India is a very diverse country which is home to the world’s second largest population. Over 122 languages are spoken throughout India and cultural traditions also vary from region to region. Are you planning to visit India? Do you want to familiarize yourself with Indian customs? Find out 10 cultural tips you should follow in India.
- The Meet and Greet
The traditional way to greet someone is to fold your hands and say ‘namaste’ but it is often overlooked in the urban areas. If you’re greeting someone who speaks English it is acceptable to use a simple ‘hello’. Shaking of hands is also common but men must not attempt to shake hands with women.
- Communication Pointers
Indians may misinterpret some western customs, like waving a hand from side to side can mean ‘refusal’ or ‘go away’. Pointing your fingers at someone is considered very rude. Indians also find an outright refusal rude so when an Indian says ‘I will try’ it usually means ‘no’.
- Personal Space
Indians give importance to personal space and it is normal to stand an arm’s length away from someone. Men and women do not stand very close to each other especially in rural areas and smaller towns.
- Public Behavior
Public display of affection is discouraged. You might come across young couples canoodling in parks etc. but it is best not to embrace or kiss in public spaces.
- Etiquette of Eating
It is a cultural tradition in India to eat with your right hand only, without the use of any cutlery. The left hand is considered polluted so don’t eat, or offer someone food with your left hand. The concept of jhutha or sullied food is a taboo so make sure not to touch other people’s food items with your lips.
- Giving or Receiving Gift
Gifts are generally given with both hands, or only the right hand. Never give or receive gifts with your left as it is disrespectful. If you wish to gift something to an Indian who is close to you, gifts from your country would definitely be appreciated.
- Visit to an Indian Home
Indians love to host people so you might receive an invitation to visit someone’s home. You must open your shoes before stepping into the house. A box of sweets would make a good gift while alcohol may be frowned upon.
- Temple Etiquette
Religion is given a lot of importance in India so always be respectful towards temples, mosques and other places of worship. It is customary to open your shoes before entering. Extend your right hand to accept ‘prasad’. In some places, especially Varanasi you may witness cremations and must behave respectfully. Do not take any photographs.
Dress modestly. You might be asked to cover your heads, especially in dargahs and gurdwaras.
There is a hierarchy of body parts in Indian culture and the feet is considered impure. Don’t point your feet at anybody and apologize if you accidently touch someone with your feet.
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