Travel in India: Cultural do’s and don’ts
When you arrive in a new country, it takes some time until you tune into the local cultural code. Indians do not expect foreigners to be aware of the Indian way of doing things and will easily forgive any blunders. The best way to learn is by observing the people around you and following their example. We will in this article, give you tips on how to have a successful cultural experience while traveling in India.
Here are a few helpful travel in India pointers:
How to greet people, while you travel in India.
When meeting in business situations, people often greet each other with a handshake, but this is less common between men and women. You can’t go wrong with the traditional Indian greeting: saying namasté with your palms pressed together. This very respectful and formal greeting is always appreciated. You will get extra brownie points if you learn the greeting in the local language (i.e. namaskara in Kannada) and use it.
How to address people in India.
Using your boss’s or teacher’s, or any authority figure’s first name is considered impolite. Using the correct term of respect is very important in India. Indians often use ‘uncle’ or ‘auntie’ when addressing persons older than them. ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ are also respectful. If you don’t know how you should address your boss or supervisor, or anyone older than you that you have to interact with, the easiest way is to ask them directly.
Respect Indian Society hierarchy.
Indians have an ingrained respect for hierarchy with regard to age, status and caste, whether this is justified or not. Those who have grown up in egalitarian societies can find this hard to accept or tolerate. Even if you do not agree, do not try to rebel against this system and just accept it as a cultural difference.
Dress neatly and modestly
Indians pay a lot of attention to appearances. Dirty clothes or a disheveled appearance will raise eyebrows. Women do not show their shoulders or legs (except in bars, nightclubs or more casual situations) and men rarely wear shorts. You’ll feel less out of place and earn people’s respect, when you travel in India, if you dress neatly and modestly.
Footwear stays outside.
While traveling in India, you should know that footwear is considered dirty and impure and should never be worn inside a home or a holy place like a temple. Wear shoes which can be easily removed, since you’ll be doing this often!
The left hand is impure.
In India, the right hand is reserved for eating, and the left hand for cleaning. Don’t touch food with the left hand and avoid handing over objects, including money, with the left hand. Some people refuse to take anything given with the left hand. Shoes are carried with the left hand, since they’re considered impure.
Keep it low key.
Indians are not comfortable with public displays of affection. Avoid kissing and touching the opposite sex in public. Even holding hands or a kiss on the cheek can raise eyebrows.
Drinking and smoking.
Though many people in India drink and smoke, drinking and smoking is taboo, especially for women, and is preferably only done behind closed doors and never in public (except in bars and upscale restaurants).
Interested in interning and travel in India? Apply here.