What do Americans think of Asian-Indians?

British-Indian guy here…I’m wondering what the average American thinks of Indian people.

This is what I’ve heard from some people:

[li]Indian women are unattractive - I totally disagree[/li]
[li]nobody knows anything about Indians so there’s no opinion[/li]
[li]7-11, IT, or Call centre people[/li]
[li]Indian men treat women like crap.[/li]
[li]“terrorists” - I know an American woman who’s into Indian men. She says her friends make fun of her for being attracted to “terrorists”[/li][/ul]

Opinions please?

  1. I think Indian women (and men too) come in a delightful array of shapes, sizes, and ‘looks’. Many of them are quite attractive (I’ve met a few men over the years who positively make me swoon). This is true of humans in general.

  2. Can’t say that I know “nothing” although I’m no expert.

A couple who were some of my Mom & Dad’s dearest friends were a fellow University professor and his wife, from India. I remember, as a toddler, being allowed to sit at her feet and admire the sparklies sewn into her sari skirt, when they’d visit.

Indian kids my age went to grade school with me (professor’s kids, all). And at University, of course many fellow students were Indian (along with every other nationality). Nowadays I know many fellow engineers who are Indian.

  1. I do know Indian families who run hotels & C-stores, but I also know a lot of engineers who are Indian.

  2. I’ve no idea where this comes from.

  3. This one either.

You’re generalizing and assuming that one group of people should somehow feel the same about another group of people: big, big, big mistake. I’m wondering who the real racist is here?

We love your food BTW.

That sounds about right so far as stereotypes go, although I don’t think there’s any kind of well-known stereotype of Indian women. I find them beautiful on the whole because I tend to like black hair and brown skin, but I know of no one else who feels the same in person.

Turbans, too. All Indian men wear turbans.

I’ve noticed a few commonalities among the many Indian people who frequent my store that makes me wonder if some of these behaviors are a cultural thing, rather than a personality thing.

  1. A huge concern about price. Even if something is on sale, they are always asking if it will be going on sale for less later. Or trying to dicker, or ask for a discount. And these are people who have lived in the states for years…they HAVE to know by now that dickering isn’t allowed in a corporate store.

  2. The inability of Indian men to make a decision. Many, many times I will get single men or groups of men walking through, looking over the merchandise, asking questions, and then telling me they have to come back later. When they do come back, they either have a woman in tow, who makes the decision for them, or they bring along another guy and the process starts again.

  3. The need to deliberate for a very, very long time. I have three Indian couples who are regulars. Invariably, they will come in and spend about 45 minutes walking around my very tiny store, looking at absolutely everything, quietly discussing the merits, going back to several items again and again, making sure they have made a complete circuit of the store (which they do every week…it’s the same stuff, folks!) and then they leave. After about an half hour, they will come back in and buy something. I have no idea how they get so much time off work to do this…this happens in the middle of the work day.

  4. Many, many people to buy gifts for, some of whom they don’t know. We have two female customers who are in nearly every week because they have to buy a gift for a wedding, or anniversary, or birthday of some cousin’s child’s husband back in India. They constantly complain about the number of gifts they have to buy, and many times they end up buying something we think is totally inappropriate for the occasion… like a desk penstand for a wedding gift, or a business card case for a teenager’s birthday.


What are you looking or positive or negatives? Here are some perspectives I’ve heard expressed by people over time.


East Indians are typically hard working and law abiding

East Indian kids are diligent students

East Indians pay their house mortgages on time

East Indians are very hospitable to guests

East Indians are very bright


East Indians are awful and exploitative landlords and will let their rental properties fall into absolute disrepair, and will not fix anything until forced to by the municipality

Professional class East Indians are unusually arrogant toward service people.

East Indian entrepreneurs will mercilessly exploit their relatives as employees.

East Indian entrepreneurs will cheat on their business taxes as a matter of course and massively understate income

Recently arrived non-professional East Indians are not in tune with western standards of hygiene

East Indians will haggle pointlessly and annoyingly over things that are not typically bargained over

East Indians will buy, use and try to return things to stores endlessly

I’ve seen attractive Indian women, and unattractive ones. One of the prettiest girls I know (or knew, as I haven’t seen her in years) was a certain Miss Patel. (No worries giving anything away with a surname like that! :smiley: Anyway, she’s married now.) She is American, but I think her parents came from India. I found M. very, very attractive.

But ‘average Americans’? That’s a bit like asking what an ‘average Indian’ in India thinks of Group X.

I don’t know. I think a lot of Americans’ exposure to Indians might be limited to ‘Apu’ on The Simpsons. PhD in Computer Science from Caltech (Calcutta Technical Institute), but runs the Kwik-E-Mart. There is a bit of a stereotype that Indians run convenience stores here. Many do. Many don’t. If I see a Sikh, he’ll be behind a counter, driving a cab, or nattily turned out in a business suit. An Indian man was the vice-president of a business division I was in at a former employer, Indians have a reputation for being doctors (one doctor I went to for a flight physical was an Indian woman), and there’s no telling the occupations of Indians I see walking around Seattle at lunchtime.

So I’ve come into contact with Indians in various occupations. I know that India is ethnically and culturally very diverse. Am I an ‘average American’? Maybe I am, and maybe I’m not. But if I were to guess, I’d say that the ‘average American’ doesn’t know enough about India or Indians to have much of an opinion on them one way or another.

I don’t know about, nor have I heard of, a stereotype that Indian men treat women poorly. Not in my database.

As for ‘terrorists’, I think a lot of Americans are… er… ‘unsophisticated’. They see a turban and, especially in these times, think of Arabs. Unfortunately, to many Americans ‘Arabs’ = ‘terrorists’. To me an Sikh’s turban looks very different from an Arab’s, not to mention the facial hair styles and ethnic features. To others all they see is a turban.

What do I, personally, think of Indian people? Having grown up and lived in ethnically diverse cities that’s like asking what I think of Black people or Mexican people or Japanese people or Vietnamese people or people who live in the American South or the Pacific Northwest. Indians are just part of the tapestry like everyone else.

But I do love the food, and I’d like to visit India someday.

I’ve never heard anyone claim that Indian women are unattractive. There’s a fairish number of popular Indian restaurants and grocery stores in my area, and a reasonably vigorous clique of Indian film aficionados around the local University-- I’m not much into foreign films myself, but from sitting in occasionally, I have to say I find the Bollywood offerings much more interesting than the Japanese animated porn enthusiasts. I think that Indian college students here give the general impression of being very serious about their studies.

I have also not heard any generalized claims made about Indian misogyny or terrorism. I expect that the ‘convenience store clerk’ or ‘cabdriver’ stereotype is probably the most widely circulated take on Indian immigrants in America. They are regarded as a relatively benign minority group.

Also, Americans think the Indian accent just sounds hilarious. Seriously, some accents just sound more comical than others, and Indian is right up there with Swedish in this regard.

My ex- is from India.

Indian women, unattractive? This is a whoosh, right?

I tried to make it my business to know about India. Not that she was a willing tour guide…

She felt like she failed her family because she didn’t have a PhD.

At parties, Indian men stayed on one side of the room and the women on the other. I never understood it, but ok. Treating them like crap? Well, I remember that the men would ask me, “What’s your specialty?” I.e. “Of course you’re a doctor…so what type?” I imagine some marriages may have been arranged and they struggle between what they wanted and what was chosen for them.

Indian=terrorist probably stems from the Sikh thing. I’m far more inclined to think that about people from the Middle East but recognize that stereotypes are likely to be wildly misleading.

Um. Aren’t Indian-Americans people?

‘Cause that’ how I see them. They might be a little darker hue, but we’re all peoples.

Hmmm … I’ve got different experiences with Asian Indians, Indian-American immigrants, and more assimilated (2nd generation and higher) Indian-Americans.

Asian Indians:

  • On my message board, the vast majority either they post spam or ask “you will do the needful and kindly tell me everything about [insert subject here]” homework questions in very awkward English. It’s too bad; I’d like to see more participation from them beyond the homework questions.

  • Driven and educated, but on the other hand extremely superstitious, especially in rural areas. It seems like there’s a disproportionate amount of weird or strange news stories from comes from India; things like villages where everybody kills their second born female child because a lamb with two heads is born.

  • Sees some things as normal which would otherwise seem “cheesy” or “ironic” in Western eyes; for instance, Tunak Tunak Tun, Indian Thriller, Indian Superman, and so on.

  • Very, very, very, very socially conservative: for instance, the public outrage when a couples merely kiss in a Bollywood movie.

  • Call centers, of course. Very patient; I give them a lot of credit for putting up with what can be angry and frustrated customers.

  • Fantastic food.
    First generation Indian-Americans:

  • Either work as motel operators (“Patel motels”). or doctors, engineers, skilled IT workers, or university professors. Second generation Indian-Americans seem to be in a much broader variety of professions. Younger Indian immigrants that stay after college also seem to be employed in a wider variety of fields; it’s not just medicine, engineering or IT.

  • Ethnically insular: don’t want their children to associate with or date non-Indians, don’t interact much with non-Indian neighbors, and so on.

  • Honda Accord owners. My parents live in a neighborhood with a fairly large Indian population, and the parking lots of Indian stores, Indian restaurants and similar gathering spots are always filled with Accords. Same thing with the driveways of their Indian neighbors; it’s as if the Accord is the only car they will think of driving.

  • Usually middle-class or upper middle-class, and suburban dwelling. Parents push their children to work in medicine or other high-paying fields. Again, in my hometown, Indian families tend to be lax with yardwork; perhaps because they’re not used to maintaining a large lawn and garden on their own. Indians are often seen as a “model minority” because of their economic success.

  • Unintentionally break some social taboos: for instance, asking people they just met about their income or personal medical issues.

  • Very polite, but restrained and not always “friendly” in an American sense. Then again, this is the United States, where people who aren’t outgoing are sometimes seen as a bit cold. After a while, as with anyone, they warm up.

  • In the US, some homeowners will avoid buying a house that was previously owned by an immigrant Indian family, because the smell of curry permeates every nook and cranny. Curry odor is very difficult to remove.

  • First-generation male Indian immigrants always seem to wear white, long-sleeve button down shirts everywhere.

  • I’m sorry. The accents just sound funny to my ears. I think it’s just that Indian (and Pakistani and Bangladeshi) accents are a wee bit sing-songy, no syllables are stressed, and the pace of speech is constant. The very polite and stilted Victorian-influenced English (“I most humbly ask your esteemed self to kindly do the needful and …”) doesn’t help.

  • The professional Indian women all seem quite attractive and alluring. The women behind the counter at the motel just off the Interstate … not so.

Overall, my impression of Asian-American immigrants is positive, but because Indian culture is so much different than “Western” culture, some customs and mannerisms can seem a bit odd. The US is a nation of immigrants, though, so even the things that might seem odd about Indian culture are really just a normal part of the American experience, when you look at the big picture. We’re all Americans at the end of the day. :slight_smile:

I am posting without reading the other posts.

Am I supposed to think of something when I think of Indians? (American Indians are called Native Americans where I come from, btw).

If you asked me to think of a “typical” Indian person, I would most likely think:

  1. Hindu or Moslem

  2. thin or vegetarian, but maybe not–I know lots of chubby Indians.

  3. professional people–most of the Indians I know are doctors.

  4. Shy, quiet, polite. Nice. Like to laugh. Kind.

  5. Some of the male docs are sexist, but most are not. Overwhelmingly, most are not–the ones that are, are just generally pricks.

  6. I can’t think of anything else, but maybe silk, saris (spelling?), pajamas and turbans (for the Sikhs).
    I don’t “think” of Indians–they just are a part of my world.

ETA: I don’t think their accent is funny–I like the lilting sounds. Sometimes I do struggle a bit with it (usually words like envelope where they tend to stress a different syllable than Americans do).

Yeah, really.

Central New Jersey has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) Indian population in the country. Indians are everywhere. You can’t throw a papadum without hitting an Indian.

What do I think of Indians? I dunno. They’re just folks.

Folks who manage to walk around dressed in a sheet without having it fall off of 'em! And that, my friends, is impressive as hell. Boy oh boy, Indian women sure know how to dress! You really don’t see women walking around Target in saris unless they’re grandma-age, but the salwar kameezes they wear are so gorgeous. They just make the world a more beautiful place to be.

Other than that? Great food and a lot of them are named Patel. How’s that?

I’ve never heard of the “treating their wives like crap” thing or the terrorist thing. Perhaps somebody’s getting his Middle Eastern stereotypes mixed up with his Indian stereotypes.

On preview: I don’t think that Indian accents are funny either. Certainly not as funny as Swedish. “Please to help me with my rucksack?”

It probably varies a lot with which part of the US they’re from. There are plenty of towns where you aren’t going to see many Indians around, so people there wouldn’t think much about them at all. Americans from these areas may have difficulty distinguishing Indians from Arabs, and most Americans would have trouble distinguishing Indians from other South Asians.

I think I’ve known enough Indians not to stereotype them myself, but I’ll try to describe what I think are common views. In towns that do have a visible Indian population, the stereotypical professions for Indian men are convenience store owner, motel owner/manager, cab driver, engineer, IT professional, or doctor. The stereotypical professions for Indian women would be housewife, motel owner/manager, Indian restaurant owner/manager/waitress, or maybe doctor.

The stereotypes about the personalities of Indians are fairly similar to those for other Asians in the US: hardworking, intelligent, good with numbers and money but sometimes to penny-pinching extremes, traditional (pre-feminist) ideas about the role of women, disinclined to date outside their ethnic group, usually quiet but can have loud parties with their extended families, fairly strict with their children and have high expectations for how well they’ll do in school.

I think most Americans would be able to identify the sari as being Indian, but maybe not the salwar kameez. I suspect that many Americans would overestimate how many Indian men wear turbans. Indian food is relatively popular in the US but nowhere near as ubiquitous as say Chinese, so while some Americans could name several favorite Indian dishes others would only be able to say that Indians eat curry.

I’m afraid that the outsourcing of call center jobs to India has hurt the American image of Indians a bit. I think many people have gone from “don’t know any, so no opinion” to strongly associating Indians with the always annoying experience of making a telephone customer service complaint.

Oh, speaking only for myself, my impression of the looks of Indian women is that they’re ALL attractive. I’m sure ugly Indian women exist, but I can’t remember ever seeing one who I wouldn’t rank in the average-to-stunning range.

Dutch- Canadian here. I admit that I think tall blonde large breasted Dutch girls are more attractive than East Indian girls.

Why does a white male citizen of India care what Americans think about the native females of his country ?

Bit of a highjack but this has been puzzling me for some time. From my UK perpective I can’t think of any Arab headgear that could be described as a turban so I can’t imagine what people who mistake Sikhs for Muslims are confusing them with.

American guy here: I think Indian (and Persian) women are really attractive, for what it’s worth. That is to say, the hot ones are more attractive than other women, the ugly ones not so much. :stuck_out_tongue: And the Indian accent can sound really cute.

Vox Imperatoris

ETA: Flying Dutchman, I think he’s an ethnic Indian from Britain.

Sikh Dastar, Arab turban.

EDIT: Wiki article on the dastar. They seem to use ‘dastar’ and ‘turban’ interchangeably.

EDIT 2: Entry on Turban. ‘The word “turban” is a common umbrella term, loosely used in English to refer to several sorts of head wrap.’

I don’t really think anything of Asian-Indians. There are over a billion of them, I feel uncomfortable making generalizations of such a large group of people.

I will say that when a friend told me that her boyfriend is half Indian and has never been to India and doesn’t know his Indian family at all because his father (born in India) has never returned or bothered to teach his son Hindi, I was surprised. All of the Indian people I have known seemed very family-oriented. But who knows? Maybe the family is dysfunctional and the boyfriend’s dad was happy to get away from them.

I really, really, really like Indian food, though. Does that count as an opinion?