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Readers Respond: Have You Made a Mistake in Etiquette in India?

Responses: 19

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From the article: Indian Etiquette Don'ts

About.com readers share their tips to India etiquette.

What aspects of Indian etiquette have you found most challenging? Have you made any mistakes, or do you have some tips to share? Here's the place.

Share Your Experiences

Left hand rule

A lot of people seem to worry/complain/make fun of the left-hand- rule for eating Indian food. If you're left handed, no problem. Dos: Go ahead and eat with your left hand if you are in cities and bigger towns. When you are with friends and colleagues who know you are left handed. Wash your hands before you attack the food. Don'ts: Avoid it if you are at a place of worship. Use your right hand for eating when you're travelling to a village or staying with a very traditional family. My cousin who comes from a conservative and religious family is left handed. He eats food the Indian way with his left hand - at home, in restaurants where you can eat with your fingers, at South Indian weddings where traditional meals are served on banana leaves.
—Guest Rekha

Women dress code

Women should adhere to strict dress in India...no skirts above knees..no revealing clothes etc.How about bollywood fillmstars?The are worshiped like godess even the appear stark naked in the screen in the screen!Bunch of hypocrites!!!
—Guest ssdass

Clothing

My fiance is from India, and I'm planning to go and meet his family for the first time during summer, I've had lots of video calls with them all and his sister is 27, she wears skinny jeans & relatively short skirts (but always keeps her shoulders covered) and his dad always wears shorts.... So I'm confused by the people saying men don't wear shorts & women don't wear short skirts.... Maybe it's just the area? They're from assam.... Answer: Yes, the area has a lot to do with it. The north east is much more liberal than the rest of India in terms of dress, and also interaction between males and females.
—Guest Rhi

left-handed

Oh, boy I had better learn to eat with my right hand if I travel to India!
—Guest AmericanLady

Not really relevant

Things that you should not be doing in India. 1. Do not kiss a member of your opposite sex. Its not a part of the Indian culture. 2. Dress modestly. Do not skin show particularly in rural ares. 3. India is not the safest place on the planet therefore avoid isolated areas particularly at late hours. 4. Do your homework on the weather conditions to the place you want to visit. Climatic conditions are extreme depending on the part of the year. 3. There is one core difference between the Indian and Western culture. In India when talking to a person elder to you do not take his/her name. Avoid asking questions to anyone elder to you. If you think the conversation is not working out move away. Arguing and speaking loudly is considered offensive. Indian are basically conservative by nature. Its not a part of our culture to mix with the opp sex. Respect our culture and we are very friendly people. We do mind our business and are still very helpful to our guests
—Guest kfarookahmed@yahoo.com

one more that's a mild faux pas

Many corporate biggies on visit to India tend to be treated with a traditional flower garland. It is customary to remove it right after with may be a smile and a traditional Namaste. That's what Indian politicians and dignitaries can be seen doing as they get to be welcome that way a lot. So this is unlike a Hawaiian garland that you keep on. Anyway, this is only a very very mild thing in terms of etiquette.
—Guest Sangram

contractors wearing shoes

A question: I am a contractor about to do some work in an Indian home and don't want to offend anyone but don't want the hurt myself either. I can't be climbing through the attic or working around nails and such while barefooted. Any suggestions?? Answer: If the house is going to be getting dirty due to the work going on, you could possibly wear your shoes. Otherwise, you could carry a pair of clean house shoes to wear. Many Indian workmen actually go barefooted.
—Guest Joe G.

Intrusive questions and taking off shoes

The rest may be incorrect but I agree on these two points. I like it when people mind their own business too. I have often seen that for any topic most Indians have a never-ending list of questions. The intention is not to learn about you but it is to just to make fun and gossip about the person later on with someone else. Gossiping is a way of socializing for most Indians. I really hate to even socialize with such people who try to base their relationship on gossip. Also I have experienced some of our people who are so nosy that theyused to interfere with what snacks I eat, what clothes or shoes I wear, how many times I call my parents, force me to drink if I don't and so on. Taking of shoes when entering mosques or temples is true too and that is a thing I like about the Indian culture.
—Guest Shubham

Conservative attire

It's interesting that legs & shoulders are not commonly appropriate to show in India but they are in the US. And on the flip side, saris show a bare midriff (which I think are beautiful) but bare midriffs are frowned upon here. Just goes to show how we cannot expect for others to understand our own culture and cannot be expected to understand others.
—Guest Maria

Etiquette in India

It is really amusing the way foreigners think about India. Basically, Indians are warm heated and co-operative people.We do not care nowadays what you wear as long as you do not go naked.As for people staring at you do not be offended.Mostly it is curiousity.In the metros hardly one will give you a look.There are sure enough black sheep but it is better to avoid them.Here you have plenty of freedom .In the absence of civic anemities you may see people urinating against the wall.Similarly ,when passing by trains you may see people squatting, in the open .These poor people are not lost in meditation but simply easing themselves.Don't get disturbed.India as a former U.S diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith famously said is a functioning anarchy.Do come to India enjoy and forget about the dress code,eating etiquttes whether you eat right handed or left handed is material.Yes,when visiting religious places do not forget to take off your shoes.
—Anil.Sinha1

Depends

Honestly India is a large country where things change as you cross state borders: the food, dress, language and even culture. It's very hard sum up what is acceptable in India, although I think this article did a pretty decent job. But unfortunately it's all dependent on what region you're in. Also culture is ever changing, things like not passing with your left hand was due to washing yourself in the bathroom. Although now they have self washing toilets and toilet paper. These concepts have been forgotten in many urban areas and even most of Punjab. You should definitely wear clothing more conservitely in most areas unless you want to be grossly stared at and called indecent. But in Gujarat and major cities it isn't that big a deal to wear shorts, skirts and tight fitting jeans. Of all the countries in the world it is the most stereotyped even though it is the hardest to stereotype since everything changes based on region.
—Guest Khintanu

Left Hand

James, I think you are being awfully harsh to Micheal. He has an opinion about the whole concept and he is talking logic. Keep in mind that these traditions have been practiced for thousands of years, so it is only obvious to be inquisitive about their validity in modern times. Best
—Guest Rohit

About intriguing questions

Well!!! This ain't right at all when you say that Indians do anything but mind their own business. You are telling people not to get offended by us while what you are writing is highly offending in nature. We are the inquisitive lot who is always ready to extend a helping hand to people in their difficult times. India is a culture where people believe in the old adage- 'Athithi Devobhava'. So, you might want to correct what you have mentioned in the article.
—Guest Yamini

Passing Food With The Left hand

James, I am mildly amused at your response and, by the way - just for the record, I am far removed from being an idiot. Your response attacks my opinion but does not, even to the slightest degree, address and answer the fact that all food in an Indian kitchen IS prepared with both the LEFT and right hands. My assertion is simply that it's perfectly acceptable to do that and yet it is culturally a taboo to pass or eat it with the left hand. 1+1=3 ?? By the way, my wife and I have just returned from a 17 day stay in Nainital and Delhi where we enjoyed dosas prepared by cooks using their left hands. As to your instruction for me not to question other peoples culture may I respectfully pose the question "why not" ? You might consider the definition of the word "culture" to be found in any reputable reference work and bear in mind that we change our own culture faster than we imagine. India is the perfect example of very rapid cultural change. Questioning is the very root of all change.
—Guest Michael

Left hand

Micheal, you are an idiot. Don't question other people's culture. If you don't like or understand it just don't go. If you like dosa's then learn how to cook them at home with your left hand. As for scrupulous washing of hands in western culture - you must be joking!
—Guest Guest - James

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Have You Made a Mistake in Etiquette in India?

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