If you have business travel to India coming up, you might be curious about what customs you might expect to come across. There are several ways that you can embarrass yourself quite easily in India, so take careful note of these common Indian business customs.
- Keep your distance.
In business situations in India, you should stand at least an arm’s length away from anyone you are talking to. Any closer would be an invasion of their personal space.
- Don’t touch anyone’s head.
It’s unlikely you would do this, but if you’re tempted for any reason, remember that Indian people do not like their heads touched. The head is considered sacred.
- Always use your right hand.
When shaking hands, gesturing to something, eating… whatever you’re doing, do it with your right hand. The left hand is considered unclean.
- Mind the gender gap.
In a business setting, it is appropriate for men to shake hands with men and for women to shake hands with women. Many Indian men will not touch a woman they don’t know – that would be considered inappropriate. However, westernized Indian men might find this custom outdated. If you’re a woman doing business in India, it is probably best to wait and see if your male counterparts extend their hand to you before reaching out your hand.
- Never point.
Pointing with either one finger or two is considered rude. If you point at a person in India, you are signaling that they are your inferior. Instead, gesture with your whole hand, your chin, or a thumb.
- Look for the most important person in the room.
Businesses in India tend to be quite hierarchical. The person at the top will be the person who makes the decision, regardless of what their team members might think. Make sure you know who the decision maker is and direct your presentation to them.
- Speak English.
Most international business in India is done in English, so don’t worry about needing a translator, and bring business cards printed in English.
- If you’re offered something to eat or drink, take it.
To decline would be considered rude.
- Accept every invitation.
If a business associate invites you out for drinks, to a party, or to their home for dinner, it would be quite rude to decline. If you simply can’t go, make sure you have a very good excuse.
And remember, if you have questions about India business visas, the Swift team is always here to help.