The culture of Indian is bound together by numerous customs and etiquette. When visiting India for the first time, it is a good idea to get your head around some of these customs so that you'll understand more why the Indians do what they do!
Indians are very forgiving of foreigners mistakes, regarding customs and etiquette. If you should make any mistakes, they will understand that you are not familiar with their way of life and that you are not making the mistake on purpose or out of rudeness. Despite this, it is a good gesture to learn and understand the basics of Indian customs for your visit to India. It will surely be appreciated and wont go unnoticed!
1. The 'Left Hand'
- In India, the left hand is used in their toilet routine. Therefor, we should avoid using the left hand for eating, exchanging money, shaking hands etc. They feel that the left hand is dirty and therefor it can be seen as very disrespectful to offer your left hand for a hand-shake.
For a foreign visitor, it can be difficult to suddenly be restricted to eating with only one hand. However, making the effort is highly appreciated and the Indians will be flattered that you are trying to respect their culture!
2. The 'Head Bobble'
- I'm not sure if there's any specific word for this head movement, but I named it the 'Head Bobble' due to its likeness to those bobbly-head nodding dog toy things!
You will notice the head bobble as soon as you arrive in India. It is a crucial part of conversation and interaction. Basically, the bobble can only be explained in its context, but usually means a positive gesture. For example, if you are saying "please get me a drink" and this is responded with a head bobble, it means "understood, i will get you a drink". On the opposite side, if you say "please don't get me a drink" and it is responded with a head bobble, then it means "understood, i will not get you a drink". Overall, the bobble means 'I understand, ok, sure'. Sometimes the head bobble can be expressed silently. For example, if you sit down next to an Indian on a train, they smile and bobble their head, then it is a welcoming, friendly gesture.
I'm not sure if I have explained this well at all but... it's something you need to experience first hand to understand! You'll find yourself quickly performing the head bobble yourself while in India!
3. Crossing the road in India... and living to tell the tale!
- The Indian road appears at first as a... death trap (for lack of a better phrase) to the foreign pedestrian. But, with a few simple guidelines, you can be confident in crossing that road!
My golden tip is to move in numbers. If there's one thing that India has a lot of, it's people. You can use this to your advantage. 90% of the time, there will be other people close to you, also waiting to cross the road. Watch them, move close to them and move when they move, (similarly, stop when they stop!). You'll be on the other side of that road in no time, safe and sound.
- My other tip is to listen around you. The horn beeping is a good indicator of what's heading towards you. An Indian will always beep their horn in good time, meaning that you have enough time to swerve away or stop.
- Indian drivers are used to swerving around the road to avoid obstacles and will always do whatever they can do avoid you. Never feel threatened that they will ignore your presence.
- The Indian road works in a kind of hierarchy. The biggest vehicles move first, then the cars, motorbikes and lastly... pedestrians. Motorcycles and auto's are your friend on the road and are always willing to swerve out of your way.
About Author / Additional Info: