Indian Stereotypes: That’s how we are


Yesterday in one of my classes at B-school we had this discussion over how Bollywood movies are a Hollywood story with songs, dance, and how kissing is a strict no-no in the movies. It wasn’t offensive because of the context but it made me think that about our stereotypes and how does it impact our lives whether in India or abroad. So I thought I will get opinion from you guys!


You talk to anyone about Indians (or about people from other states in India) and there is almost always a preconceived notion.

Here are a few of them from my experiences.

1. Do you have Snake-Charmers all over the streets?

My first reaction is I laugh out and then explain how rare it’s to see one these days and how I really enjoyed that when I was a child. The point however is does it portray an image of India when I say yes? I think it does as it triggers an explanation session about other aspects of India which are way more important beyond snake-charmers!

2. Is it true that you guys marry without seeing your partners?

I am not annoyed when people ask this. It’s slightly unusual for them to understand this concept which is understandable. I don’t think there is particular impact of it but it leaves me thinking about bigger issues like dowry, exploitation etc. The debate between love and arrange marriage is another topic but we need to think about these issues and how we can best handle them as a society. So do we care about this stereotype? Well I will say Yes and No.

3. Bollywood is all about songs, dance and colors:

I enjoy this conversation whether in India or abroad because it triggers so many different responses. I think any sane businessmen would like to pursue a hit idea. So there is nothing wrong when directors portray these characteristics in their movies because that’s what we are about and we love it! It goes without saying that we have witnessed radically totally unique movies in past few years and they have made some serious global impact so I guess there has been a positive impact of this particular stereotyping.

4. Wow! “their” son is studying in America:

Seriously? Trust me most of the people abroad would rather join our AIIMs, ISBs and IIMs than any other university in the world. They probably go abroad maybe because of excessive competition (which isn’t good at all). It’s frustrating at times if you realize high-quality education is often based on one-exam on one particular day. The positive impact of such stereotyping is that government is working religiously on expanding high quality education. I just hope they do it in all areas and not just engineering and MBAs. On a lighter note, you have to see how Indian students at times behave abroad, it’s hilarious!

5. India has a lot of poor people?

This one is disappointing because it is true. We still have a high infant mortality rate, areas without basic sanitation and clean water, farmers dependent on rains for their crops, and numerous other factors. The situation is sad but it’s hearting to see that we are evolving. Studies about rising middle class and rich outnumbering poor have time and again proved that. I hope one day I can deny this stereotype and say “oh no, we don’t have anyone below poverty line”.

6. See that “Chinese” girl (usually from North-Eastern states India), she is so low-character:

This one pisses me off, because

  1. they are Indians and
  2. you are an Indian and racist, and
  3. by judging someone’s character by outer appearance tells something about your character.

While I haven’t done any research on any particular state of India but from my experience, Eastern states are one of the most progressive and literate states in India. They vote judiciously, they don’t talk about politics and cricket all day instead their mantra is to work hard. I think if such stereotype doesn’t end it can impact our citizens, workforce, students etc from North-Eastern states which can adversely affect India’s growth in general.

Do we care?

We do and we should. I believe such stereotypes are reflection of what we are. You may like them or dislike them but it’s a mirror of how we behave and what we do. So, I would say take these stereotypes in a positive way and let’s make some changes to make us a better society.

These are just very few of 1000s of stereotypes we see everyday around us. I am sure you also have heard many of them, let us know what they are and how you think they impact our society.

  1. Vishnu says

    Well India is a good country but from my personal experience some of Indians are pretty cruel well you can argue that cruel people are everywhere but still they’re pretty mean

  2. Ravtej Lehal says

    well now I think kissing in movies is normal all round the world.

  3. dylan cody says

    i like indians :)

  4. Emilia Yli-Junnila says

    hello hello, you are veri nice person.

  5. Flame Dark says

    I agree with your point no.6 , its really irritating that people gets so racist on this thing,,,,, they are not suppose to judge someone by their looks,,,, and you are right EASTERN states are literate!

  6. ananya says

    i just want to know some stetreo types of india cause im working on a project in my school in hongkong and i need some , and then i want to prove they r wrong… so can someone actaully give me like 10 good stereo types plz..thx

  7. Chiranjit Dutta says

    When we talk of Chinese girls from NE..please exclude girls from Assam…because Assamese girls dont look like Chinese girls…

    And they are not lowly charactered..

  8. Shriphani Palakodety says

    Where do you live? Its been ages since I’ve heard those stereotypes. I’ve seen worse stereotypes in India myself (North Indians about those from the south, South Indians v North etc.).

    “Trust me most of the people abroad would rather join our AIIMs, ISBs and IIMs than any other university in the world.”

    Where did you get that? America still has a monopoly on world class higher education. We might be good at taking advantage of those opportunities.

    1. Ravi says

      I am sure you have heard about more. I just mentioned a few which are popular globally and few local ones.

      Yes you are right about US universities.
      But Major institutes in India have almost the same curriculum as American universitites. ISB for ex has similar structure like Wharton and hbs
      infrastructure might differ but the coursework is similar.
      The only problem is US has 500 awesome universities while we may only
      have 20. I guess that’s a problem.

  9. Ravi says

    Thanks for your comment Madhav.
    I have heard about the cow ones for sure :), and I love curries.

    You are right that we categorize the world around us but it hurts when its done in India.

  10. Madhav Shivpuri says

    I live in Japan and the biggest Indian stereotype is “Indians eat curry everyday”. Hmm.. I rarely go to an Indian restaurant on a weekday for lunch… but yes, if I try to explain to them that Indians eat chapathi, various types of rice, sabudana kichdi, dosa, idli etc., they just don’t believe me. Its like telling an Indian that Japanese don’t eat noodles (Raamen) everyday… you wouldn’t simply believe me!

    The stereotypes also vary by country and our experience/ maturity I think.

    If you ask a westerner or native Singaporean about Indians – he/she will imagine a middle class or labour class Indian, because that’s the prevalent class. However if you ask the same to a westerner or native Japanese in Japan, they think Indians are brilliant, good at maths (I am exception), serious types who go home to their wives after work.

    There are other stereotypes that come to mind:
    – You can see cows on the streets. True. (Why, except wild animals you can see everything else on streets!)

    – Indians always come late to events. (Hey, we call that IST… only our biological clocks know that time. We even surprise fellow Indians by doing that).

    – Indians are good at computers (they don’t the other thousands of things Indians are good at)

    Conversely we Indians too easily put people into stereotypes (I won’t go into the details here) – I think this is how humans are wired so that we can easily categorize the world around us. Its when we go to extremes then it becomes difficult.

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