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Showing Respect In India

Discussion in 'Travel advice' started by jnorth88, Feb 28, 2016.

  1. jnorth88

    jnorth88 Active Member

    Every country and culture has a different way of showing respect, ranging from a firm handshake to giving little gifts. I have heard of various things to do in India, but they are just your typical greetings. Are there any observances or attitudes which are requirements? What is good manners in India? How can a traveler avoid mistakes? I would love if someone could give some insight into this.

  2. rz3300

    rz3300 Member

    Well I cannot speak to anything in particular that comes to mind when I am thinking back to my trip to India, but I can say that just like anywhere you travel if you try to learn their customs and show the effort when it comes to the language they will appreciate it and you will be treated with the utmost respect. The Indian people were so nice and willing to help that I cannot imagine anyone else having a different experience.

  3. Ritika Sharma

    Ritika Sharma Member

    Saying Namaste is one of the common way to show respect in India.
  4. jnorth88

    jnorth88 Active Member

    Are those the only real ways? I know in the ME, you have to be careful about which hand you use. In Japan, you need to be aware of who has seniority, and defer to them first. There are hundreds of cultural nuances throughout the world, and I would expect a lot more in India.
  5. GinaMax

    GinaMax Member

    The cultural etiquette might be different depending on where you are in India. For example, there are still places in India where a man will shake another mans hand when they meet. However, the man would not offer a handshake to a woman. Honestly, I HATE when people touch me. In the US, people are always wanting to shake hands. I don't want people shaking my hands, think about the germs. I know I am weird, but I would not be offended if an Indian man did not attempt to shake my hand. I would be glad that they respected me enough not to expect me to. I hope that doesn't sound awful.
  6. Chahal

    Chahal ਜੱਟ ਕੀ ਤੇ ਘੱਟ ਕੀ Staff Member

    Under normal circumstances when meeting a female, Indian men do not shake hands unless you offer your hand. I would only attempt to shake hands with females when I am at some business meeting and attire is western.

    When meeting a female I would personally just bow slightly but not as much as the Japnese do, just a slight bow and a smile that is all really. It is best to let others take the lead when you don't know what's normal and what is not.
    GinaMax likes this.
  7. Elizabetonth

    Elizabetonth Member

    I found that saying 'Namaste' with a bow of the head went down well. The way you dress can show respect. The other main thing that I remember is that, in India, as in other countries in South Asia, people use their left hand for various personal ablutions, so they eat with their right hand. I was told that, in some places, to be super polite, you don't show your left hand at the table, but most Indian people I ate with would have their left hand propped against the side of the table or something. I was also told that, when you eat with your right hand, you don't lick your fingers or anything - you wait until the end of the meal and then wash your hands. Also wash your hands each time before you eat - it's important not just for hygiene but for good manners. I also found that, when people did shake hands in India, if you have dirty hands you put out your arm with your hand down, back of the hand towards them, so that they can shake your wrist instead, which was the first time I came across that.
    Check out the rules for temples etc. In every one I went to, you had to remove your shoes. I took a scarf, being a woman, to cover my head with, so see if there is anything that guys have to do. Don't wear anything made of leather when you go into a temple. Join in when it's appropriate - I thought that, for instance, at the Ganga Aarti ceremony in Varanasi, it might be disrespectful to join in the clapping etc. because I'm a tourist, but I was told firmly by a few people that actually they would find it respectful if I did.
    If you go to Nepal, when you're taking the change from something you've paid for, a lot of people put their left hand on their right elbow while they're putting out their right hand to take the change, which, funnily enough, is the same thing that they do to be polite in Ethiopia. I have no idea how the two countries ended up with the same practice.
    Finally (unless I remember something else and come back later), there are lots of tourists in India who don't trust anybody who approaches them, because they've read things telling them to be careful of conmen, and, understandably, they get nervous, particularly if it's their first time travelling. To be defensive to everyone who talks to you, though, is very disrespectful, particularly since you are a visitor to their country. It sounds like you've got the travel experience to relax, make friends, and make the most of your trip!
    Admin likes this.
  8. jnorth88

    jnorth88 Active Member

    Excellent. Those are more of the things I was interested in knowing. Thanks.
  9. GinaMax

    GinaMax Member

    I wish that all men were like this. Wait and see if she offers a hand, and then offer one back. I think a head nod will suffice. Most American men will nearly force you to shake there hand. I think that is one way that Indian men are a little more culturally respectful than American men. That is just a cultural difference though, all men are created equal.
  10. Jaynee

    Jaynee New Member

    Great tips here, and lots I had not heard before. The information about people in Nepal and Ethiopia touching their hand to their elbow is also a basic practice in Korea, a hangover from the days when the national dress had long sleeves which needed to be held back by servants as they poured food and drink.
    Elizabetonth likes this.
  11. jnorth88

    jnorth88 Active Member

    I wonder if that is the root of the custom. Long sleeves? I have no idea where to go to look into this, but it is an interesting custom.
  12. Elizabetonth

    Elizabetonth Member

    You're welcome.
  13. Elizabetonth

    Elizabetonth Member

    Oh, Jaynee, that is so interesting. So interesting! Thank you very, very much - I had idly wondered about this for a long time. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that were the case in Ethiopia and Nepal as well, given the little I know about their history.
  14. pwarbi

    pwarbi Active Member

    I think that even if you did look into certain particular customs, you'd have a hard time to actually find an exact reason for some as that reason often changes from.one generation to the next.

    Sometimes these days you'll even ask somebody now why they have done something, they'll say it's just something they always do, but couldn't actually tell you why themselves!
  15. jnorth88

    jnorth88 Active Member

    Very true. The same applies to language. It has always interested me how most languages descend from the same proto-languages, where even European and Indian languages have clear connections. So much is beyond us to say with certainty, and we are left only with our best guesses and a history of sometimes conflicting knowledge.