Even though India is developed a lot in a decade, the country is still a traditional society governed by strong family values. Even though we will find youngsters in Western dress with a modern outlook in cities and larger towns, they remain traditional in many ways. It does not matter if they diverse social, religious and caste groups have their own distinct customs because they share certain common values. Read below to know more about India’s etiquettes which still prevails.
1. Greeting people-
The traditional greeting in India is the namaskar or namaste when meeting or parting. The Western handshake is also widely used. The suffix ji after someone’s name is a mark of respect. Older people are treated with respect and younger relatives often greet them by touching their feet.
2. Body language-
The feet are considered to be the lowliest part of the body and shoes are treated unclean. People usually take their shoes off before entering a house. The head on the other hand is thought to be a person’s spiritual centre. An older person may bless someone younger by touching on his or her head. If a person finds himself crowded or jostled, particularly while travelling, being tolerant is the solution as space is often at premium.
3. Suitable dress-
Indians tend to dress conservatively and keep the body well covered. In small towns, most women wear saris or salwar kameez. In cities, jeans, skirts and t-shirts are common, particularly among the younger generation. It is best to dress formally when visiting Indian homes. In fact, wearing an Indian outfit for the occasion will probably delight the hosts.
4. Places of worship-
Whether one is visiting a temple, monastery, church, mosque or gurudwara proper behavior and appropriate dress is expected. Seeking permission is important for taking photographs. Some temples have strict rules and there are certain restrictions on the type of dress and allowance of a few items inside the temple. At most places of worship, shoes are taken off at the door and one should sit with the feet facing away from the main shrine. Some Hindu temples are out of bounds for non-Hindus, so one should not take offence when barred from entering.
This is a way of life in India. Exchanges can be heated, but it is not necessary to be aggressive. One should firmly state what they would like to pay and walk away if the shopkeeper does not agree. An extra discount should be asked while buying in bulk. The prices in larger shops and government emporia are usually fixed.
6. Eating Indian style-
Eating with the fingers takes a bit of getting used to, but it is the best way to enjoy traditional Indian food. If in doubt how to eat a particular dish, one should not be embarrassed to ask. Sitting on the floor for meals is common and in the south banana leaves are often used instead of plates.
There are no norms for tipping or bakseesh. Porters and doormen at hotel are usually happy with a 5 or 10 rupee tip. Many people prefer tipping after paying the bill in restaurants. Tipping taxi or auto-rickshaw drivers is optional and same goes for the hairdressers as well.
8. Smoking and alcohol-
Although smoking in public places is officially banned in some states, this rule is widely violated. Smoking is banned on domestic flights and in some hotels, restaurants and offices. Smoking or drinking within the premises of any worship place is strictly taboo. Alcohol is available all over India, though the state of Gujarat is “dry”, as are some religious sites and temple towns such as Haridwar, Rishikesh and Pushkar. There are certain designated “dry days” all over the country, such as Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday (2nd October) and Independence Day (15th August). Only some restaurants are licensed to serve alcohol and one is not allowed to drink alcohol in parks, buses or trains.
They can be extremely persistent. Although it is very difficult to refuse, visitors who give money to one, will soon find themselves surrounded by a crowd. One should be careful of being pickpocketed in the confusion. Some of them will even follow, in such cases a complaint can be filed in the nearby police station.