Indian living and Customs
India is a country that is very open to other cultures and even if the Indians show a great deal of tolerance towards travelers, it is also necessary to adapt and respect certain local rules and customs. If in doubt, you can always ask question around you or your guide.
To help you see more clearly in this accumulation of cultural differences, here are some rules of Indian living and customs to take into account during your stay in India.
Never say “no” and nod your head to say yes
Here is perhaps the most striking and most exasperating custom of the West on their first trip to India. Ask a closed question to an Indian and there is a high probability that he will nod his head with an enigmatic smile. Good news: he replied in the affirmative. On the contrary, he will never tell you ‘no’ but will explain to you, with conviction and many details in an accent difficult to understand, that he cannot satisfy your request.
The use of the left hand: to be avoided
You will see only a few left-handers in India. Indeed, the use of the left hand is traditionally reserved for “impure” gestures (reserved for the toilet), it is rather bad to use it for common gestures.
It does not pose any problem for the left handers, if you do everything with your left hand, there are hardly any problems. On the other hand, if you are right-handed and occasionally use your left hand to eat, you may draw your remarks or make your table companions feel uncomfortable.
Be attentive in the temples. Use only the right hand to receive / give an offering. Same on the street if you give an offering to a beggar.
Take off your shoes in all temples
It is constant throughout India; one does not enter with his shoes in a temple nor in a monastery or any other sacred / religious places.
In some places, you will be allowed to keep your socks but not everywhere, signs and your guide will tell you the good practice to follow.
If you are planning a tour to various temples in India, you can take shoes which are easy and fast to withdraw.
Being invited to an Indian family
It is possible that once in India you want to extend your stay and meet a family who will invite you to dinner for example. In this case, forget your Western lifestyle and do not offer your help when preparing the meal, or even at the end of the meal to clear the table. The hostess might not appreciate and feel offended.
No physical contact
You will not see the people indulging in public affection (except for young people in large urban centers), you will rarely see couples exhibiting affection in public. Kissing in public place is not very common. If you are traveling as a couple or family, try to remain discreet about emotional gestures and avoid kissing in public.
If you meet a person for the first time, unless you reach out to him, avoid a vigorous handshake. Simply join both hands under your chin and say “Namaste (hello)” by tilting slightly.
Also avoid touching a child’s head, you might draw the evil eye. And in general, you should never point finger to a person.
Do not be surprised to meet men in the street holding hands or fingers. This is not a love or sexual connotation, but a simple sign of friendship.
Gentlemen, in case you are “gallant” beware. Helping a woman carrying her suitcases, getting off the bus, or giving her your place quickly becomes an insult. In general, avoid addressing women. Finally, avoid getting carried away and try to keep yourself cool under all circumstances.
Dress with respect
Even though Western fashion is attracting more and more Indian youth, traditional dress codes remain perennial.
In large hotels with swimming pools, we meet occasionally some Indians taking bath: they wear clothes covering their bodies, never swimsuits.
Men or women, wear clothes concealing the shoulders and thighs. Ladies, avoid plunging necklines and overly tight clothing. If you have to go to an official place, do not wear casual clothing, put on at least a pair of long pants and a shirt.