21 Words That Have A Totally Different Meaning When You Live In India

Adjust no yaaa.

1. “Rules”

Actual meaning: A set of regulations governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere.
Meaning in India: Nothing.

2. “Uncle/Aunty”

Actual meaning: Your parent’s sibling.
Meaning in India: Any adult over the age of 28, except those you are actually related to.

3. “Adjust”

Actual meaning: Alter or move something slightly.
Meaning in India: Fit seven people in a three-seater rickshaw, buy candy because the shopkeeper didn’t have exact change, make a bong out of a Pepsi bottle, use a newspaper as an umbrella, etc. Synonym: Jugaad.

4. “Sidewalk”

Michael Weening / Via michaelweening.com

Actual meaning: A paved path for pedestrians at the side of a road.
Meaning in India: A self-organizing co-working space used by cobblers, barbers, priests, shopkeepers, and really anyone with any sort of entrepreneurial streak.

5. “Watching the news”

Actual meaning: Watching a broadcast journalist on TV explain current affairs.
Meaning in India: Watching 12-plus people shout at each other and doing your very best to extract any sort of current affairs-related information from the chaos.

6. “Cursing”

Actual meaning: Using offensive words out of anger or annoyance.
Meaning in India: Basic means of communication.

7. “Queue”

Actual meaning: An orderly line of people awaiting their turn to be attended to.
Meaning in India: A chaotic and amorphous clump of humans who are served in order of how shameless and loud they are.

8. “Sex ed”


Actual meaning: Formal instruction on issues relating to human sexuality given to adolescents, with an emphasis on safety.
Meaning in India: A combination of mysterious steamy Bollywood dance routines, and bizarre newspaper Q&A columns.

9. “Cow”

Actual meaning: A domesticated female bovine, reared on farms as a source of milk and beef.
Meaning in India: A goddess, a pedestrian, a cause for millions of traffic jams, an animal you will have innumerable staring contests with on your commute to work, all of which you will lose.

10. “Family”

Actual meaning: A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
Meaning in India: A group consisting of parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, and strangers you’ve literally never seen before, all living together in a household.

11. “God”

Actual meaning: A superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortune.
Meaning in India: Depends. Which one?

12. “Sports”

Actual meaning: A range of activities involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
Meaning in India: An open-air game played on a large grass field with ball, bats, and two wickets, between teams of 11 players, the object of the game being to score more runs than the opposition.

13. “Government office”

Actual meaning: An office where citizens’ needs are served by government officials.
Meaning in India: An office where citizens’ needs are served despite government officials.

14. “Crowded”

Actual meaning: A lot of people in one place.
Meaning in India: There are more people in your one train compartment than the total population of most countries. You just got to second base with 1,000 people. Someone’s butt is on your butt. * Faints. *

15. “Giving directions”

Actual meaning: Instructing someone on how to get to their destination using street names and cardinal directions.
Meaning in India: Telling someone to take the first left after Café Coffee Day and then the third right across from the sabzi mandi and then to stop and ask someone else for directions.

16. “Movie”

Actual meaning: An entertaining motion picture depicting real or fictional events.
Meaning in India: A four-hour event during which you will be made to feel the full range of human emotions, reevaluate concepts like aerodynamics and gravity, and experience a virtual tour of the Swiss alps via romantic song and dance.

17. “Heavy traffic”

Actual meaning: A high density of vehicles moving along a road.
Meaning in India: A high density of vehicles sitting stationary on a road.

18. “Concrete jungle”

Actual meaning: An urban area that has a high density of large, modern buildings.
Meaning in India: Literally animals inhabiting a concrete space.

19. “Tea”

Actual meaning: A hot beverage made by infusing the dried, crushed leaves of the tea plant in boiling water. Often accompanied by scones.
Meaning in India: A life-sustaining liquid that one must consume at least four times per day, to keep in good health. Often accompanied by Marie biscuit and the latest gossip.

20. “Wedding”

Actual meaning: An intimate ceremony in which two people who love each other formalize their marriage.
Meaning in India: A multiple-day ceremony in which two people who may or may not love each other spend their (and their parents’) life savings to provide food and alcohol to hundreds of people, most of whom they have never seen before, nor will they see again.

21. “Home”

Actual meaning: A place where one lives permanently.
Meaning in India: A magical, chaotic, colorful, loud, wild, unpredictable, and hilarious universe that is better than anywhere else on Earth.

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