Daily Archives: March 1, 2010

Coping with cultural shock

Our four hour flight from Singapore,  into Mumbai arrived at 11:45pm.  Short queues at immigration and no need to go through custom security checks, meant that these processes were quick and we were on our way soon after midnight.

  • Found prepaid taxi office. Purchased prepaid taxi voucher (very cheap for a 20-30 min taxi ride to hotel at Juhu).
  • Feeling pleased with the event so far, my student, husband and I stepped out into the warm night air, to be absolutely confronted with people, vehicles, noise etc.
  • Swamped with help, we were led to the third taxi along which was ours
  • Near horror set in on discovering it was an old 1950 square box Fiat, just like all the other taxis lined up.
  • The boot could only fit one case, but five men helped to throw the remaining cases up on the roof rack.
  • A well spoken Indian citizen was explaining to the taxi driver where to go
  • Bruce and Hannah now seated in the taxi were being haggled by persistent, insistent Indians who were now wanting tips for help us. (Money exchange in Melbourne only had large notes when converting the currencies, so we had no smaller amounts for tips.)
  • Finally set off, with angry men left behind (tipless)

The streets were still so busy – tuk tuks, taxis everywhere, many, many people still lining the streets. It was noisy, car horns constantly tooting. More horror was experienced, as the magnitude and style of the slums were constantly seen as we drove past. Our taxi nearly did not make it up the short slope over  a bridge. Tooting tuk tuks easily overtook us as our old car just made it. Several stops were made along the way, as the driver was uncertainas to the locality of the hotel. He would leave us in the taxi unattended to find either well dressed citizens or other local drivers to seek advice and show the address to.

Finally after what seemed like hours, we arrived at our hotel to warm friendly safe looking faces who quickly unloaded our cases from the roof top (lucky none had fallen off) and escorted us into the pleasant, safe interior of our hotel lobby.

Although, I had prepped Hannah, my student, about the depth of poverty that might be seen, talked about the different cultures and completed research before leaving Australia, despite easing into different cultures by a stopover in Singapore,  cultural shock had set in and should the offer to hop on a plane and return to Australia immediately have been given to us, we may all have taken up that offer.

As daylight dawned, and a pleasant breakfast experienced in the back courtyard area, we all felt a little better.  A modern, air conditioned car complete with an educated hotel driver was given to us, to take us to the five star Trident, where my husband and I would stay and Hannah was kindly billeted out with a teaching family from the American School of Mumbai.

Why did we not stay there the first night – this hotel was much cheaper and due to the late hour of our flight, we did not want to worry anyone. However, it was an experience and another tale to add to the travel stories. It also taught me that no matter how much you think you are conditioned or prepared, reality is the only true experience!

Hotel taxi

Area around the hotel