The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting India

India is like nowhere else on earth. You have the chance to step into a swirling, exciting mixture of ancient and new. You can explore majestic ancient ruins and wonders of the world, enjoy delicious cuisine, and meet incredible people on your voyage.

When you step into a foreign country like India, however, you want to know how to act so that you can enjoy every aspect of your stay. Fortunately, we have compiled a list of the top 5 behaviors you want to avoid when traveling to India. Let’s dive in.

DON’T leave your shoes on when entering holy places, houses, or even some stores

Traditionally, Indians do not wear shoes in their homes or holy places. You might even see people take off their shoes to enter some stores. Therefore, if you visit temples or private homes, plan on leaving your shoes outside. You will likely see a pile by the door.

If you see people taking off their shoes to enter other establishments as well, follow their lead.

You do not want to inadvertently step on anyone’s toes, literally or figuratively.

DON’T expect everyone to speak English

You will find that a number of locals speak English. This is particularly true in major cities or near common tourist sites. However, that does not mean that everyone in India will speak English.

India has a rich and beautiful tapestry of languages and cultures. While many associate languages in India with Hindi, it is far from the only one. 

Learn about the languages spoken in the areas you will visit. Even if you can communicate in English with them or if you have a translator with you, being able to say ‘hello’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’ in their language will go a long way in showing your respect for their culture.

DON’T point at things with your finger or use your left hand for certain tasks

Pointing at something with your finger can make you seem very rude. Instead, to gesture at something in particular, you want to point with your thumb or with your head. While some Indians might be somewhat accustomed to seeing foreign tourists make this faux pas, it will not help you ingratiate yourself with the locals and can earn you stares or glares. Best to just avoid it.

Similarly, don’t reach for things or offer something to someone else with your left hand, such as giving alms in a temple or paying your taxi driver. The left hand is generally only used for tasks like personal hygiene and is considered unclean.

DON’T expect everything to start right on time

Many people in India function on their own understanding of time. Do not expect things to start on time. If you get invited to someone’s home, they will not really expect you until 20-30 minutes after the start time. Meetings and public transportation will also operate behind schedule.

Knowing what to expect can help you limit your frustration. Just build the extra time into your itinerary. Embrace Indian culture as you immerse yourself.

DON’T be afraid to step off the beaten path 

There is no doubt that stepping off the beaten path in India can be immensely rewarding. You can venture to Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh to see early cave dwellings and incredible prehistoric art. You can also explore the trails of the Western Ghats and see unique plants and animals. Don’t limit yourself in India to what everyone else does. Explore this beautiful country for yourself.

Exploring India is an opportunity to experience a rich and astounding place. Keep these guidelines in mind and go have the time of your life.