With your Indian Tourist Visa printed out and the packing done, it’s time to consider how things may differ in India. As with all countries, India has its own customs and traditions. Whilst Indians are very forgiving of foreigners who are not aware of their ways, it’s always a good idea to learn as much as you can. You don’t want accidentally cause offence and you will have a better understanding of the country and its people. India is essentially a conservative country and you would do well to bear this in mind.
Public Displays of Affection
Whilst some young Indians may kiss and cuddle in parks, generally speaking, public displays of affection are not appreciated. Keep it for your hotel room!
Feet are considered dirty in Indian culture. If invited into someone’s house you must take off your shoes and be careful not to step on anything. Also be aware that pointing your foot at someone will cause offence. Don’t be surprised to see people touching other people’s feet as this is a mark of respect towards their elders.
The left hand is seen as unclean as it is used to clean oneself after using the toilet, therefore do not pass anything with the left hand or use it when eating.
Most Indians take their religion very seriously so you must respect this if visiting a temple. Always take your shoes off before entering, dress modestly; covering the legs and arms and keep voices low and quiet. Dressing modestly should not be limited to visiting the temples.
Indian English tends to be very formal and proper, therefore the use of swear words will be considered very shocking and offensive.
It is accepted, even expected, that you will haggle with merchants, rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, basically anyone selling a service. The price the item or service is worth is the price you are prepared to pay, not the price they tell you. You might not find out the lowest price until you turn your back to walk away. Offer a price much lower than you expect to pay and wait for the fun to start.
Eating with Your Fingers
Most Indian eat with their fingers, not cutlery unless scooping up a soupy daal. If you are not happy to do this you can ask for utensils, but give it a go. Remember to only use your right hand! Mix the rice and curry together and scoop into the flat of your fingers. I find it easier to use a chapatti or naan to scoop.
Leave Some Food on Your Plate
If invited to eat at someone’s house remember to leave something on your plate. A clean plate is a sign that you are still hungry and this may upset your host, making them think they haven’t been hospitable enough. You may also find that more food will be put in front of you when you are full. Also, it is not the custom to be overly grateful on these occasions, in fact, it can be seen as insulting to thank them as it is viewed as shunning their friendship.
Drinking alcohol is not a big part of Indian culture and is even banned in some regions. Whilst some household may have a bottle of good scotch tucked away, drinking as we do in the UK is virtually unheard of. Be careful when in states where it is illegal and be mindful that it will be expensive elsewhere.