The Expat Woman

7 questions I get asked in the US because I am Indian

Living in the US as an Indian can be an interesting experience filled with a myriad of questions, many of which stem from common misconceptions and stereotypes. When you move abroad, it’s almost a given that people will have preconceived notions about your culture, language, and lifestyle. Here are some of the common questions I get asked when people find out I am from India and my thoughts on them.

1.How Do You Speak English So Well? Do You Have an Accent?

When people in the US hear me speak English, they often ask how I speak it so well and why I have an accent.

English in India: India was a British colony, and English was introduced in the 1700s. Even after the British left in 1947, English remained a significant language, especially in larger cities. It is used in many schools, higher education, and large corporations.

In my family, English has been the primary language for generations. My great-grandparents adopted it as their first language, so I grew up speaking English at home and attended English-speaking schools. Although I learned other languages like Hindi and Marathi, since I didn’t get much of an opportunity to practice them, I don’t speak them very well.

Accents: Yes, I have an Indian English accent, but accents vary widely even within India. Different regions have distinct accents when speaking English, and it’s important to recognize that not all Indians sound the same. I often find it amusing when people imitate the exaggerated “Apu accent” from The Simpsons, which is not representative of all Indian accents. Also if an American or Britisher visited India, we would say you have an “American” or “British” accent.

 2. Do You Speak Hindi or "Hindu"?

People often ask if I speak Hindi or, worse, “Hindu” or “Indian.”

Language vs. Religion: Hindi is the national language of India, but it’s not spoken by everyone. India has over 22 officially recognized languages and more than 1600 dialects. “Hindu” is a religion, not a language, and “Indian” refers to people from India, not a language.

I grew up learning Hindi but am not fluent because as I mentioned earlier, English was the language that my family and friends used to communicate in . I believe being bilingual or multilingual is an advantage, and I wish I were better at other languages.

3. Are You Hindu?

This question often comes up due to the high percentage of Hindus in India.

Religious Diversity: While 79% of Indians are Hindus, India is home to many religions, including Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, and more. I am a Catholic, which makes me part of a minority in India, but with a population of over a billion, even 2.3% (the percentage of Christians in India) is a significant number.

4. Are You Vegetarian?

Many people assume all Indians are vegetarians.

Dietary Habits: About 39% of Indians are vegetarians, for religious, health or ethical reasons. For instance, many Hindus avoid beef, and Brahmins (a Hindu caste) often follow strict vegetarian diets. As a Catholic, I did not have dietary restrictions and grew up eating various meats, including chicken, pork, fish, a similar diet to someone who eats meat in the US.

5. Did Your Parents Arrange Your Marriage?

Arranged marriages are a common topic of curiosity.

Marriage Practices: Arranged marriages were very common in my parents’ generation. However, my grandparents had a love marriage, and so did I. While my parents had an arranged marriage, they dated before getting married. The concept of arranged marriages is evolving, and there’s more flexibility now. I personally found the process of being introduced to potential spouses too pressured and chose to marry someone I met independently.

6. Do You Cook Curry?

This question often comes with misconceptions about Indian cuisine.

Curry Misconceptions: In India, we don’t use curry powder. Indian cooking involves a variety of individual spices, and dishes are diverse across regions. Not everything is curry, naan, or chicken tikka masala. The term “curry” generally refers to a gravy, but many Indian dishes are dry. Also, avoid saying “naan bread” or “chai tea,” as these are redundant terms as naan is a type of bread and chai means tea in Hindi.

7. Did You Grow Up Watching Bollywood Films?

Another common question is about Bollywood.

Film Industry Diversity: Bollywood is famous, but it’s not the only film industry in India. Many states have their own film industries, producing movies in regional languages. I grew up watching American and British films more than Bollywood, which reflects the blend of Indian and Western culture in my upbringing.


What are the most common questions about your birth country you get asked if you live abroad or when you travel abroad?

Let me know in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Nyna is the Founder and CEO of The Expat Woman, a global platform focused on connecting, supporting and empowering women who have moved abroad or plan to relocate. She is also a LinkedIn coach, consultant, trainer and speaker. LinkedIn played a huge role in my professional journey abroad, helping me build a network of powerful expat women and allies.

Pin It on Pinterest

Get your Free Ticket

Online from Nov. 7th to Nov.9th