Is India for me?
October 20, 2017 4:45 AM   Subscribe

Should I go or should I stay? My company offered me the opportunity to go on a business trip to India (Bengaluru) next year. The business stuff would take one week and I can then stay for another week or two on my own. The decision whether I'm going there or not is absolutely up to me. I have doubts.

I am a rather shy, introverted guy who has never been outside of Europe. I fear that India is more than I can handle and that I will hate the whole experience. On the other hand, I am afraid that I will have huge regrets and squander a great opportunity if I don't go. Any advice or India experience by introverted people? Any advice that could be helpful to make this decision?
posted by jfricke to Travel & Transportation around Bengaluru, India (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Catch a flight to Sri Lanka. Less populated or challenging in that way and heaps to see and do.
posted by Thella at 4:51 AM on October 20, 2017

If they’re picking up the tab, I think you should go. You don’t have to find the love of your life there or anything—no need to overthink it. I guarantee there is stuff that a shy, introverted guy can enjoy in Bengaluru.
posted by No-sword at 4:55 AM on October 20, 2017 [27 favorites]

I have traveled all around India. Yes, there are parts of the country that could unsettle the uninitiated. But I would argue that the country is so big that you can insulate yourself from a lot of the stuff you might find discomfiting.

As a general rule, unless your life or safety are at risk, just do it.
posted by lecorbeau at 5:43 AM on October 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

I am an introverted guy, and I love to travel to new places. One, because there are always fascinating views I can enjoy and things I can experience without needing to interact with anyone, and two because if I do find I need/want to interact with someone, the stakes are so much lower - if I'm awkward or weird, they'll probably just think that's because of culture clash, and even if they correctly identify it as me specifically being awkward or weird, oh well, I'll probably never see them again, and they've got a funny story to tell their friends.

posted by solotoro at 5:59 AM on October 20, 2017 [10 favorites]

You should go! Say yes to free trips! If you get freaked out and feel antisocial when you're there, you can always hang out in your hotel room and order room service and watch Netflix, which is still a pretty great way to spend time.
posted by something something at 6:08 AM on October 20, 2017 [8 favorites]

A good, introverted, friend of mine had this exact same issue early September, work picking up the tab, stayed an extra week, everything.. he chose to stay and had the time of his life! Loved every second. And he brought me back a beautiful Sari because he said I’m the one who convinced him to stay the extra week. Do it!!
posted by pearlybob at 6:17 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm an introverted guy who's been on business trips to India (not Bengalaru, but similar places). Definitely go - you will almost certainly enjoy it and as others have pointed out, you can always retreat to your hotel if it gets a bit much.
posted by crocomancer at 6:19 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Look at it this way. If you hate it, you found out something really useful for free. You'll be able to, in good conscience and without worrying about missing out, turn down such things in future. The benefit of that knowledge over my life, would, to me, be worth the unpleasant experience that it took to gain it, given that it's no costing me anything monetarily etc .
posted by howfar at 6:23 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

In terms of possibly hating it, I will say this: the trip I took to Delhi and Agra for six days a few years ago was easily one of the best I've ever taken because the cost of conveniences like taxis or tour guides was so reasonable. At home you might balk at taxis for short journeys or only go to certain places when there's a discount, but India is so inexpensive on a Western salary that you will be able to lessen some of the normal travel stress you might feel if you were in, say, the Paris Metro at rush hour trying to read a map and change lines three times to get to the Louvre on the one day a month it's cheaper or something.

Additionally, I found myself pretty much left alone inside ticketed sites and shops. Mosques were also very peaceful.

I stayed at Bloomrooms near Jangpura metro in South Delhi and between the close proximity of the metro, the ease of getting a taxi and the aceess to major roads I always got around easily. Don't miss Humayun's Tomb an hour before sunset - magical light!
posted by mdonley at 6:33 AM on October 20, 2017

Traveling to a dramatically new place alone can get tiring. I recommend that you go, but do some planning:

Make sure that your hotels will be pleasant, paying a little more if needed. (Or at least get your own room at a hostel.) Unless you know that you enjoy "new day new city" style travel, pick fewer big places to go and spend multiple days in each. Take your travel easily - plan on a shorter day with more time in the hotel eating delicious snacks and reading/watching things. Plan to phone or skype your friends or partner once or twice (or whatever communication method you prefer). Make sure you have some favorite, relaxing media to enjoy - you may find yourself reading or watching local stuff, but having a fallback is good.

Do some daily logistics planning in advance - read up on transit, whether that's taxis, buses, trains, etc, and look at maps of the cities you'll be visiting in some detail.

Bring some snacks from home. Obviously, you're going to be able to buy both familiar and unfamiliar delicious things all around while you're in India, but sometimes you're tired and stressed and you just want to fall over.

Plan for shorter days - it's easy to be all "I will get up early and do ten things" and then feel bad if you don't, but unless you are already an energetic and enthusiastic traveler, doing a couple of things and then coming back to the hotel is good enough, especially when you're by yourself.

I did a little solo international travel some years ago, and I'm an introverted, easily stressed person. I ended up feeling good about my ability to navigate new cities, but I also spent most of my evenings reading in my room.

This is just my bias, but I found the kind of thing where you get on a bus, ride a long way and see a famous sight to be overrated and kind of stressful. I much preferred going to things that took a longer time to explore, like old neighborhoods, museums, markets, famous old parks, exciting new districts, etc.

I had a couple of nights where I felt kind of low, actually, but I just read and went to sleep, and I think that if I'd been able to skype or call people at home during the trip, this would have been less of a problem. If I were you, I'd prepare to hit a few ebbs and not let that make me feel that the trip isn't going well.
posted by Frowner at 6:36 AM on October 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

India is amazing! You absolutely should go.

Assuming you have at least a modest budget.. For the week or two on your own, line up guides and car-and-driver to show you sites. Pick a couple of places you want to go and find a tour company to arrange it for you. India is full of private tour guides who will spend the day with you showing you sites and explaining things. Every guide we hired was friendly and made things very easy for us and didn't require any extroversion on my part. It's not too expensive for Westerners and it makes everything much simpler.

I can't make any recommendations around Bengaluru unfortunately. But internal flights in India are very easy and cheap. You can easily get to Delhi or Mumbai or Goa or Kolkata or Varanasi.
posted by Nelson at 7:16 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I say don’t go. Work travel can be really stressful. Personally, I don’t find traveling to be fun so I just stay home. Can’t regret it if you don’t know what you’re missing.
posted by paulcole at 8:06 AM on October 20, 2017

I'm a shy introvert (and a recovering picky eater on top of it so food in new places is sometimes a bit of a trial) who loves combining business and personal travel. As someone said up above, my worst case scenario is basically "I find out I don't like the place I've been sent to, so I spend the week mostly at my hotel, napping and reading books and taking baths and watching Netflix on my laptop, and going out to maybe one low-key thing a day, whether it's a tourist attraction or lunch down the street from the hotel or whatever." It's not a bad worst case at all, at least for me.

In your shoes, I would go unless the week spent in India would prevent me from taking another trip I had planned and knew I would enjoy. If it's gonna use up all your personal time and/or your work is going to frown on you taking other time off anytime soon, maybe not.
posted by Stacey at 8:14 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

After the fact I've never regretted going someplace, even places that I hated and lived in for a year or two 'til I could get out. I might regret it in the moment, but after, no regret. It's like your life is a room and you're knocking holes in the walls and putting in windows. You don't want to live in a windowless room. So was all worth it, even the Gray Year I spent in St. Paul among the frozen bus shelter loogies and cigarette butts in every frozen puddle and sooty filthy thawed and refrozen snowdrifts everywhere I went in my horrible grey Goodwill michelinman down coat and leaky boots that I joyfully threw away the day I got on the plane to come back to Florida. I still like to look through that window now and then and see St. Paul and the slog. You should always, always go to places, especially if it's just for two weeks, especially especially especially if it's free.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:22 AM on October 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

I see no reason not to go.

First of all, if you're worried that India will overwhelm you, there is a very easy solution to this: cut out, or drastically cut down, the solo time and just make it a business trip. It's not as intense as India, but I went on a business trip to Brazil some years ago and it was way fancier than the independent travel I've done in Europe. And while I didn't get as much of a feel for Brazil as I would have otherwise, I still got to see it and I did have a bit of time to myself to go out and wander around. It was still a cool experience.

Second, it does sound like there are ways to reduce stress traveling in India. Guides sound like a good idea. But I've never been there, so I'll defer to others on this.

Finally, solo travel in general is a great experience for introverts. Probably more so than extroverts. Most introverts I know - myself included - have enjoyed it.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:22 AM on October 20, 2017

Solo city travel is great for shy introverts! Once you've gotten installed in your hotel, you hardly have to talk to anyone if you don't want to, and, if you do and it's awkward, you never have to see those people ever again. Meanwhile, you are liberated from daily chores and focused on doing things you've always wanted to do. On my trips, I usually feel like the empress of the Mobile Dominion of Praemunireland.
posted by praemunire at 8:40 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

As an Indian who lived in Bengaluru for many years, I vote go. It's one of the cities that are probably the easiest in terms of culture shock. And the weather among the metro cities is the best.
Two caveats: the traffic situation is TERRIBLE within the city limits. If that's a source of stress, think it through. Plus, this year the rains have been somewhat unpredictable and quite bad in spells.
I still vote, come. Memail if you have specific questions about the city/places to visit nearby.
posted by Nieshka at 10:34 AM on October 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I went to Bengaluru/India for work for the first time 2 years ago, had 2 trips each about 4 weeks within the year. While I've definitely travelled around, this is one of the more exotic places I've been. I'm also very introverted, but echoing others, I would strongly recommend taking the opportunity to go. Others have already chimed in about the general question but want to give some tips. Note that I'm based in NYC.

Bengaluru in particular is one of the better places for someone new to India as there's so much development and IT investment that it's quite modern and caters to expats very well. Here's some random tidbits:

-The cost of living is very low compared to most modern western cities. I stayed at the Ritz which is one of the more expensive hotels but very affordable by local expense standards. Pick a western chain hotel (JW Marriott, Ritz, Shangri-La, Courtyard, etc.) that's more familiar and caters to western travelers interests and food more. When working, stay near the office if possible, a lot of corporate offices are now on campuses far from the city and traffic is atrocious. But on your own time stay downtown near MG Road or research where you want to be. I preferred staying downtown.

-It's customary to hire a driver when working there, it's very affordable. For your personal time, it's still probably worth it, or I've also taken Ubers which are plentiful and even less expensive. Note that traffic is very bad, pay attention to Google Maps to understand how long traveling takes, and do not take public transit - it's sparse and confusing.

-Standards of hygiene is much lower than what you're accustomed to. Standard precautions - only drink bottled water, avoid street foods, etc. When working, it's customary for a lot of employees to eat at the cafeteria - I did so out of solidarity my first trip, but on my second, I had the hotel pack my lunch. If you are feeling very ill, the hotel will have excellent doctors that again, are very inexpensive.

-"Zomato" is the "Yelp" of the city, or the best restaurant directory app/site to use when finding places to eat. There are many European-ish cafés and bars to try, even Asian food, if you don't want Indian food all the time!

-More of a US thing but some places will not take credit cards, so always have cash on you. And always watch the change they return - people seem to commonly attempt to shortchange you but won't make a fuss if you correct them. ATMs are not plentiful so know where one that works with your bank is, or use the hotel to change money. When selling, people are sometimes a little more forward but I never found them aggressive, just persistent always feel free to say no or move on. I found it to be a very safe city.

-Bengaluru is very much a newer and corporate city so consider excursions to other sites for cultural/natural interests. I took a weekend (requiring a flight) to the Taj Mahal, which was well worth it. Also a half-day to a mountain peak near the city just 1.5 hours away - it was incredible, there was a small temple where you literally feel wisps of clouds pass you. These are not physically strenuous trips and there's always crowds so I felt comfortable doing them alone.

-If you appear to be any race other than Indian, especially "white", sometimes people will want to take photos with you. Don't be weirded out, it's just still not common for some there and it's a novelty.

I was very anxious before and sometimes while I was there but it was an incredible experience and I would absolutely do it again. I hope you enjoy and feel free to MeMail me with specific questions.
posted by artificialard at 1:49 PM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you have local colleagues they will normally be happy to give you tips for exploring or even give you a tour, have an admin organise your driver etc. If not your hotel will. I've been on two business trips to India and I found Bengaluru much less overwhelming than Delhi.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:28 PM on October 20, 2017

I literally said "go" out loud before I finished reading the question. I would not attempt to manage India alone as an introvert. Ask your work cohorts to connect you with a trusted, local guide and enjoy the hell out of this amazing opportunity. Ive been twice and I'm dying to do it again!
posted by ersatzkat at 4:26 PM on October 20, 2017

Go if only to eat at Barbeque Nation!!!!!
posted by donut_princess at 7:36 PM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wonder what you mean by "introverted." That word used to mean only that you get worn out socializing with strangers and you recharge your energy with alone time. But on the Internet it has now come to mean a combination of agoraphobia and crippling anxiety & depression. If you're introverted in the traditional sense, the kind of anonymous hotel "travel" you're talking about will be just fine. You will have to deal with strangers as part of the business trip, of course.

One difficult thing you haven't talked about is the plane flight there and back. Will your company book you non-stop in a business class seat that can be used as a bed? Spending 12 hours in an economy seat would be pretty draining.

Since you're not a big traveler, a valuable thing you'll have after this trip is over is the memories of experiences, even small ones. The discomfort and tedium will be erased, leaving only the interesting sights and observations. If you've started feeling like whole years of your life have passed leaving no record because they were pretty much the same as before -- unlike, say, in college where you were always doing different things -- the days you spend on this trip will give your life more landmarks. In the future, you'll talk and think about them. That doesn't necessarily help you get through the discomfort and tedium as it happens, though!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:52 PM on October 20, 2017

You should go because:
1. It's only 2 to 3 weeks
2. India is a place everyone should experience at least once.

At the very least you'll have a story to tell/remember...and at the very most you'll broaden your horizons by meeting warm people, eat interesting food and temporarily stepping into a different world from your own.
posted by watrlily at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2017

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