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India Business Etiquette & Culture

India etiquette, manners, culture, gift giving, protocol                      Indian etiquette, culture, manners, behavior, communication, dress, appearance

India Introduction

India is officially called Republic of India (Hindi Bharat), is located in southern Asia and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. India consists geographically of the entire Indian Peninsula and portions of the Asian mainland. To its north lies Afghanistan, China, Nepal, and Bhutan; to its east is Bangladesh, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and the Bay of Bengal; Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar (which separate it from Sri Lanka) and the Indian Ocean are to the south; and on the west is the Arabian Sea and Pakistan.

India Fun Fact

The current leadership of India is implementing sweeping changes to encourage international business in India, from privatization to the liberalization of trade.

Geert Hofstede Analysis for India

The Geert Hofstede analysis for India shows a large power distance society and all other measures are relatively moderate. This would be indicative of the fact that India is in the midst of change. The traditional caste systems has been outlawed, however the large power distance score indicates that the attitudes still remain.

India has Power Distance (PDI) as the highest Hofstede Dimension for the culture, with a ranking of 77 compared to a world average of 56.5. This Power Distance score for India indicates a high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society. This condition is not necessarily subverted upon the population, but rather accepted by the population as a cultural norm.

India's Long Term Orientation (LTO) Dimension rank is 61, with the world average at 48. A higher LTO score can be indicative of a culture that is perseverant and parsimonious.

India has Masculinity as the third highest ranking Hofstede Dimension at 56, with the world average just slightly lower at 51. The higher the country ranks in this Dimension, the greater the gap between values of men and women. It may also generate a more competitive and assertive female population, although still less than the male population.

India's lowest ranking Dimension is Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) at 40, compared to the world average of 65. On the lower end of this ranking, the culture may be more open to unstructured ideas and situations. The population may have fewer rules and regulations with which to attempt control of every unknown and unexpected event or situation, as is the case in high Uncertainty Avoidance countries.

India is predominantly Hindu, with 81% of the population practicing that religion. Next is Muslim at 12%, Christian at 2%, and all others within the last 5% of the society.

It has been found that in most cultures, their is a correlation between a country's religion and the Hofstede Dimension rankings it has. There is only one country with over 50% of its population practicing the Hindu religion – India.

The Hofstede Dimension that correlates most with the Hindu religion is Power Distance (PDI), the same as Atheists in China and Muslims. All three have a high level of Power Distance as the highest correlating cultural Dimension with their religions. (See accompanying article) See Geert Hofstede Details

Written by Stephen Taylor - the Sigma Two Group


Religion in India


India Interview

Click for the written transcript of an interview with Ashok Chinnagiri


India Appearance

International Business Dress and Appearance   Men are generally expected to wear a suit and tie for business, although the jacket may be removed in the summer. Women should wear conservative dresses or pantsuits.

International Business Dress and Appearance   When dressing casual, short-sleeved shirts and long pants are preferred for men; shorts are acceptable only when exercising. Women must keep their upper arms, chest, back, and legs covered at all times.

International Business Dress and Appearance   Women should wear long pants when exercising.

International Business Dress and Appearance   The use of leather products including belts or handbags may be considered offensive, especially in temples. Hindus revere cows and do not use leather products.


India Behavior 

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  The head is considered the seat of the soul. Never touch someone else’s head, not even to pat the hair of a child.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Beckoning someone with the palm up and wagging one finger can be construed as in insult. Standing with your hands on your hips will be interpreted as an angry, aggressive posture.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Whistling is impolite and winking may be interpreted as either an insult or a sexual proposition.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Never point your feet at a person. Feet are considered unclean. If your shoes or feet touch another person, apologize.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver. If you receive a wrapped gift, set it aside until the giver leaves.

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Business lunches are preferred to dinners. Hindus do not eat beef and Muslims do not eat pork.


India Communications 

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  There are more than fourteen major and three hundred minor languages spoken in India. The official languages are English and Hindi. English is widely used in business, politics and education.

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  The word "no" has harsh implications in India. Evasive refusals are more common, and are considered more polite. Never directly refuse an invitation, a vague "I’ll try" is an acceptable refusal.

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Do not thank your hosts at the end of a meal. "Thank you" is considered a form of payment and therefore insulting.

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Titles are very important. Always use professional titles.



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