I do think it’s a proper place to first experience India, as it really just throws the whole thing right at you up front. The streets are dirty, loud, and busy. There are people everywhere and the trains are absolutely jam-packed. I’ve never been a fan of the term culture shock; to me it’s over/misused and lacks any real significance. Was your world view really shattered on your family vacation to Barcelona? “But they eat dinner at like midnight!” Honestly, nowadays after centuries of global colonization/cultural exposure, I reckon culture shock is a phenomenon that’s hard to find at all.
Having said that, I would say my experience in India has brought me closer to it than anywhere I’ve traveled before. I still think the term is weak, but it definitely takes some adjusting to things like: strange urban planning (or lack thereof), trash and filth everywhere, abject poverty, traffic lawlessness, incessant honking, and relative chaos in the streets, trains, stations, etc.
We also picked up a Swiss buddy named Sascha. We met him in the train station and he was traveling alone so now he’s part of the gang. He’s as handy as a pocket-knife… Get it?