Indians are often eager to start conversations and are open and friendly. Do not be surprised if a stranger opens with an intense conversation with you on the street or bus. Questions regarding your family are considered acceptable talking points. Want to develop a trust relationship with the locals? Just talk with them. The conversation is a means of building mutual trust.
BRINGING A GIFT
If you are invited to a meal or a visit to an Indian family, you must come with a gift, like a box of chocolates or a bouquet. If there are children at home, it is also nice to bring a little something for them too. In any case, do not buy things that are too expensive. If you visit any Indian festival, it is common to bring a box of sweets. If you have lived with an Indian family for a long time, a framed picture of all of you as a gift is a good choice. Flowers are also a suitable gift but different colors have different meanings in India. Therefore it is advisable to consult a florist about it first (red roses are the best bet).
HOW TO BEHAVE IN INDIA
Outside the main big cities which are used to foreigners and are cosmopolitan, the Indian social fabric is quite traditional and even religious. The traditional way to greet someone is to bring the two hands together (like in prayer), and say “Namaste” and gently bow. And you can also just shake hands. You should avoid blessings that include kisses and hugs. Also, a man should avoid a handshake with a woman. If you want to point at someone, do it using your chin. Raising a finger can be offensive. Do not keep your hands in your pocket during a conversation it is rude. Also, men should try not to start a conversation with a woman who is alone on the street since it is a step that is considered harassment.
No is rarely used in India except in critical situations. So you need to understand and read negative responses via body language and verbal cues. If in a situation where you need to decline an invitation it is best not to say no as this is seen as rude so it is better to use phrases such as “I’ll try” or “I will let you know later”.
BUSINESS CONDUCT IN INDIA
India is huge, and therefore its business culture differs from area to area. It is important to prepare ahead since there are no uniform rules that apply for the entire country. Bring with you a lot of business cards; their usage is especially popular in India. English is widely spoken by Indian businessmen (usually British-English as a heritage from the colonial period), so in most cases no translation needed. Some people say that companies in South India are usually more conservative than those in the north or east of the country. Don’t forget that Hindi is wildly spoken in the North, but almost not at all in the south.
Finally, don’t worry! If it’s your first time to India you will soon find out just how nice and hospitable Indians are.