Know Before You Go: India’s Cultural Do’s and Don’ts- India is a country with thousands of ethnic groups, language dialects, and traditions, with a population of about 1.2 billion people.
There is some general etiquette to follow when visiting to this dynamic country, taking into account the diverse cultural traditions and
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India’s Cultural Do’s and Don’ts
Following are some guidelines to observe when in India:
- The warm salutation namaste (nah-mah-ste) or the more formal namaskar is a customary means of welcoming and departing farewell (na-ma-scar)
- When meeting an older person, place your palms together and bow slightly. Men and women don’t usually shake hands, so don’t do it unless the person you’re greeting offers first.
- Exhibit patience and avoid outbursts of rage.
- Although public shows of affection are forbidden, persons of the same sex may be seen holding hands in a pleasant manner.
- Dress in a modest manner. Women, in particular, should avoid wearing attire that exposes their bodies. No sleeveless or low-cut blouses or tank tops, and no shorts are permitted. Check to see if your knees are covered.
- The Indian euphemism for sexual harassment is “eve-teasing.” This basically means that Indian males gawk at female travelers openly, especially if they are dressed in revealing apparel. To reduce the chances of this happening, adopt the usual measures, such as keeping an eye on oneself in crowded, public locations and avoiding exposing too much skin.
- Only take pictures of people or items with their permission. Always inquire first, and respect their decision if they say “no.”
- Offerings of lotus blooms and coconuts are common offerings to temple deities, and you may get a prasad (usually a tiny sweet or fruit) from a priest in exchange (remember to take it with your right hand).
- Remember that these are sacred sites where people gather to pay their respects, and that photographing them may be inappropriate.
- When pointing at sacred objects or paintings, never use your index finger. Instead, make a chin gesture or extend your hand, palm flat and aloft, toward the object you’re referring to.
- Remove your shoes and caps before visiting temples or entering an Indian home. Dress modestly and respectfully for the place of worship or the household.
- Before and after eating, wash your hands.
- It’s best not to touch individuals with your left hand because it’s regarded unclean and can lead to disrespect. Remember this and always give or accept something with your right hand. Even more respectful is to use both hands.
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