The 9 Kinds of White People You’ll Find in India

1. The Backpacker Without Dreadlocks– The quintessential white person in India. They’re backpacking through Udaipur and Varanasi and Kerala, though they probably aren’t able to locate any of those places on a map. They have a 500-day supply of malaria pills in their oversized lime green backpack, and they will ALWAYS order bottled mineral water at a restaurant. They’re usually wearing a white t-shirt, elephant pants, and Chacos/Tevas. They’re here to find themselves, which is white people speak for “work on their Instagram.”

2. The Backpacker WITH Dreadlocks– The quintessential white person in India, only 100x worse. They’re based in Goa, they go to the beach nearly every day, and their hair is the stock photo of multiple thinkpieces on why white people should not wear dreads. Their arms are covered in henna and bangles, and they drop more acid in one day than a festival goer drops at both weekends of Coachella combined. No one knows exactly what they do, when they’ll leave, or when they’ve last showered.

3. The Corporate Daddy– Because the glass ceiling is universal, this person is almost always male, and being a white guy in finance/consulting, he’s used to getting what he wants. His company sent him to run their India outpost because he’s 30-something, unmarried, and eager to climb the corporate ladder. He’s been here for a couple years, but he still has remarkably few friends who aren’t white. He lives in an ocean view apartment in the same building as a Bollywood movie mogul, but he sleeps on a mattress on the floor. He rarely takes rickshaws because they overcharge him, and in all his time in India, he has never cooked a meal for himself. He spends most of his time at the office, but he’ll happily take a night off to take an “exotic” girl out to dinner.

Camels in the Thar Desert

4. The Bleeding Heart Voluntourist– They’re here for 4 weeks to teach English/build houses despite having absolutely no training in primary education or carpentry. Somehow, they managed to crowdfund their entire trip, and their parents are paying their $1,000/month rent while they’re gone. More often than not, their trip is sponsored by a religious organization with uncomfortably colonialist ties to the area.They post pictures of themselves with small brown children they’ve formed an “emotional connection” with, but they can’t actually communicate with any of them because they didn’t learn the local language.

5. The Jaded Model– She’s originally from Greece/Spain/Ukraine, she was sent here by her agency INEGA, and she will tell you all of this within the first 5 minutes of meeting her. She moonlights in club promoting, and every week, she sends exclusive WhatsApp invites to 256 of her closest friends. She only posts modeling pictures on her Instagram, captioned with a paragraph of hashtags. She has a countdown on her phone of the days left until she can go home.

6. The Well Adjusted Spouse– They’ve been here so long that they’ve adopted a variation of an Indian accent, and they make some pretty good roti. They have no problem eating with their hands or washing their clothes in a bucket, and they could probably do both at the same time. They regularly maintain their lifestyle blog with article like “10 Things I Learned From 10 Years Living In India,” and they and their Indian partner have travelled the country extensively. What they actually do for a living is a bit nebulous, but they get a pass because they actually understand a great deal about desi culture.



7. The Senior Citizen– Somehow, the “You won’t take my expired coupon? I want to speak to the manager!” gene skipped this Baby Boomer, and they’re happily retiring in India. Respect.

8. The Great American Family– Dad has a business trip in Mumbai, so they entire family tags along! Upon realizing that India does NOT in fact look like the Expedition Everest section of Animal Kingdom at Disney World, the Great American Family decides to remain in the safe confines of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba. Dad tells anyone in earshot that they’ve paid more to stay at a Value Resort in aforementioned Disney World than they’re paying to stay at the most iconic hotel in India. While trekking all the way to the Gateway of India to take a photo for the family Christmas card, they’re swarmed by crowds asking for selfies. Mom makes them reject these advances because of something she read on a WordPress travel blog, but she and the whole family actually love getting attention for just being white.

The Gateway of India

The Gateway of India

9. The Self Aware College Student– They’re here on a grant from their university, they live in Bandra, and they work for an NGO. They’ve formed strong opinions on GST and demonetization, and they’ll eagerly debate anyone who brings up the topics in casual conversation. They secretly love how comfortable elephant pants are, but they wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them in public. They know enough Hindi to communicate with rickshaw drivers, but not enough to actually communicate with the communities they work with. Most importantly, they enjoy making fun of white people in India because they think they’re somehow different from other white people in India.

Ironic elephant pants?

Ironic elephant pants?

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About Jo Ellen Pellman

Jo Ellen is a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio majoring in Musical Theatre and minoring in Creative Writing. Jo Ellen will be spending two months in Mumbai volunteering for Khula Aasman, a non-profit organization dedicated to blending expressive arts therapies with social change. With the Khula Aasman team, she will be facilitating creative theatre workshops with various communities across Mumbai, including women in incarceration and women in trafficking. Art is a great healer- it offers the opportunity to transcend the boundaries of class, religion, caste and gender. Jo Ellen’s final project will focus on the immediate emotional effects of the workshops on the participants and what forms of art therapy resonated with them the most. Her research will provide Khula Aasman with a correlation between the most effective arts therapy methods for the demographics that they serve in order to tailor workshops to best meet the needs of the Mumbai community.

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