Etiquette – India

What a doozy of a week here in NY. It was frigid cold for the last couple of days, and I have officially thawed out.

Today’s etiquette & manners feature country is India.  

Lucky for us, India is a forgiving country, especially for foreigners. However, this should not excuse us from learning their customs to avoid embarrassment.  

Dressing 

Photo credit: The Style Traveller

Indians dress conservatively as the perception of ladies from other countries is seen as promiscuous. It is best to wear skirts that cover your legs (anything below the knees). You will rarely see a well-dressed Indian gentleman wearing shorts, or an Indian lady wearing a skirt above the ankles. The exception is the beaches of Goa. Just be sure to cover your arms, shoulders, and legs. When visiting a temple, cover your head. If you visit a temple wearing a spaghetti strap, wear a shawl or scarf over it to be modest.

Dining 

The proper way to eat is with your hands. Although very few people practice this part of Indian etiquette when dining. In some local restuarants, depending on what part of India you are visiting, cutlery may not be provided, though in most places spoons can be provided if asked for. If you do try to eat using your fingers, make sure you only use your right hand and not your left, even if you are left-handed, and do not pass a plate with your left hand as it is considered to be ‘unclean.’ Also, as common sense would suggest, your fingers will be dirty from eating with them, and as such, do not try to serve yourself to avoid dirtying the serving spoon. Just wait to be served by a waiter or your host.  

If you are at a five-star hotel, you will be served cutlery.  

Indian etiquette is an unusual mixture of British and Asian influences. Therefore in some ways, their customs will seem familiar to westerners, and in other ways, they differ significantly.  

Shoes, feet & hands  

Upon entering someone’s home, take your shoes off before entering. It is also a prerequisite before entering a temple or mosque. Indians will often wear shoes inside their homes, such as going to the bathroom. However, these shoes are kept for domestic use and never worn outdoors. Shoes are sometimes also removed before entering a shop. If you see shoes at an entrance, it’s a good idea to take yours off as well.

Never point your feet at another person as feet are considered unclean.

Pointing with your finger is considered bad manners and rude. Opt for an open hand.  

Photo credit: Hand Freepik

Do not take offense when asked personal questions 

Photo credit: Instagram, athiyashetty

Indians are curious people, and their culture is one where people do anything but mind their own business, often due to a lack of privacy. In India, people are placed in a social hierarchy, so it goes with the territory.  

Do NOT say thank you to close friends 

The use of “please” and “thank you” are essential for good manners in western culture. However, in India, they can create unnecessary formality and, surprisingly, can even be insulting! While it’s fine to thank someone who has provided a service to you, such as a shop assistant, driver, or waiter, lavishing thanks on friends or family should be avoided. In India, people view doing things for those whom they are close to as implicit in the relationship. If you thank them, they may see it as a violation of intimacy and the creation of distance that shouldn’t exist. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that being polite can be viewed as a sign of weakness, especially if someone is trying to scam or exploit you. A meek, “No, thank you,” is rarely enough to deter touts and street vendors. Instead, it’s necessary to be more stern and forceful.

There’s more, so stay tuned for Monday’s Part II!

Sending relaxing and warm weekend vibes. 💋

Feature photo credit: Instagram, travel.placex

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6 Comments

  1. SimpleSerenity

    In Bosnia we also never walk in shoes at home. When you go to visit someone you need to take off shoes because all homes in Bosnia are like this. Most women do dress modestly here, just in bigger cities there is ray of different styles and ways to dress. Loved this part also as the whole series. xx

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