When you’re travelling in India, you’re likely to be asked many times during your trip to take a selfie with a local. It’s a strange thing to experience. It makes you feel a bit like a celebrity.
I’ve had everyone under the sun ask me for a photo. Guys, girls, kids, men, women, babies (well, their parents), groups of friends, entire families, entire school classrooms, the list goes on. This usually only happens at tourist attractions or small villages and towns; there’s a reason for this.
So why do so many people want a photo with a foreigner?
It’s because many domestic Indian tourists have little or no contact with foreigners where they’re from. Perhaps they’re from a city like Panipat in Haryana where no tourist ventures.
Domestic Indian tourists go on holiday to a big city like Delhi to see the sites. Meeting a foreigner and having photographic proof is a good story for them to take home. Imagine if the West wasn’t so multicultural, we too would be interested in a photo and conversation with people from different ethnic groups. It’d be new and exciting for us too.
It can get overwhelming. As soon as one person sees you’ve agreed to a photo a queue can form. It goes from one to ten photos quickly. I once had to cut a relaxing visit to Jallianwala Bagh near The Golden Temple in Amritsar short because a crowd was forming.
Indians are very inquisitive, so when they see a crowd they immediately want to know what’s going on there, crowds multiply quickly. They’ll even stop cars and motorcycles in the middle of the road to go look at what’s going on. If a crowd starts forming, it can become overwhelming and disruptive; time to exit stage left.
Taking selfies can eventually lead to someone taking advantage of you though. I once had a guy try to kiss me on the cheek while taking a photo. He didn’t connect with my cheek as I was too fast for his bromancing, phew! Be wary of stray lips and hands as some men will try to get too cosy with both male and female tourists.
When on the beach in places like Goa females should be aware that it’s common to see young Indian guys sneakily taking photos of women wearing revealing swimsuits. Wear a sarong if you’re in a very public area and remove it when you go into the water for swimming.
Despite the risks of taking selfies, I still rarely say no to taking a photo. I use it as an opportunity to practice my Hindi with a local. After a while, I decided to also ‘click pics’ (as they call it in India) with people who asked me!
You can view all of my selfies at My Selfie Experiment in India.
Share your favourite selfie! Upload it to imgur.com and post the link in the comments!