I was on two week visit in South India (a very nice place). That’s my second travel in this area, but now for the first time I paid special attention to the financial habits of the people there. The majority of Indian people have never been too rich but seem to manage living a healthy and happy life. I’ll share few of the most probable “secrets” that they use for that.
People in South India eat rice
I know many frugal bloggers suggest eating more rice since it is a cheap and healthy food. People here take it to the extreme – they eat rice every day. The typical meal of the locals consists of plain rice, gravies and chillies. In the casual restaurants it’s called exactly like that – just “meal”. The people are given a big plate and one guy walks around the tables and gives rice to everyone who has paid for a “meal”. You can get as much rice as you want. The price of the meal in most places is 35 rupees (currently $0.8).
I was not very keen on their everyday meal, but due to the huge variety of other rice based meals I was able to eat rice each other day without getting bored. In most cheap restaurants you’ll find all kinds of rice:
- Fried rice which can be fried with chicken, egg, ginger, vegetables, spinach, fish or prowns
- “Biryani” rice – a spicy rice meal usually veg or with whole boiled eggs, chicken, mutton, paneer (Indian cheese) or fish
- Typical Indian rice – ghee rice, curd rice etc…
Just plain boiled rice is sold everywhere on kiosks so you can get it home and use with your own gravies. In the stores people can find 20kg sacks of rice for about 700 rupees ($16-$17).
Now on the video below you can see how they cook the rice in one “dhaba” (a cheap restaurant).
People eat mostly vegetarian food
A large part of Indian population are vegetarians. Usually their diet includes diary products, but there are many vegans as well. On top of that even the non-vegetarian eating people usually eat the typical veg “meal” described above at least once per day. So the overall consumption of meat is not high at all. Obviously along with the low food price that makes feeding a typical Indian family an affordable task even for these who receive really low income.
It seems that this diet is quite healthy because you rare see overweight people.[ad#image-ad]
The families live together
The typical Indian family does not consist just of a couple and their kids. Many Indians live together with their parents and their brother’s and sister’s families. This means that most homes are inhabited by 8-10 people.
Most of us may not feel comfortable living like that, so am not advocating this. But it’s yet another way for Indians to cut their cost of living. However the primary reason for them doing it is not to save money. It’s just that their culture keeps healthy relations within the family members which use to support each other.
People ride bikes
One motor bike usually can go 50km (31 miles) with a litter of fuel. This is 3 or more times better than what most cars do. People in India ride motor bikes everywhere and as you can imagine their transportation costs are much lower than yours if you drive a car.
Here is a typical parking in Hyderabad, South India
Don’t forget that one bike can transport two people (well, in India it can handle a lot more than that), so even if you are carpooling you are not as frugal in transportation as them. Their use of bikes also reduces the traffic jams although that doesn’t seem to help enough at all. Watch this short video to get more idea how their roads look like:
Indians just live simple
Along with all that was said above, Indians just live simple life without feeling it as frugal. They just don’t seem to need much more than their everyday rice, “tiffins”, a piece of banana, a tap water (you should never drink it unless you are an Indian too), and a place to sleep. When we were going to the supermarket together with some Indians, I noticed they don’t have our European habit to hang around the rows and wonder what else to buy. Most of them just go inside, buy whatever they have planned to buy, pay and go out. Most of them don’t even go to the supermarkets often that’s why most of the stores there are much smaller and supplied with less variety of products than what we are used to see in Europe and USA.
If that draws too rural picture in your imagination, I need to add that they go to the malls and movies from time to time, play PC games etc. normal things that people in the West do. But most Indians don’t go to bars or expensive restaurants and don’t drink alcohol which of course is another way to save a lot of money.
The lifestyle of people in India may or may not fully suit you but nevertheless you can learn from them to manage a simpler life with less stress, less consumption and, it seems that, more joy.