India Business Etiquette

by Claire Valenty on January 23, 2010

in International Business Etiquette

international india etiquette

You’ve made it to the land of Taj Mahal on a business trip and life is good. You’ve got to expect that your Indian counterpart may come later and you need to be well informed in Indian business etiquette. From greeting to eating, India’s multiethnic culture is reflected in its business practices.

Namaste! With this word and both hands brought together so that the palms face one another, you will greet and be greeted here in India. What may follow is a light handshake. There may be a lady standing amongst other Indian business officials but don’t reach out to shake her hand! This is somewhat against the Indian custom. The opposite gender is a sensitive issue in India. Unless she reaches out for you, you better keep your hands in your pocket. The good thing about India is that much of its business is conducted in Western style so you can pretty much be yourself here.

The business dress code in India follows standard convention. Men are required to wear suits with ties. You can take off your coat if it gets hot. Don’t worry it’s perfectly all right! If you’re a lady, keep your arms, chest and legs covered at all times and leave that leather purse at home. Cows are revered by Hindus.

The head is considered the seat of the soul so don’t touch anyone’s head. Feet are considered unclean so never point them at anybody. If you’re given a gift, open it when the giver has left. In Indian Business etiquettes, lunches are preferred over dinners. Don’t expect to eat pork with a Muslim or beef with a Hindu. Respect these differences and you’ll be doing great following Indian business Etiquette. Don’t whistle your favorite tune. Whistling and winking are stuff you need to stay away from. They are offensive and even considered sexual invitations.

Learning the local tongue isn’t part of Indian Business Etiquette because there are over 14 major languages spoken in India. Fortunately for you, English and Hindi are official languages here. So a lot of people can help you out if you just talk to them in English. If you’re asked to do something you can’t do, you need to slip out of it instead of saying no directly. Direct refusals are offensive. “I’ll try” would be a vague and acceptable way of refusing.

If you’ve done your homework on Indian Business Etiquette, swimming around in the corporate world of India would be a treat to remember.

Photo: wikimedia commons/Yann

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