Cultural Etiquette

The People

India is one of the most diverse countries in the world so it’s difficult to make rules about behaviour, which varies from one region to another. But by and large India is a fairly hierarchical society and hierarchy plays a key role in business interactions.

Meeting and Greeting

Westerners may shake hands, however, greeting with 'namaste' (na-mas-TAY) (placing both hands together with a slight bow) is appreciated and shows respect for Indian customs.

Meetings should be arranged well in advance. This should be done in writing (email) and confirmed by phone closer to time – probably no earlier than one week beforehand. Avoid meetings near or on national and regional/state holidays.

Body Language

Public displays of affection are not proper. Indians value personal space.

Corporate Culture

Business cards are exchanged and Indians are very conscious of the protocol. Always present business cards when introduced. English is appropriate for business cards.

It is considered rude to plunge into business discussions immediately. Ask about your counterpart’s family, interests, hobbies, etc. before beginning business discussions.


Dining and Entertainment

Initial business entertainment is done in restaurants in prestigious hotels. Business can be discussed during meals. Allow your host to initiate business conversation.

Never flatly refuse an invitation to a home or dinner of a business counterpart; if you can’t make it, offer a plausible excuse.

Allow hosts to serve you. Never refuse food, but don’t feel obligated to empty your plate. Hindu hosts are never supposed to let their guests’ plates be empty.



Gifts are not normally expected at the first meeting. Gifts may be given once a relationship develops.


Helpful tip

Patience is the key to success in India. If your business dealings in India involve negotiations, always bear in mind that they can be slow. If trust has not yet been established then concentrate efforts on building a rapport. Decisions are always made at the highest level.

(Adapted from material compiled by Window on the World, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm, and other Doing Business sites)

To read more about doing business in India, please read: http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Business-in-India.html



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