.

this is india two

Now, it would have been simpler to say, “I don’t do Indian recharge” but he didn’t want to say that! It’s like I have explained before, where you ask the man at the veg stall, “Do you have celery?” He assures you he does, walks away, and doesn’t come back until you are long gone. He doesn’t want to let you down!

Remember Lesson 1 from last week?

Indians don’t say no!

this is india two

When you need to keep this in mind and stay calm: When your driver says he knows where somewhere is, and doesn’t. It’s not always because he’s ripping you off with the meter. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to admit they don’t know and they think they can ask people along the way in Hindi without you noticing.

This is India!


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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. Greg | Journey Blue Book June 13, 2014 at 6:24 am - Reply

    I love studying how people of different cultures react to things! It is fascinating. Depending on where you are back home, you may not even get a grunt in response :)

  2. Mridula June 13, 2014 at 7:54 am - Reply

    So Indians in Singapore also don’t say no :D

  3. Myriam @OffToWanderland June 13, 2014 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Great story! How frustrating it might be to ask something, get a yes and…..nothing. It’s a roller coaster. I experienced the same when visiting Oman. You ask for some help and they will answer with a classic “no problem” and try to sort it out somehow but never they will say that they can’t help.
    Any ideas where this cultural trait might come from?

    Cheers from a French in Sweden

    • Rachel Jones June 13, 2014 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      That is such a good question! I really don’t know where the trait comes from. I know here in Goa when you want something done, they will say malia (i’ve for sure spelling that wrong) which is like “tomorrow… tomorrow’.. like the spanish “manana…” when they don’t want to do something. They have that portuguese influence.. maybe something to do with them?

      • anuj June 13, 2014 at 11:11 pm - Reply


        Actually in Indian culture we consider the sentiments of people to be high so directly saying no to elders ,female,foreigners is considerd to be rude.

        • Rachel Jones June 14, 2014 at 11:07 pm - Reply

          Good to know, thanks Anuj!

        • Myriam @OffToWanderland June 16, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

          Very interesting Anuj!

          I suppose we are simply not used to this way of thinking in Europe. Thank you :)

  4. Hannah June 17, 2014 at 3:11 am - Reply

    I am loving these short antidotes, look forward to the next ones.

    • Rachel Jones June 17, 2014 at 10:42 am - Reply

      Thanks Hannah!

    • Stef June 17, 2014 at 3:08 pm - Reply

      Same here! It’s a lot of fun reading your anecdotes :)

  5. Empty Rucksack June 19, 2014 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Your series about Indians keeps reminding me of how many stereo types exist even within India, you may find similar traits amongst people across India and we Indians keep on doing that even within India.

    Like we always days
    If all of the people were sensible, travel would be so boring

    • Rachel Jones June 20, 2014 at 12:16 am - Reply

      I hope India never changes, it’s the chaos we like- it’s why we live here!

      • Pritam May 12, 2015 at 11:26 pm - Reply

        So Funny.. U like chaos… And We Indians are trying to run away from the chaos :D

  6. Minal Bhatia December 5, 2014 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    The Firangis have always been a source of delight n mystery to the Indian common Man so such genius n weird experience a are bound to take place!!

  7. jaynee February 24, 2016 at 4:33 am - Reply

    How can you tell the difference between someone who can take you were you need to go and someone who doesn’t so you don’t have to go through the trouble??

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