What are quirky local customs in Delhi?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Shivya Nath

Delhi, like much of India, can be overwhelming for any first time visitor – the city’s contrasts are striking and everyday life can seem chaotic. We help you look closer and discover the quirky local customs at the heart of Delhi and its people:

1) Jugaad. This local word that you’ll probably see in action more often than anything else, has acquired something of a national identity. It implies that something will be done, one way or another. It could apply as much to a broken-down vehicle repaired with whatever skills and equipment can be found at the lowest cost, as to cooking a dish without the requisite ingredients, with whatever replacements can be found. In Delhi, we find a jugaad for everything, however dire a situation. It is an art that Indians almost take pride in!

2) There is always space for adjustment. The notion of “thoda adjust kar lo” (please adjust a little) is extremely common in Delhi. A little bit of adjustment can always be made – for one more person even when an rickshaw or public bus is overflowing with people, for a few more minutes when someone is running late, for cows and bicycles sharing the main road with cars and buses, for something not delivered as promised. Accommodating or frustrating, it is just something that people in Delhi have come to terms with.

3) Getting personal. Strike up a conversation with anyone in Delhi, and within five minutes, you’ll be asked to share your personal history, from your family, your marital status, your job status, and sometimes even your income! It could seem a bit intrusive at first, but that’s just how the locals tend to initiate a friendship – if it is too personal for you, come prepared with a passable story!

4) Staring. Not so much out of custom but habit, people in Delhi, men and women alike, tend to stare, especially if you look or dress different in any way. It’s not a sign of hostility, just an insatiable amount of curiosity; break the ice with a smile, and all shall be okay!

5) Haggling. It is hardly uncommon to walk along a street market or past a vegetable vendor, and hear a heated conversation on the price. The knack of bargaining is ingrained in buyers as much as in sellers, and the difference is not so much about who can pay or earn a rupee less, but the satisfaction of having the last word! Observe, and if you dare, participate; it is a skill you can indeed develop with practice.

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