Whereas Indian men can be really eager to talk to travellers, women in India often refrain from contact with men. It is an unfortunate fact that if you are a man and you approach a woman in India for even an innocuous purpose like asking for directions, you are putting her on the defensive. It is better to ask a man if available, or be extra respectful if you are asking a woman.
It's not disrespectful for a woman to tell a man eager to talk to her that she doesn't want to talk - so if a man's behaviour makes you uncomfortable, say so firmly.
In mosques and temples it is obligatory to take off your shoes. It may also be customary to take off your footwear while entering into homes, follow other people's lead.
It is disrespectful to touch or point at people with your feet. If done accidentally, you will find that Indians will make a quick gesture of apology that involves touching the offended person with the right hand, and then moving the hand to the chest and to the eyes. It is a good idea to emulate that.
Books and written material are treated with respect, as they are considered the concrete form of the Hindu Goddess of Learning, Saraswati. So a book should not be touched with the feet and if accidentally touched, the same gesture of apology as is made to people (see above) is performed.
The same goes with currency, or anything associated with wealth (especially gold). They are treated as Goddess Lakshmi (of Wealth) in human form, and ought not to be disrespected.
Avoid winking, whistling, pointing or beckoning with your fingers, and touching someone's ears. All of these are considered rude.
Any give or take of anything important should be done with the right hand only, or with the right hand supported with the left. This includes giving and taking of presents, and any transfer of a large amount of money.
Travellers should be aware of the fact that Indians generally dress conservatively and should do the same. Shorts, short skirts (knee-length or above) and sleeveless shirts are not appropriate off the beach. Cover as much skin as possible. Both men and women should keep their shoulders covered. Women should wear baggy clothes that do not emphasize their contours.
Pakistan is a sensitive subject about which many Indians will have strong views. Avoid getting into a conversation about the whole issue. The same goes for the Kashmir dispute.
Keep in mind that Indians will consider themselves obliged to go out of the way to fulfill a guest's request and will insist very strongly that it is no inconvenience to do so, even if it is not true. This of course means that there is a reciprocal obligation on you as a guest to take extra care not to be a burden.
It is customary to put up a token friendly argument with your host or any other member of the group when paying bills at restaurant or while making purchases. The etiquette for this is somewhat complicated.
In a business lunch or dinner, it is usually clear upfront who is supposed to pay, and there is no need to fight. But if you are someone's personal guest and they take you out to a restaurant, you should offer to pay anyway, and you should insist a lot. Sometimes these fights get physical, with each side trying to snatch the bill away from the other, all the time laughing politely. If you don't have experience in these things, chances are, you will lose the fight the first time, but in that case, make sure that you pay the next time. (and try to make sure that there is a next time.) Unless the bill amount is very large do not offer to share it, and only as a second resort after they have refused to let you pay it all.
The same rule applies when you are making a purchase. If you are purchasing something for yourself, your hosts might still offer to pay for it if the amount is not very high, and sometimes, even if it is. In this situation, unless the amount is very low, you should never lose the fight. (If the amount is in fact ridiculously low, say less than 10 rupees, then don't insult your hosts by putting up a fight.) Even if by chance you lose the fight to pay the shopkeeper, it is customary to practically thrust (in a nice way, of course) the money into your host's hands.
These rules do not apply if the host has made it clear beforehand that it is his or her treat, especially for some specific occasion.
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