Many everyday acts that we take for granted in the Western World are, at best, frowned upon and at worst, downright illegal in other parts of the world! Don’t get caught out or caught up in a prison sentence with these tips and advice on what NOT to do in India;
Be aware that India is mostly vegetarian
Keep in mind that many regions of Indian are strictly vegetarian, or if you’re lucky they’ll be pescatarian, meaning they eat fish but no other meats. Try not to blurt out that you want a chicken sandwich or you may find yourself in a confused and uncomfortable situation. Most Indian people have come to understand these cultural differences and are mostly lenient on newcomers, but it’s best to avoid the situation altogether. It will save you and the locals some unnecessary discomfort.
Remember that cows are indeed sacred
Beef deserves its own tip, because this subject is dramatically more sensitive than any other meat item. As you most likely have heard, and may not have believed, cows are indeed sacred animals in India. Entering a restaurant and demanding a medium rare steak with some barbeque sauce will just make you look like an idiot. It would be quite rude, and if you truly were not aware, then hopefully the locals are more understanding than you.
Warning; Left hand equals nasty
Avoid shaking with your left hand, or doing anything else with your left hand for that matter! In India, the left hand is reserved for bathroom functions, or maybe lifting a glass of water, but that’s just about it. Visiting a new country for the first time is often both exciting and a little awkward. People tend to become overwhelmed by the cultural differences, and may find themselves walking on eggshells or trying to mimic natives to avoid offending them. It can be an odd experience, especially if the new country is India, where the differences are immense. Just remember to make good use of your right hand and you should be alright.
Try not to let it all hang out in India
Be a little more reserved when in India. For you ladies out there who like to party, don’t get drunk and flirt with the locals. All but the subtlest expressions of romance are considered taboo. Sexually explicit actions are highly offensive in India. Be modest with your body, and maybe avoid alcohol altogether, just to be on the safe side.
No outdoor shoes indoors
Don’t wear your shoes indoors. This is a simple custom that is easy to live with. Many Indian people have a designated pair of shoes for use indoors, but wearing your outdoor shoes into someone’s house is considered very rude and distasteful. This is really not a big favour to ask, so it’s best to avoid any arguments on the subject and just take your shoes off.
Prepare to answer personal questions
Don’t become offended if asked a series of very personal questions even on the first encounter with a local. This may seem like more of a tip for the Indian people, because most westerners take offense to questions regarding income and family. Try to understand that many Indian people were raised with little privacy and such questions are common, and not intended as an insult.
Avoid an embarrassing cultural faux-pas whilst on your travels with our etiquette guide section. Read our 7 Cultural mistakes to avoid when traveling and 14 Weird laws from around the world to stay in the know!
Don’t drink the water
Avoid the tap water at all costs. Trust me. Westerners are not well adapted to the bacteria in most Indian tap water. It can cause unwanted bowel activity, which is certainly embarrassing when trying to have a good time in an exotic land. Stick to drinking bottled water, at least until you get back home.
By Julie Bowman