When you first walk out of the airport into Kolkata at 4 in the morning, it will feel like you are walking into a sauna. The sound of car horns ring out constantly like a flock of migrating geese — you will soon learn that, unlike America, these honks are not angry, but lifesaving. Driving on the left side of the road, you notice that what would be a 2 car lane in America is a 4 or 5 vehicle lane here. Auto rickshaws, bikes, buses, motorcycles, and cars all compete for the same spots.
There are some interesting cultural do’s and don’t’s here:
- Carry your chickens on the handles of your bicycle and keep them on a basket in the street until you kill and skin them in front of passers-by.
- Let cows walk past you in the street undisturbed (or pat them on the head for a blessing).
- Buy chai tea (চা, “cha”) from the chai-wallas on the street. It’s like 8 cents USD, and you get a cool clay cup (which you throw in the street when finished with).
- Be covered in dust. Everything else is.
- Bother buckling up if you’re in the backseat of a car. Either your buckle has been cut off the strap, or there’s nowhere to put it.
- Wear sunglasses, unless you are a celebrity.
- Let cute little urchin kids start hugging you. They will gang up on you and try to take your money, and you can’t fight back because you are laughing so hard from their cuteness.
- Forget your umbrella. It’s monsoon season, so it rains once a day — and you can never predict when this will be.