5 Strange Indian Customs You Should Know Before Visiting India
Today I’ve got a guest post from Rohit who runs Trans India Travels. It’s about some of the strange and unusual Indian customs and cultural things you might come across when you travel to India. Here it is!
An array of colours in the bazaars, a row of flavoursome spices in the markets, hustle and bustle of busy crowds, and mouth-watering food filled with the flavours of life; India is an exotic travel destination on the lists of many travellers.
But with the curiosity about this beautiful nation, also comes confusion. Embrace yourself for a culture shock as I share with you five weird Indian customs you should know before visiting India.
India is a land of diverse religions. With major religions comprising Hinduism and Islam, other faiths like Buddhism, Jainism, and Christianity also thrive in the country. Hindu temples can be found all around the country. It is common to remove your shoes before entering a temple as feet are considered spiritually unclean.
When in India, remember to dress for respect as Indians are very serious about their religion and religious places. Do not wear shorts while visiting shrines. It is best to dress in conservative attire fully covering your shoulders and lower body. Respect religious sentiments even if you do not believe in them.
Public Displays of Affection
Hugging and kissing on the cheek in public is acceptable in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, but do not venture into any further physical contact with your partner while visiting India. Do not touch strangers!
It is common among men to shake hands and women are often greeted with a ‘Namaste’.
While a casual hug and touching, people is not out of the ordinary in the west, India has a set of stringent rules when it comes to PDA or any other form of physical contact. Even holding hands with and embracing someone of the opposite sex in public can attract a lot of unwanted stares.
Hands and Feet
In India, the body is considered to be a hierarchy with the head considered sacred and the feet impure.
Wash your hands before a meal as Indians prefer eating with their hands. Never eat with your left hand because it is considered dirty. Do not pass a gift, money, or food with your left hand either.
If you see shoes outside the door of a house or shop, you should remove yours before entering. It is considered bad to point your feet at someone or to touch someone with your feet.
Respecting the Elders
Next time someone on your Indian expedition calls you “aunty” or “uncle”, remember that it is just a sign of respect. While addressing those, who are older than you, use ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’, otherwise it is considered disrespectful.
The informality of using first names is considered offensive among many older Indians. Because the Indian social system still works in a hierarchy, it is given that an elderly person commands much more respect than a younger one.
Bending down and touching an elder’s feet is seen as a sign of respect, if it is too much for you, you can always bow your head and place palms together as you say ‘Namaste’.
The ‘Flavoured’ English
Being one of the two official languages, English is widely used in India. It is often considered to be a lingua franca in the South India where Hindi is not commonly spoken.
Indian English has a flavour that changes as you travel to different parts of the country. Here English is spoken with an ‘Indian accent’ which is not as distinct as it is in several other parts of the world. Expressions like “passing out of college” and “foreign-returned” are a part of routine conversations, so try to keep your laughter muffled the next time to hear them.
‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ do not make it at the top of our vocabulary. But do not feel offended as Indians prefer to smile and nod as a gesture of gratefulness.
India is a land of culture and diversity. There are more than 1500 languages in this country and more festivals than you can count. It should come as no surprise that a country which is home to over 1.2 billion people is as rich in diversity as India is. People often come here in search of inner-peace and spirituality, or simply to experience the wonder this country is. Whatever be the reason for your trip to India, you are bound to remember every moment spent here.
Be polite and respectful but do not trust over-friendly people and your next trip to India would be safe and hassle-free.
Are there any other peculiar customs that we missed? What baffled you the most on your trip to India? Comment on!
A true Indian at heart, Rohit travels the world and shares his wisdom through TransIndiaTravels.com. When he is not writing, or travelling, he immerses himself in music and books, his refuge.