Mind Your Manners: The Top 5 Tricks & Tips 5 to Know When on Business in India

In order to maintain good business relations, it is important to be familiar with business etiquette in the country you are visiting. India is a country that is becoming more familiar with the Western ways of conducting business, but you still need to be aware of traditions. Here are a few pointers that will help your offshore relationships run smoothly.

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1. Handshakes

A simple handshake is the best way to greet your Indian colleagues but make sure that you greet the most senior people first. It is not appropriate for women and men to shake hands, although it may be OK if a relationship has already been established. It is best to take the lead from others and wait for them to extend their hand to you. Be careful not to raise your hand to say hello, as the traditional UK handwave would read as ‘go away‘ to an Indian.

2. Right Hand Rules

The left hand is seen as unclean in India, so make sure to pass with your right hand and never use your left hand to eat. You will also need to be mindful not to point your feet at people, as feet are seen as dirty too. Apologise straightaway if you touch somebody with your feet accidentally.

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3. No Means Yes

Indians often shake their head from side to side or move it in a figure-eight motion but this does not mean no. The gesture is a sign that they are interested in what you are saying and that they are agreeing with you. In general, Indians do not like to displease so will often avoid saying no, so make sure post-meeting actions are clarified. It is also worth noting that there are often several management tiers, with the people at the top being the only ones that can say yes.

4. Be Patient

Business is very slow-paced in India, so don’t try to rush your meetings. You may find that your they will be rescheduled or not everybody will turn up. Do not take this as a sign to show up late to meetings as poor punctuality will be frowned upon. Don’t rush straight into your work agenda, take time to get to know each other by chatting about your interests and showing your personal side.

5. Eat “Clean”

Business lunches are a popular way to hold informal meetings, with food being one way to show hospitality and give gifts. Most modern restaurants will have cutlery but it is customary to eat with your hands, so make sure your fingers and nails are clean and use bread to scoop up food. Be sure to leave some food on your plate otherwise your hosts will think you are still hungry and top you up.

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India is now a major hub for UK business and more and more people are learning Hindi to get ahead in business. Over half a billion people in the world speak this intricate language, and currently, many global jobs are being outsourced to India. As India’s unstoppable economy grows larger and larger, make sure you don’t lag behind your competitors. Contact our language centre to find out about courses near you so you can learn a little of the local language before you travel!