Differences in culture can become a roadblock in almost all kinds of things. If you are travelling to India, it is important that you take note of certain things. However, respecting the cultural preferences of any destination you are visiting is the right thing to do. India is slightly sensitive when it comes to its culture. Thus, the page enlists a list of do’s and don’ts as far as cultural etiquettes in India are concerned:
Dressing and Attire
Try to avoid clothes that are too tight or dresses that are too revealing if you are visiting rural area. Try to be dress slightly conservative here as in covering limbs. Cities and towns are tolerant towards modern dressing and people living here themselves into wearing what are referred to as western clothes.
If you are attending any business meeting or conference, you can wear business suites or shirts and trousers/knee-length skirts.
Remove your shoes before entering any religious site or place of worship in India. You can buy a cheap pair of comfy shoes or sandals as you need to remove them at the entrance. A cheap pair is less likely to get stolen.
Religion is a serious thing in India. Menstruating women are not allowed inside religious places in India. There are strict rules in some of the temples in India and should be followed.
Try not to wear cut sleeves or shorts while visiting a Hindu temple. Avoid skin show.
When you enter a Sikh Gurudwara or a Mosque, make sure your head is covered.
In Jain temples, leather items are not allowed.
Women are not allowed inside mosques and inner sanctums of South Indian temples.
Do not click photos in temples or during cremation ceremonies.
Most of the food in India is eaten with hands. Use of knives and forks are traditionally not used here. A spoon is used in the case of soups and in only certain places, rice is eaten with spoon and at other place you use your hand.
Wash your hands before eating.
Avoid sitting down to start your meal until your hosts asks so, if you are visiting someone’s home. For eating bread (roti/naan), use your hands.
In a normal Indian household, food is received and eaten with right hand and left hand is not considered clean. Even food is served generally in a particular order, which is- the guest of honor, the men and the children. The women in the family serve the food and eat after everyone has eaten though this now happens only in towns and villages.
There also are certain dietary restrictions in India. For instance- Muslims do not drink alcohol and eat beef. Hindus do not eat beef and many of them are vegetarians. Sikhism followers also do not consume beef.
If you like the services at a restaurant, tip 5%-10%.
Offer INR 30-50 as tip to porters at railway station or hotels.
Offer 10 percent tip to drivers and tour guides.
Giving and Receiving Gifts
If you are attending important events like marriage or birth ceremony, carry cash as a gift. Avoid white flowers as they are used during funerals. During festivals, you can carry a box of sweets.
Wrap your gift in red, yellow and green color as they are considered auspicious.
Avoid giving leather gifts to Hindus and alcoholic beverages to Muslims.
Do not use your left hand while giving or receiving gifts as it is termed as impolite.
Do not open your gift as and when you get it. Do so only when your host insists you to do so.
Taking photographs at military locations, airports and temples are not allowed.
If you are visiting any tourist area, try to avoid clicking pictures of the people or the locals as they might not like it.
When greeting elderly people, fold your hand, bow your head and say ‘Namaste’.
Please take note that physical contacts like a hug and a shake hand is avoidable between men and women in India. Do not shake hands first, till the time the other person extends his or hand first.
Try to say goodbye to everyone when you are leaving.
There are 22 official languages in India so language would not prove to be a barrier. You would find both Hindi and English speaking people here.
When you are visiting someone, be punctual.
Some people remove shoes before entering, you should also do the same.
Although carrying a gift is not necessary but if wish to, you can do so. For children you can bring chocolates and for the elderly, fruits would be ideal. You can also bring something from your country.
Business meetings in India are slightly less formal in the Western countries.
Be punctual and reach the venue of meeting on time.
Flexibility and open-mindedness are a part of business meetings in India. Being rigid might be a negative thing.
You can also bring a gift from your country. Indian base even their business on mutual trust.
It is advisable to make appointments around a month in advance and also check for any sort of cancelations.
Your business acquaintance might also indulge in some chit-chat before talking business. Do not be surprised as he is just trying to know you.
It is advisable that you send some important information in advance through mail.
Making an appointment for a follow-up meeting for important discussions about the prior as well as future meetings would also be right.
You can also opt for a third party involvement to bring in credibility.
Do not feel intimated by reading this page about cultural etiquettes in India. Just follow what the locals are doing and what is given here. And, your visit to India is simply going to a memorable affair and you would want to come here again for more.