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So I'm in India right now and and idk... it feels like I can't walk more than a few yards without being accosted by someone trying to get me to ride their auto rickshaw or buy whatever it is that they're selling or whatever.

I say "i'm just taking a leisurely stroll" and they're like "let me drive you to where you're strolling to!" and I'm like "no" and they're like "let me just drive you around for 15 minutes for free!" and I'm like "no" and they're like "how about five minutes? It's free!".

It's relentless and it's very annoying. I've no doubt I'm being singled out because I'm about as white as one can get but I'm still curious... do Indians do this to each other?

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Don't engage! That's the mistake I made on my first two trips. If you're western and engage, especially near a big hotel, they'll just keep trying. Act like a local and they'll (mostly) leave you alone like one... –  Gagravarr Mar 17 at 11:36
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Yes resistance is futile. Entering India is diving into the deep end. Don't fight it - go with the flow! –  hippietrail Mar 17 at 12:12
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If you are going to want to hire some transport to take you about, see the Haggling for autos question for advice on how to do it! –  Gagravarr Mar 17 at 14:38
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Wherever you go, learn how to say "no, thank you" in the local language. Usually works wonders for me wherever I go. –  JohannesR Mar 18 at 8:36
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and he was like and I was like, and he was like - I wonder if people who say like all the time are as annoying as they appear to be? One thing I've learnt, and I've traveled widely, is that people are the same wherever you go. As a stereotype, the pushiest most annoying people I've ever met are Americans, but to tar a whole nation? Madness. –  Simon Mar 18 at 21:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 73 down vote accepted

It's not "Indians" that are pushy.

Not "Indians". That makes it sound like everybody. It's "rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, and some street vendors in India."

I never found pushiness from regular people other than when queueing up to buy tickets at the train station. Just from people in certain professions, and mostly in touristy areas.

So it's not really based on race or nationality, but on profession and opportunity.

Yes. It's definitely worse for foreigners / westerners / "white" people, but ...

You can actually chat to these people. I try to keep a good sense of humour and ask them if they hassle Indians as much and they tell me no because the Indians don't like to pay them much money. They really like it when you treat them like real people rather than just annoyances. It might not make them leave you alone but it leaves you both happier being friendly with them than being adversarial.

How to avoid a lot of pushy drivers and vendors.

Keep away from the busiest tourist zones when you can be somewhere else. Sometimes you can't avoid it, like exiting a train station, or arriving or departing from a tourist site.

But other times, such as getting things done in a city like Mumbai (finding a restaurant, buying supplies, getting the feel of a place) all you have to do is take some road other than the main tourist road. In Mumbai the next street over from the main tourist street I found everybody so nice, nobody pushy at all. The pushy types follow the biggest chances of money.

Even if you're in a busy touristy place and you want something, avoid the loud drivers and vendors. They are good at getting people's' attention and then getting their money. But there are also plenty of meek people in India who can't bring themselves to act like this. They might have the next fruit stand over from the loud pushy guy. They might be waiting patiently in their rickshaw elsewhere in the train station grounds rather than crowding around the exit doors. Go to those quiet people instead. The noisy ones see that they've lost you as a potential customer and look for somebody else to annoy.

When regular people are pushy.

As I mentioned the one place I found non drivers non vendors to be pushy is when queueing to buy train tickets at stations. Toward the end of my month in India I finally learned the trick for this. Be nice and happy and smiley and friendly and say "namaste" to people.

It was amazing. People suddenly saw me as somebody like them rather than as an ignorant outsider tourist. They filled out my forms for me, they pushed other Indians out of the way to get my form to the ticket seller behind the window!

India has a different flow, you have to learn how to go with it.

Just because of its unique properties, like the huge population, the huge gap between rich and poor, the poverty of the poor, the crowding, etc, it's not like most places you might travel.

For this reason the ways you normally go about things can cause some friction that will make you grumpy and tired.

Getting grumpy and tired isn't nice. The best thing to do is to take the opportunity to learn about people and learn about yourself by thinking of new ways to do things that are different to how you would normally behave elsewhere, but work smoother in India and leave you less grumpy and tired.

It's not easy, especially when you first arrive, especially if it's hot and humid. But when you finally "get it", it's really rewarding and you will fall in love with India!

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Rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, and some street vendors aren't regular people? –  Matt Fenwick Mar 17 at 17:52
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This is the same thing that happened to me in Mexico. People there who don't have something to sell are usually great to talk too. Me being white walking through a tourist area. "Hey! What you need? I got what you need!" and I have to say "No, thank you. :)" 2 times per minute but they start to leave you alone when they recognize you as someone who says no repeatedly. The people I traveled with though, were buying left and right, the street vendors want those people. –  Michael Calkins Mar 17 at 19:46
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@MattFenwick: I know I'm bad at writing. Most people seem to have understood what I was trying to say. I welcome constructive criticism such as suggesting which wording to use in opposition to "pushy" and "vendors and drivers". "Regular" was the best I could come up with with my limited ability. Hopefully you can see I had a great time in India with Indian people. –  hippietrail Mar 18 at 4:45
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+1 for it not being “Indians” – as a native New Yorker, it sounds like Times Square. That’s just how things are in very crowded tourist traps. –  KRyan Mar 19 at 2:44
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@hippietrail I think you've hit the nail on the head though. Good stuff –  karancan Mar 21 at 20:03

People who are obviously foreigners get a lot of attention, but so do people who are obviously well-off Indians.

The main difference is in how we react. A local would never turn to a tout or a rickshaw driver and say no: that's almost like starting a negotiation! The key is to ignore them completely. Don't even make eye contact. Pretend that they don't even exist. If they start following you or accost you, you might try scowling or even growling a little, but the key is to preserve what little personal space you have and keep walking.

Although literacy is increasing throughout India, at least 25% of the population cannot read at all, and many more can read only with difficulty. Therefore, unlike in the West, it is not constructive to advertise what you're selling by putting up a sign. One has to announce it some other way. Think of the people who are soliciting your business as people holding signs. If you're walking down the street in New York City and you see a sign that says "CURRENCY EXCHANGE," you don't start a conversation with the person who works there unless you actually want to do business. Similarly, if someone in India approaches you and says "Hello friend, money change?" you don't start a conversation with him unless you actually want his services.

I'm no expert on Indian culture, but I've spent about four months of my life there, and I'd bet that locals find it bewildering that we would deign to waste our time and attention (and theirs) with a reply if we're actually not interested.

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As a "local", I agree with you for the most part, but I say "no", for two reasons: not saying even that seems rude, and it's been made explicit that their service is not needed. It's a matter of personal preference, I suppose. –  prash Mar 18 at 21:08
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This cultural difference in how people answer (or whether they don't) in these situations might have a factor in what kinds of people do behave in a pushy way in the West. It happens rarely, but when it happens, it's usually either a homeless beggar, someone collecting for charity, or conducting a survey. In all these cases we usually answer at least a "sorry", or even excuse ourselves that we don't have the time or money, if we don't intend to deal with them. –  vsz Mar 19 at 14:57
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@prash I appreciate your perspective! The biggest problem that I've had with acknowledging them and saying "no" is that it is so often taken as an invitation to follow me and try to change my mind. That almost never happens when I don't engage at all. There may be a happy medium of polite indifference that I have not yet perfected. The biggest problem that Westerners have, early on, is that so much of what we do automatically -- accepting handshakes from friendly strangers, declining offers with polite explanations, making space when someone says "excuse me" -- must be unlearned. –  Miles Erickson Mar 19 at 16:15
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Imagine: you're standing in a line/queue for something. Someone approaches you and says "excuse me" as though he is just passing through. You make space for him to pass through, and he promptly occupies the space in front of you in the queue. You tell him that he just cut in line, and he gets indignant and starts accusing you of trying to cut in front of him. Only in India. –  Miles Erickson Mar 19 at 16:18
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Yes, I often come across sociopaths in queues. I've not had this "excuse me" trick played on me. The usual method seems to be that they insert themselves inch by inch, and eventually shove me out. I have learned to block them. It's not pretty ;-) –  prash Mar 19 at 19:25

This is like asking if all Americans are as annoying as used car salesmen and the car dealership folks!

I am an Indian, grew up in India and I can assure you that the auto rickshaws bother us just as much but we've had the training to deal with it very much like most Americans can deal with telemarketers (calling us at home for even a survey is inappropriate to us Indians). There is a cultural difference much like how in the US you are expected to toot your own horn during an interview and outline your accomplishments, this will be considered extremely arrogant in most Asian countries and people will conclude that you are full of yourself.

These auto rickshaw guys have to accost people to make their money and feed their families so that's what they do, if you cant deal with it with a modicum of compassion or tolerance, maybe you shouldn't leave your country...like EVER! I personally find the frequent visits from Jehovah's witnesses and other Christian evangelists extremely annoying and inappropriate bothering someone at home - but that's what they have to do to do their job. You need to have some level of tolerance if you want to venture outside your cultural zone, all you are doing is sounding a real snob at this point!

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No matter who you are, anyone who tries to get you to do something you don't want to do (survey/join a religion) is 'annoying/inappropriate'. I don't think anyone, regardless of culture/race etc., enjoys telemarketing or door-to-door sales (unless they're extremely lonely). –  Plymouth223 Mar 18 at 21:25

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