Indians are helpful and friendly towards foreigners in general. They openly accept differences in clothing, tastes, attitudes and lifestyle. In order to have a great experience and connect with the locals, there are a few things to remember. This will not only allow you to blend in, but also show respect for the country and its traditions.
Here are some things not to do in India.
Don’t Wear Your Shoes Inside homes or temples:
Always ask if you should take your shoes off before entering someone’s home, and it’s a requirement before entering a temple or mosque. Even if you have shoe covers/booties, most Indian homes have alters, so it’s best to just take your shoes off before entering.
Indians will often wear slippers (or flip-flops) when going to the bathroom or inside their homes. These are earmarked for indoor use and not worn outside. Shoes are not removed inside shops or hotels.
If you see shoes at an entrance, it’s a good idea to take yours off as well. If you feel uncomfortable walking barefoot, you can keep a pair of thin nylons to wear.
Don’t Point Your Feet or Finger at People:
In India, it’s considered disrespectful to point your feet at someone, as feet are considered unclean. Avoid touching objects (especially books) with your feet or shoes. If you accidentally do so, you should apologize straight away.
Pointing with your finger at someone is also considered rude. If you need to point at someone, it’s better to do so with your whole hand.
Don’t Eat Food With Your Left Hand:
This used to be a thing… though not anymore. The left hand was considered to be unclean in India, as it’s used to perform matters associated with going to the bathroom. Now, with the advent of the tissue paper, it’s no longer a thing. However, its still a good idea to not eat with your left hand, unless you are left-handed.
Don’t Show Affection in Public:
Whatever you may have seen in bollywood movies, is not true in real life. Indian society is conservative, and any PDA is left for the bedroom. There’s a joke that it’s okay to piss, but not kiss in public in India. Holding your partner’s hand, hugging or touching the opposite sex is not only frowned upon, but considered obscene.
Moral policing does occur, though it’s unlikely to happen to a foreigner.
Don’t Outright Decline an Invitation or Request:
While it’s necessary to be assertive and say “no” in some situations in India, doing so to decline an invitation or request can be considered disrespectful. This is because it’s important to avoid making a person look or feel bad. This differs from the western view, where saying no is simply being upfront and not giving a false expectation of commitment.
Instead of saying “no” or “I can’t” directly, adopt the Indian way of replying by giving evasive answers such as “I’ll try”, or “maybe”, or “it might be possible”, or “I’ll see what I can do”.
Do not wear skimpy clothes:
India is a mix of traditional and modern mindsets, and social rules for women and what is appropriate to wear varies from region to region. In big cities like Goa, Delhi or Mumbai, you can wear whatever you like. However, in small towns and cities, especially in rural India, dressing modestly is highly recommended.
It is best to wear loose fitting clothes, and cover yourself. It will not only ward off unwanted stares, but will also help you blend in with the locals. Make sure you throw on a stole or a scarf when visiting religious place.
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