5 Embarrassingly Ignorant Questions That All Indian-Americans Have Been Asked


Like many of my peers, growing up as an Indian American can feel like a lot of different things: switching between accents lest you end up sounding like a bad Aziz Ansari imitation, feeling like you don’t belong at times because you’re always so torn between different social circles, and dealing with the rampant ignorance present in modern society towards Indians. Here are some of the craziest, and sadly most common, questions I have had the misfortune of answering.

“Do you speak Indian?”

Ok, let’s think about this for a second: does that even remotely make sense? India is a subcontinent of Asia and has 28 states with a whopping population of approximately 1.6 billion people. Even though there are only about 21 officially recognized languages, there are close to 1,700 dialects and “mother tongues”. So that would be just as stupid as me going up to someone saying “uh, excuse me, but do you speak American?”

“So like, no, where are you REALLY from?”

Even though I was born in India and moved to this country when I was pretty young, there are hundreds of thousands of Indians born in the U.S. on a daily basis. So when my friend who has lived in Columbus her whole life gets asked “But seriously though, where are you originally from?” and she answers with “MUTHAF*CKIN COLUMBUS”, don’t blame her if she gets crazy eyes.

“So like, are you going to have, like, an arranged marriage?”

I blame Bollywood and their gradual advance on the Western hemisphere for this one. Though it is stereotypically more common to witness Indian parents being more strict when it comes to dating and relationships, ultimately this becomes a parenting rule: it depends on how your parents raised you and with which beliefs they try to uphold in their household. This can be true for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, hell even Zoroastrians! And with the growing rate of Tindr and eHarmony who needs shaadi.com?!

“Does everyone get to ride elephants at Indian weddings?”

I am sure it is common knowledge that Indian weddings are popular for their vibrancy, color, grandeur, and lavish pomposity with a week-long stretch of parties and celebrations leading up to the final wedding ceremony. In any case, I’m pretty sure if each guest were to have their own elephant, then we would need a direct tap into the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation but for now the bride and groom may pick their beast of choice.

“Are you going to be an engineer or doctor?”

Another common stereotype that taints Indians’ reputations is the Holy Trinity of careers: medicine, engineering, and business. While it may seem that there is an absurd amount of Indian students pursuing one of these three career paths (guilty as well!), it is false to just assume that this is because we are Indians. It is basic human instinct to have some sort of drive to achieve and want more, and we all know that when looking for partners no one would say, “Oh, I would like someone who is unsuccessful or lacks a drive.” The thing is, though, that this observation is a biased and unfair one that just scrutinizes a small percentage of a much larger population and there are so many individuals of different races and ethnicities in each type of career field that the diversity is heart-warming. All in all, we should all do something we love, whether that may be painting, acting, business, medicine, law, or even becoming a professional hobo like I am looking into if medical school doesn’t work out.