What are quirky local customs in Mumbai?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Rakhee Ghelani

A new visitor to Mumbai is likely to encounter some interesting and peculiar local habits. These include:

1. Getting directions to somewhere can be a little difficult in Mumbai for two reasons.  First distances tend to be given in terms of time (for example it will take 15 minutes) rather than actual distance (like 5 kilometres). This is because traffic can be so bad sometimes in Mumbai that it may take half an hour to travel only a couple of kilometres, so time is believed to a more accurate measurement of travel distance.  
Secondly most buildings are not given numbers, or even if they are they are rarely used. Instead people find their destination by relying on the name of a building. So don't be surprised if you direct someone to a building rather than a street number.  It is also always good to know a couple of other landmarks or well known buildings close by to help in finding the correct building.

2. If you take a local train in Mumbai, you will see a part of everyday life that goes on. Because many people have long commutes, the local trains are used as a place to do every day activities, including sewing, buying any thing from food to clothes, catching up on sleep and even meeting friends (with many creating new friendships during their daily commutes). 

3. Chewing paan (the leaf of a betel nut stuffed with either areca nut or tobacco and sweet spices) is a common past-time in Mumbai.  Almost every street corner has a paan walla where you can try some for yourself (although make sure the leaf has been washed in mineral water).  Whilst the sweet paan (without tobacco) is chewed and swallowed, many who chew tobacco paan will then spit it out. A custom that can be regularly seen in Mumbai, and is visible on the streets in bright red streaks. 

Whilst it may seem a bit unusual, discovering the quirks of a new town are part of what makes a visit interesting. You may even discover some more quirky customs in Mumbai on your visit to add to the list.

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