Atithi Devo Bhava in Sanskrit roughly translates to - guests are considered equivalent to God; which throws light on the revered guest-host relationship in the Indian society. India, a land of many cultures, has always been very welcoming of their guests, different cultures and traditions. That said, it is only mindful to be aware of the host country's cultural practices and etiquette. So while you are navigating through the ideas of India, the knowledge of these simple etiquette and ways of living can be extremely beneficial.
Keep in mind that studying or travelling in India entails dealing with diversity. While these etiquette do not apply to every person in India, it is good to be aware of them. You will share different experiences with different individuals. The key is being open-minded and enjoying the cultural cocktail that comes with it.
Greet with both your hands.
If you have a formal business meeting, it is acceptable to greet with a handshake. But if you meet people who are slightly older than you in an informal setting, it is advisable to greet them with a namaste. Greeting with a namaste denotes respect towards the other person.
Shoes Stay Out!
This rule applies to religious places mainly, and it is done to respect the sanctity of the place. In some Indian households, people remove their shoes before entering the house. So if you see shoes lined outside the house or a religious place, follow suit.
Don’t point fingers at people.
As a thumb rule, it’s important to remember that pointing fingers at people is considered disrespectful. Pointing fingers carries a rather accusative, aggressive tone to it and can be pretty rude to others. It is as hurtful as sticking your tongue out is in the west! So, instead of pointing fingers, you could gesture at people with an open palm.
Get ready to get personal.
Asking personal questions in the Indian society is close to you, taking an interest in them. Indians unconsciously tend to intrude beyond a limit due to this habit. Don’t be surprised or alarmed if they ask concerning your family, relationship status, or work at the first meeting itself! If you don’t feel comfortable answering any of them, you can give a vague answer. And in return, you can ask people personal questions too - they'll be pleased to see you take an interest in them!
Making plans with Indians?
Indians love to invite their friends to occasions and events! They love extending their hospitality and showcasing their culture. And do remember - Indians are never on time for a party!
Be considerate of people’s food choices.
About 20-40% of Indians are vegetarians since birth, and some Indians are vegetarian on certain days! When you go out for dinner or parties with them, it is highly possible to have people who will order vegetarian food. Similarly, for alcohol, some people may choose not to drink because of their upbringing. Respect their food choices and enjoy the occasion!
Celebrating festivals in India
When you celebrate festivals with your Indian friends, go all out with the festivities! Don’t shy from donning a cultural attire. Avoid taking wine as a gift to a household but opt for sweets instead - nobody says no to Indian mithai!
It is essential to observe that everybody does not follow these mannerisms and etiquette in India. But it’s better to know and follow them contextually if you would like to. Take it all with a pinch of salt, and it will make you fall in love with India even more.