Cultural Information


India has many festivals and some states celebrate certain festivals more than others.  In Karnataka, Dasara, a traditional celebratory hallmark of the old Kingdom of Mysore, is the national festival and is celebrated with great vigour. Deepavali or Diwali, is perhaps the most well known of Indian festivals.  It is the "Festival of Lights" and transcends demographic and religious lines and is another important festival. Other traditional Indian festivals are Ganesh Chaturthi, Ugadi and Sankranthi.  Eid ul-Fitr and Christmas are also celebrated in some parts of India.

Cultural Sensitivities

When visiting and living in India you should observe certain local customs and practices. Here are some of the more important courtesies and customs:

• Greetings: Although handshakes generally suffice for both men and women, some ladies may acknowledge an introduction with a gentleman with a nod of her head and smile; a handshake is only to be reciprocated if the lady offers her hand first. The traditional greeting is Namaste, with the hands together as if in prayer. Do reciprocate.

• Indians are very hospitable and often invite you to their house. When entering an Indian’s home, remove your shoes. It is considered polite. Also, although they often tell you to “come over anytime”, please do ring them just before you visit. 

• Indians are often reluctant to say “no”. They say “We will see”. If you get this response, do not push them and wait for them to respond. 

• Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city, with no dress codes as such. However, it is advisable not to wear clothes that are too revealing. Remember that India is a conservative country and wearing clothes that expose too much skin may create problems for you.

• Always remove your shoes when entering a religious site. 

• Indians will generally offer and request you to eat more. This is out of their traditionally belief that ‘Guest are like Gods’ and can be seen in their hospitality even today. You may polity refuse more food.

• Do not insist on eating meat and drinking alcohol when invited to an Indian home for a meal. Whilst most Indians are liberal, many are vegetarian and are teetotalers.

• When invited to somebody’s home, don’t forget to take a token gift with you. Flowers (colourful are very much appreciated), fruit, chocolates or a bottle of Scotch are greatly appreciated (if they are not teetotalers!). 

• If you are inviting an Indian to your home for dinner, ask them about their dietary restrictions. Generally, Hindus do not eat beef and Muslims do not eat pork. Cook vegetarian food, just in case, you will never go wrong. 

• Public displays of affection between the sexes should be limited.

• Indians ask many personal questions, such as your marital status, number of children you have, your age, what your qualifications are, and even how much you earn. They often ask if your marriage was “arranged” or a “love” marriage.  These questions often embarrass the Westerner. The intention behind such questions is only to know you more or sometimes a topic of conversation. Politely refuse to answer if you are embarrassed to be asked these questions.  

• Indians will find things like unmarried couples living or traveling together, traveling alone without your family very strange, but it is not illegal to cohabit with a partner. 

• The right hand is always used when eating with one's hand or when giving and receiving objects.

• Indians sometimes use antiquated English words no longer used in the UK or anywhere else.

• Indians often address an older woman or man as Aunty or Uncle, even if they are not related to them or have never met them before. They also ask you what your “good name” is. Take this all in good humor and practice calling an older person Uncle or Aunty, it is very respectful!

• Begging: This is a major problem in India for Westerners. Whilst Indians are often immune to it and often shout jao (go!) to beggars, Westerners often are distraught by the sight of beggars and give them money. Some beggars cut off their limbs to earn a living.  Remember, most of the money does not go to the beggars themselves but to the beggar masters who are often mafia. 

• Tipping: Giving baksheesh is common in India. Tip the porter, the watchmen, and the maids etc regularly to keep you in their good books.  

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