India is the land of colors. With the Himalayan Mountains in the north and warm waters of the Indian Ocean to the south, India is a place where you’ll feel welcomed the moment you arrive. From the vast cultural differences to your impact as an international volunteer, India is beautiful and inspiring!

Learn About India

Like many countries, India was once an English colony. However, once it gained its independence in 1947, India stabilized and has remained a democratic country since Mohandas Gandhi first advocated for its independence. Learn more about the incredible history of India, including its independence movement.

While Hindi is the primary language for 41% of the people, there are 14 other official languages (including English, the language of business). Our staff will help you learn Hindi while on the program, but why not try your hand at one of the 14 other languages? It will help you connect even more to the program and the people.

About one third the size of the USA and the seventh biggest country in the world, India is a power house in emerging markets. Today, India is a leading economy known for rich cultural diversity. India is developing into an open-market economy and the educated English-speaking population has become a major exporter of information technology services, business outsourcing services, and software workers.

As you explore The Himalaya, you’ll quickly notice that the city (as well as India as a whole) is filled with a seemingly endless number of amazing sites. From the excitement that you’ll find on the streets to the myriad foods and spices, our location in Dharmasala is an incredible way to experience life in the Indian Himalayas. Have a visit to one of the many temples or plan your trip around a multitude of festivals, including the Festival of Colors, also known as Holi. When you arrive, you will be inspired by the beauty and the life that is India.

Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.

  • Learn some basic Hindi phrases
  • Address people as “Alex Ji” or “Bela Maam”
  • Greet those you meet with hands clasped together and a welcome of “Namaste”
  • Tipping is not necessary, but talk to the staff
  • Go anywhere without the consent of the staff
  • Be too affectionate in public (it’s frowned upon)

For Cricket Fanatics! Indians are quite passionate about their cricket and for those of you who want to visit the stadium, please do! The Indian National Team is known for its veracity and competitive spirit! HPCA Cricket Stadium in Dharamsala, in The Himalaya, is the place to be. Just pick your team wisely, because you don’t want to support the wrong team. Our in-country staff will let you know which the “right” team to support is!

Culture Shock

Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?

Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.

Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.

"I - I hardly know, Sir, just at the present," Alice replied rather shyly, "at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • Have a sense humor.
    Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
  • Expect differences.
    In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
  • ...but look for what’s the same.
    You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
  • Keep learning.
    Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.

Language Skills

Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or just learning a few key phrases, you’ll enjoy CCS-organized language lessons during your time in-country to help you through your journey. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated.

Here are a few key phrases to get you started:
Hindi Phrases मेरा नाम है
Hello/Blessings to You – Namaste
Please – Kripiya
How are you? – Aap kese hai?
Do you Speak English? – Aap kya angrezi bolte hai?
Thank you – Dhanyavad

Intro to Hindi:
Basic Level

As with learning any new language, reading phrases is helpful. But listening is one of the best ways to grasp sounds and vocabulary. Click below to begin your first Hindi language lesson.

Ready for the next level? Practice your Hindi with this online site:

Rosetta Stone »
A Door Into Hindi »

Recommended Reading and Films

We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, travel opportunities, culture, stories, and language of India so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started:

Article: Trekking in the Indian Himalayas »
CCS Blog: Dharamsala »
YouTube: Dharamsala »

Activities & Excursions

Between volunteering, cultural activities, navigating a new language, and immersing yourself in a brand-new culture, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the local area and even the country during evenings and weekends with the CCS in-country staff. Our activities & excursions are an important part of your experience for exploration and self-reflection, and our in-country staff will always be there to guide you through getting to know the culture and country.

Here are a few of our favorite activities that might be included on your schedule.

Explore the great Himalayan Mountains in the north – often within beautiful national parks and wildlife centers. There are a multitude of things to see in Dharamsala! The in-country staff will give you a schedule for the week, so you know all the amazing and great things you get to do while you are there!

Experience the local cricket stadium and explore Upper Dharamsala, home to the exiled Tibetan Government. Living and working in Dharamsala provides volunteers the social issues surrounding the exile of the Tibetan government.

Get to know your community even better – from the famed temples to exploring ruins to checking out local markets. End your trip by purchasing a fantastic silk scarf!

What else would you like to do in your time outside of the volunteer work? Maybe you are interested in practicing yoga with the backdrop of the Himalayas? Or maybe you would like to visit a local tea garden? Either way, CCS will make sure you get to do it all and make this experience unforgettable!

Training Sessions

If you’re ready to start learning more, review your online Training Session below (this is required – so make sure you allocate enough time to review your training). About 2 weeks before your program begins, you’ll also want to plan on joining your Final Pre-Departure call with your group. We can’t wait for you to join us, meet your fellow volunteers, and explore all that CCS has to offer.

Training Call:
International Volunteering in The Himalaya »

GO TO: Volunteering in The Himalaya HSVA

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