Cultural and Social Etiquettes of India: A Guide for Expats

According to a survey, about 48% of expatriates (expats) struggle with getting used to the Indian culture. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with the cultural and social etiquettes in the country to avoid any cultural shocks on your arrival.

Generally speaking, cultural adjustment is real irrespective of where you are relocating in the world. However, in India, it may take you a little longer to adjust, owing to the stark differences in the social and living conditions in India from the rest of the world.

In fact, one could say that the Indian way of doing things is much different from the rest of the world. Still, with English as the official government language of the country, you may feel more comfortable in the country compared to other places where language becomes a barrier. Indian people are also quite friendly and willing to help if you ask politely.

Read More :- How To Help Expat Employees Assimilate To A New Culture

Living Standard in India for Expats

Before we move to cultural differences in India and the rest of the world, it’s worth talking about the cost of living in India, which is a pleasant surprise for most expats from other parts of the world.

Living in India is relatively cheap compared to many other countries in the developed world, but the standard of living is high. It’s convenient for you to hire domestic help in India, as the wages paid to maids, nannies, or chauffeurs are way more affordable than in some other countries. The nation also boasts of great schools and well-established healthcare facilities that make it easier for you to adjust.

Cultural and Social Tips To Help You Adjust Better in India

There are several benefits of relocating to India to enjoy a better lifestyle. There are also professional opportunities galore for those who can make a few adjustments to understand and embrace the nuances of Indian culture.

Here’s a list of things you should keep in mind while living in India to show your respect towards Indian culture and become a part of it:

  • It is considered safe to greet people with ‘Namaste’ in India. The greeting requires you to place your hands together and bend slightly. While youngsters may no longer ‘Namaste’ in urban areas, if you happen to visit elderly people or find yourself in a traditional setting, consider saying ‘Namaste’ instead of shaking hands or patting someone on the back, especially when you are greeting a woman.

  • Whether in a business or a social setting, Indian culture follows a hierarchical system and elders and superiors are always greeted first. It would help if you also addressed people by their surname until asked otherwise.
  • Indians often don’t take time very seriously. Many people consider being a few minutes late to be typical or even fashionable. While this doesn’t mean you should stop being punctual, don’t be offended if somebody you are meeting is slightly late – they are not being disrespectful.
  • It’s considered rude to beckon someone by snapping your fingers or waving your hand. Instead, you can politely call out to the person by extending your arm and curling your fingers downward.
  • It would be best to learn to be a good listener and observe visual cues to read between the lines. For instance, Indian people generally don’t like to say no. But if somebody says, ‘I will see’ or ‘Let’s see’, it could actually mean, ‘No, I can’t do this’.
  • If you are visiting somebody’s house, you may be required to remove your shoes outside, as most Indians don’t wear shoes inside the home to maintain cleanliness. Likewise, if you are visiting a holy place, don’t wear shoes inside the premises; it is considered rude and disrespectful.

Furthermore, here are some tips on what you shouldn’t be doing in public settings in India:

  • Don’t smoke in public places and always ask the host before smoking in their house. Note that it’s generally considered rude in India to smoke and drink in front of elders.
  • As an expat, you are likely to encounter touts who will try to rob you of your money. Be smart and don’t trust people blindly to avoid being taken advantage of.
  • Just like you’d be careful elsewhere, avoid visiting unknown places in the dark or getting drunk with unfamiliar people.

The Bottom Line

India is a fascinating country with diverse cultures and traditions. With a burgeoning population, the nation has several religious and ethnic groups that follow different social norms. An expat who is unaware of the nation’s colourful diversity may feel lost in its vibrancy. On the other hand, if you are ready to embrace the country’s culture, you’ll enjoy its warmth and vibrancy.

If you plan to relocate to India, it will help you to familiarize yourself with the social and cultural norms prevalent here to feel at home. Also, remember not to do anything you won’t do at home. Indians are friendly people, but they are curious in nature. However, do take all safety precautions you would in any other part of the world to ensure your safety at all times.

Cultural and Social Etiquettes of India: A Guide for Expats
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