Communication and Etiquette:
- To greet people in India fold your palms in front the chest and say “Namaste”. While saying it bow your head slightly – in this way you will signify your respect to another person. The word Namaste comes from the Sanskrit words “Namah te” and means “I bow to you”.Indians say that the real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. They believe greeting each other with Namaste welcomes their minds to meet.
- In India handshake is common among men mostly. Western woman may offer her hand to a westernized Indian man, but usually not to others. Traditional Indian women can shake hands with other women, but normally not with men.
- Mysterious Indian head wobble is a non-verbal equivalent of a multipurpose Hindu word “Accha”, which can mean anything from “Good” to “I understand”. Usually head wobble is used by Indian people to respond in the affirmation. For example, if you ask if you can order taxi and a person will wobble his or her head in reply, that will mean “Yes”. Sometimes head wobble could mean “Thank you” or simply be a sign of friendliness. The head wobble is more prevalent in south regions of India like Kerala; moving on the north you’ll notice that this gesture is less common there.
- In traditional Indian culture pointing footwear at people is seen insulting, or touching people or objects with your feet or shoes. If you occasionally do so, you should apologize straight away. On the other side, touching with a hand elder person feet is a sign of respect in India.
- Head is considered as the most sensitive part of body in Indian culture, and it is recommended to avoid touching another person head to prevent offending him or her.
- Indian people are not used to express their romantic feelings in public. Kissing and hugging outside could be misunderstood in traditional Indian society.
- If you visit Hindu temples in India, dress in loose, covering your hands and legs, clothes. Women in this case are required to cover their hair. Remember to take off your shoes before entering temple or mosque. It is polite to take off shoes while visiting somebody’s house or even somebody’s shop in India too.
Try to dress modestly while travelling in India. It is recommended both for men and women to choose loose clothes covering shoulders and knees. It is generally known that India has very conservative dress standards, especially in rural areas. Here you can hardly find a man wearing shorts or a woman wearing skirt above the ankles. In urban places like Mumbai and Delhi western dress style, including jeans on woman, is prevailing. Liberal views on dress are typical for Goa too: it is all right here to wear anything you want for night party, but still, in day time it will be better to dress more suitable for Asian mentality. Anyway, if you’d like to show respect to Indian culture and to feel yourself comfortable, you might find appropriate to dress yourself “locally”. Kurtas (loose men shirts) and cotton pants would be good option for men, and salwar kameez (tunic and loose trousers) for women.
Food and Drinks:
- Indian food is amazing. It is literally exploding with millions of flavors. Hot, sweet, bitter, spicy, fresh, fragrant – it may lead you to one of the biggest culinary adventures in your life. Here are some of our “directions” on your way to it. First of all, we would recommend you to choose western customers oriented restaurants and cafes, because meals here would be less spicy than in the “real” Indian one. Here you may also expect high service and secure hygienic conditions. We would advise you to order well roasted or boiled dishes and to avoid dishes made from raw ingredients. Don’t eat food or pass objects with your left hand. The left hand is considered to be unclean in Indian culture as it is using for some bathroom purposes.
- Drinks. Drink only bottled water, such as Kinsley, Bisleri and Aquafin, and avoid adding ice into your drinks. Be careful with freshly squeezed juices: if prepared in a good restaurant or juice center, it can really bring you much satisfaction, but if you decide to buy it from street juice maker, it may probably cause some stomach upsets.
Money and Shopping:
- The unit of Indian currency is the rupee; it is divided into 100 paise.24 hour banking facilities are available at international airports. Travellers cheques are exchangeable at most hotels; they are acceptable in sterling or American dollars.ATMs are common in most towns and cities in India. However, we recommend you to carry some cash or travellers cheques with you in a case the power goes down, you lose your plastic or ATM is out of order. To exchange currency you must present your passport. It is good to remember, that in India exchanging money except through authorized channels is illegal. It is also not allowed to take rupees out of India.
- Bartering is part of shopping experience in India. The more touristy a place, the higher it’s asking prices will be, and the greater it’s price flexibility. Our advice would be “Bargain, bargain and, again, bargain while shopping in India”.
- Tipping is very common in India. If a person is offering a small service to you, he or she expects a tip for it. A service in a hotel might justify a tip of Rs20. In a restaurant a 5% tip is quite enough. Rickshaw and taxi drivers should be also tipped.
If you need transportation in India, contact your tour operator or your hotel stuff to hire a taxi or a car with private driver. Driving on your own could be uncomfortable due to intense traffic and typical Indian street chaos. Travelling in public transport could be also challenging in India: you will be really fortunate if you could get a seat there. Optionally, if you need to get on the market or on the beach you may use notorious Indian rickshaw.
- India is not a violent country when it comes to robberies. However, in touristic places mostly could be a lot of thieves waiting for the right opportunity to make their profit on somebody’s carelessness. To avoid this we recommend you not to flash your valuables around and make sure you carry them safety in your bag. It is better to leave your documents and jewelry in the safe of your hotel room. Wise decision will be not to put large denomination of money in the purse, but to keep them “close to skin” in a special little bag for money. Be careful with Indian monkeys too. Some of them may annoy you wishing to get your food or some attractive objects you hold in hands.
- Despite rapid economic growth, India still faces poverty and begging. In every touristic place you will see beggars asking for your money and behaving very often in confronting and persistent way. The best thing probably would be ignoring them, as most of beggars simply do their business and prefer to beg instead of working. If you would like, you may give Rs10-RS20 to a child or elder person on when leaving the place, nor arriving, to prevent being mobbed.