Do's and don'ts in India

To avoid shocking, offending, offending, it is important to know some rules of good manners in India. Accumulations of details, intercultural differences are many, and even if Indians are tolerant of foreigners, it is good that the visitor is familiar with local customs. If you are in doubt, be observant or ask around.

At table

Always eat with your right hand. If tradition is lost in the big cities, it is not the case in the remote villages. This requires a little practice. Rule # 1: Use the right hand only. In India, as in the East, the impure left hand is used for wiping, cleaning one’s feet, putting on and taking off one’s shoes … While the right hand is used to eat, to shake hands, etc. Brahmins and southerners are the most straddling this rule. Of course, you can hold a cup or utensil with your left hand, but you should not eat or wipe your mouth with it and give any food to anyone.

Your lips should not touch an object intended for several people (bottle, glass, cup ..). When drinking, do not touch the object (cup, glass, bottle) and pour the contents into your mouth keeping a distance. This requires a little practice, especially in a train or on a bus! Or else have your own bottle of water.

Never raise your plate(or bowl) above the dish or pot of your host when he / she serves you. It would mean that you think you are superior.

Do not systematically thankas it is customary to do it in the West. This shows a surprise on your part when we can serve you or provide you with a service, and can be vexing.

Temples and religions

Religion is taken very seriously in India; it is important to always show respect for religious buildings, holy places, images and pilgrims.

Take off your shoes before entering a temple, a mosque, a monastery. It is recommended to wear shoes easy to put on and take off (flip flops) and which do not tempt thieves (no known brands). Socks are allowed and in the summer they will protect your feet from the burning stone floor. You have to put your shoes down at the entrance of the sanctuaries. To recover them you will often have to give a few rupees to the keeper.

Place any leather item (bag, shoes, belts …) at the entrance to a Jain temple.

Go around a stupa or other Buddhist monument in a clockwise direction. Follow the crowd and you will not go wrong.

Do not photograph when asked. Some deities are protected and can not be photographed. Respect the rules. Never take pictures of funerals or cremations.


Dress decently, cover yourself. Indians are prude and their culture wants to cover their body. Women (with the exception of those who dress “Western”) cover their shoulders and upper arms. Showing one’s armpits is an indecent gesture. Not being overcast suggests that you are too poor to clothe yourself and you will quickly be misjudged because it is shameful to flaunt your body. Overly tight clothes are also badly perceived. The more you hide your forms, the better. Shorts and short skirts are considered an offense.

Wear preferably a local dress. For women, a penjabie outfit (or salwar kameez), a set consisting of wide pants, a tunic and a scarf modestly draped over the chest. Men too must avoid shorts (considered a sign of low caste in some villages!). These rules are imperative in places of worship.


Do not kiss or hug someone in public. These actions are considered sexual, so be respectful! In the most remote villages, couples are advised not to hold hands or to show any physical signs of affection. You will see men holding hands, but this is a sign of fraternal affection.

Take off your shoes by entering someone’s house (follow the example of your hosts). As you sit down, avoid pointing your soles towards someone, towards the altar or the image of a god.

Meet people

During your trip, there will be many attempts to approach. As English is not the original language, some questions may seem abrupt or very formal: Which Country? (Where?) Is a typical example. Then a long series of questions awaits you: Where are you going?, Are you married? Without them paying attention to your answers. Do not be upset, Indians are curious and enjoy visiting strangers.

Do not judge without understanding. Indians love to debate on all subjects and the more they are educated, the more they will provoke endless debates! Concerning certain sensitive subjects (love, sex, religion, politics and the caste system) be subtle and do not steer yourself. Do not forget that everything is a question of culture. Patriotic, the Indians will defend their position beak and nail. A criticism may pass, but avoid profanity and insults.

Stay calm in all circumstances. This is the golden rule in India. And that is learned you will see. Especially when you are confronted with bureaucracy, long interminable queues, jostling … Here schedules are rarely respected, but it does not shock anyone except foreign tourists. It is useless to get upset, on the contrary one must take his trouble in patience and adopt zen attitude.

Curiosity is not a bad thing. Do not be surprised that people want to know everything about you; take cultural differences into account and be sensitive to their interest, it is important for them to meet Westerners. These conversations are real exchanges of courtesies that allow them to place themselves socially. Family, work and money are not personal matters in India, so it is normal to talk to strangers. Ask the same questions in return: being curious is not bad, on the contrary!

Prepare to ask the same question several times before getting the answer. When you ask a question, your caller always answers, even if he ignores the answer. It’s always better than to admit that he does not know. This will happen to you frequently, especially when you ask for directions. Remember to ask a question whose answer is other than yes or no, because you will always understand “yes” (the Indians make the same nod for yes and no).


Do not photograph in airports or military areas. This is normally explicitly stated and it is better not to break this rule if you want to avoid trouble or have your equipment confiscated. Usually you need a permit / authorization to take pictures in the monuments. But never leave your device on deposit, always keep it with you.

Accept to be photographed by Indian tourists. During your stay, many Indians will want to photograph you or take pictures of you. Do not try to understand why. You are likely to have your portrait on the family album or sit in their living room for the next sixty years! But one question remains: why do they want as long as you take pictures with your camera when they will never see the result?


Do not give money systematically, especially to children. There are many beggars in India because there is no welfare system. For some, begging is the only way to survive. But for others, it is easier to beg than to work; and in their line of sight: tourists. So be firm and do not be fooled, because many work on behalf of someone, a “superior authority” who recovers the money collected.

Do not buy food from women who begwith their baby. The latter will ask you to buy the milk for their child, at a high price, to finally resell it and pock money. This mafia system is widespread. It is better to give food to children rather than rupees.

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