Characteristics of India don’t immediately scream “HSP-friendly” — but I soon found it plays more to my sensitive strengths than not.
My decision to move overseas saw me develop an excellent system for living with my highly sensitive traits… and it took moving to the second biggest population in the world (of around 1.4 billion people, give or take!) to figure it out.
After years of living in distress over my “sensitivities,” I now recognize that they are to my advantage, particularly the way I can quickly, and deeply, process information.
After a series of life decisions, I found myself not just visiting India, but permanently living there. I am from a Western country, but have a two-decade association with India and now call it home.
It is a beautiful country, and it suits me well. However, some characteristics don’t immediately scream “HSP-friendly” — namely, the vast population. (Or the noisy streets. Or the heat.)
Here’s how I navigated my new environment (without putting my highly sensitive soul into overdrive).
India Is Gigantic, Yet It Has Something for Everyone
Okay, let’s start with some facts.
Like I mentioned before, around 1.4 billion people live in India. That’s about one billion more than the U.S. I’m originally from Australia — India is 50 times bigger than my home country.
India is so diverse, it’s sometimes hard to explain it to people.
There is no “one” version of India. There are mega-modern cities, tranquil beaches, very loud beaches, mountainous hill stations, small villages, large villages, national parks, deserts, snow, monsoons, heat waves, and the list goes on. But you can see how some of these are HSP-friendly (like the tranquil beaches and small villages).
And, within India, there are very diverse regions and cultures. There’s a saying that you’ll find a new language and cuisine every few minutes you travel down the road. After being in India so long now, I believe it. I mean, there are 22 official languages in India and hundreds of local dialects.
While many people often portray India as an idyllic image from a movie or a travel brochure, it’s so much more than that.
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If You’re Looking for Silence, Um…
HSPs are all different, yet we all possess a sensitive system, related abilities, and challenges. And so it goes that we will all have different tolerances and triggers.
And one of my toughest challenges is living with noise. It can be any noise — beautiful music (quiet or loud), bells, horns, explosions, vehicles, planes, voices, tapping sounds, animals… you name it.
Even though I try to create peace in my home, I’m often drawn to my window in search of the origin of a particular noise. Or stop a conversation mid-sentence, as I get impossibly distracted by a passing sound.
My tolerance is very low for most sounds, especially loud or threatening ones. I startle easily, which causes an overall daily (or hourly) challenge.
To this end, travelers sometimes refer to India as “an assault on the senses,” and some take time to acclimate to the environment. (For us HSPs, our physical environment is so important!) Before moving to India, I lived in a quiet mountain setting, which made the transition a little (or lot!) more complicated.
The unique noises of India start early and are an orchestra of daily living. My days can include loud horns from delivery vehicles; animals (like dogs and cows) making their daily rounds; suburban construction sites (working around the clock); vendors with loudspeakers; regular, ongoing religious ceremonies and festivals; non-stop social events and weddings; and loud, unidentifiable sounds, which I believe are celebratory noisemakers and firecrackers.
Indian friends (who now live overseas, but return to visit family) agree that the loud sounds can be an adjustment. I’m sure there are some lovely, quiet spots in India, perhaps at one of the many beaches, but it can be tough to find a quiet corner… anywhere.
It made me wonder how millions of HSPs in India survive in the environment that’s overflowing with sensory overload.
Trying to Acclimate to All the Stimuli (Which Is Everywhere)
It was a fascinating video. Halfway through, Dr. Zeff mentioned environmental and cultural aspects from different countries — and the expectations that can interplay with HSP boys.
He then mentioned India. He surmised that HSPs who grow up in India could develop a tolerance for the environment, due to their ongoing exposure to all the stimuli. (This information made me feel a little better on behalf of the Indian HSP population!)
It’s not just noises that affect me —I have a strong relationship with weather forecasts, too. And people drain my energy, as is common among HSPs. Yet this is a little problematic in a country with a massive population size and density of living.
Now, at this point, it sounds like a wrong move — an “extreme” HSP moving to what can sometimes be an overwhelming country. But it turns out… it’s the opposite.
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How India Benefits My Highly Sensitive Nature
What quickly became apparent was that my life in India afforded me various “workarounds” that would benefit my highly sensitive nature.
My list of priorities saw me accept the noises, as other aspects proved more beneficial. For instance, there are numerous affordable transport options in India — Uber, auto rickshaws, trains, bikes, and so forth.
These services eliminate one of my most dreaded issues — driving in traffic! There are too many inputs when I go on the road. I dealt with this for years in Australia, which drained me the most of any activity that overstimulated my senses.
Living in India, another significant benefit is the massive array of online services and home delivery options. If I don’t want to be around people — or need a “social break” — I can get almost everything delivered or performed at home (including things like doctors’ visits and bank appointments).
A funny side observation is related to language: I don’t speak any of the numerous local languages. But… English is one of two official languages in India (the other being Hindi). Still, many people cannot understand my Australian accent, so I am sometimes isolated from conversations and information inputs.
As a sensitive person, in some aspects, this lack of understanding the local language(s) has become an enormous bonus! Plus, this means I do not have to tune in to much of what I would typically need to pay attention to in an English-speaking environment.
Although it poses specific challenges, it has helped me eliminate a source of stress — absorbing others’ emotions and feelings (as well as their thoughts and opinions!).
Yes, I am surprised at my coping abilities in India, especially the fact that I don’t need to hide from all possible HSP “threats” in order to have a comfortable life. What could have easily been impossible proved to be possible — and for that, I am grateful.
For those interested in my views on life abroad in India please visit LuxuryInIndia.com.
You might like:
- 6 Ways to Thrive in a Big, Loud, Crazy City as an HSP
- What to Do When Your Highly Sensitive Soul Is in Overdrive
- 7 Ways to Create Peace in Your Home as an HSP
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