As we get ready to leave India and return to Denmark, we begin to consider the numerous differences, as well as the similarities, between the two countries. We will be comparing the ways and customs of the two countries, because this matter has had a great impact on the students who participated in this trip.
Witnesses to Indian life
When travelling around India, we students had many experiences, both positive and negative, but one of the things that had the greatest impact on us as foreigners was walking on the streets and simply witnessing how life is for the locals. A small, homeless girl of about 10 years carrying her baby sibling while walking from car to car, lightly tapping on the windows and asking for a couple of rupees for a small meal, perhaps the only one she will get that day, while wealthy government officials drive around in their expensive, imported cars, conceivably paid for by money gained by corruption. This is but one example of the contrast of overall life quality seen everywhere in India.
However, the contrast between India and Denmark lies not only in huge difference in material wealth, it lies also in the mentality. In most of the Western world, most people with means and social standing see it as their duty to help those less fortunate than themselves, whereas the Indian social elite sees the calamitous situation of the poor as normal and a standard part of life.
Staying in families
When we were housed with an Indian family in Jaipur it was also clear to see the differences in how a home is run in the two countries. In Denmark guests are treated with respect and courtesy, like most places around the world. However, in India they have a saying that means ‘the guest is god’. It was almost as if we were in charge, as if we could have anything we wanted simply by asking. For us Danes, this felt strange as we are used to equality between host and guest. This shows that, although the less fortunate are not considered to be of any significance at all in the eyes of the Indians, when they have a guest, the Indian people are ever so respectful and gracious, meaning that they are not a heartless people, as it would seem when considering their view on the poor, they simply have a different view on the matter than we Westerners do.
Religion and cows
Religion plays a huge role in the daily life of the Indian society, and determines their self-consciousness. This can easily be seen by simply strolling down the street. You will almost certainly notice the billions of religious symbols and signs, like the fact that they will not disturb the cows at all due to their religious significance. This can be seen in the way they treat cows, as they are of religious significance. It is not at all strange if a cow were to cause a traffic jam simply by laying in the middle of the road, because people do not wish to disturb the holy animal. Opposite to this is the role religion plays in Denmark, where almost eighty percent of the population is non-religious.
On our last day, we visited a catholic school, St. Anselm, where the principal of the school, who also happened to be the high priest, gave us his explanation to this cultural difference. He thought there was a connection between the wealth of the population and the size of the role religion plays on the population. He thought that the higher income an individual has, the less interest would the individual have in religion, and opposite. That explains the difference between religion’s role in Denmark and India.
This theory seems at first trustworthy, but why is the upper class in India still as religious as lowest classes?
Georg, Andy and Oliver