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Cultural differences

Dos and don'ts in India

Our main advice is that you completely change your way of thinking, and be open to the discovery of another culture and meeting new people.


  • Foreigners may shake hands, however, greeting with ‘namaste’ while placing both hands together at chest height and slightly bowing the head will be appreciated and shows respect for Indian customs. Hugging or kissing is inappropriate. Usually, men shake hands with men when meeting or leaving but they don’t with women: people from the opposite genre usually don’t touch.


  • Do not touch your Indian counterpart with your feet and do not point your feet towards them. This also applies to altars. It is considered disrespectful.


  • You should not wear revealing clothes. Shorts, Bermuda shorts, tank tops, and short skirts are a big no. Low necklines are to be absolutely avoided. Also, avoid showing bare shoulders and legs.


  • If you are a couple, avoid being too close and effusive. You should not kiss before people and even not hold hands in public. Indian couples are modest in public and public displays of affection are often not approved of and considered as obscene.


  • If you visit a temple or any place of worship, you will have to remove your shoes and sometimes even your socks. In Sikh temples, leather objects and clothes are forbidden and it is necessary to wash your hands before going in. Jain temples, besides leather, forbid entry to indisposed women.


  • As in any travel, be respectful of people and ask if you can take a picture of them, then show them the result on your screen.


  • If you are invited over for a meal, forget your foreigner manners and avoid offering your help as it is offending for the family that is receiving you.


  • Don’t ever refuse a chai!


  • It is better to wake the person sleeping in the corridor up rather than passing over her: it shows respect.


  • You will get confused by Indian people’s head wobble: their habit of shaking their head from side to side instead of nodding. It doesn’t mean “no” and they are not disagreeing with you, they are only showing that they are listening to you. This head wobble can basically mean anything from “Yes” to “good” to “I understand”.


  • You will have to adapt and get used to the chorus of horns, the dogs barking, and the ever ongoing noise in the city, as well as the Indian disorganized bustle.


  • Indian people’s curiosity is one of the most characteristic features of their personality. Be prepared to answer (many times) the usual questions about your country, your family, and your beliefs in any god… You will face open and insistent staring and you will learn the art of negotiating, which is very common in India.


  • We don’t advise you to give money to beggars, who are found mostly in the big Indian cities, and to participate to this vicious circle. If you wish to help in another way, you can always bring medicines with you or leave some useful stuff, clothes… at the end of your trip. Your travel consultant can also give you information and advice on solidarity projects conducted in the region you are going to visit.

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