Do's and Don'ts
- Good conversation starters include the region your counterpart is from, their profession, the well-being of their family and the meaning of their given name.
- Treat Indian elders with visible respect. For example, address them first and defer to their opinion. Always sit lower than them, and avoid speaking directly or harshly.
- Be patient when making decisions or negotiating with your Indian counterpart. Indians tend to take their time when deliberating decisions, regardless of the urgency or importance of the decision.
- Try to dress conservatively and speak respectfully out of respect for your Indian counterpart.
- Enjoy a playful and light-hearted sense of humour. Indians tend to enjoy friendly banter and light teasing.
- Over 93% of Indians in Australia are fluent in English, and it is common for them to have an extensive and impressive vocabulary. If you communicate in a way that doesn't acknowledge this, your Indian counterpart will likely interpret this as patronising.
- Try to be conscious of how gender and relationships may impact interactions. For example, some conservative Indians may find it inappropriate to include a married woman in a conversation if her husband is present.
- Avoid crude humour or swearing. Indians may take offence to this manner of speech quite easily.
- Do not directly criticise India as a country. This form of criticism from a foreigner is usually unwelcome and may be interpreted as an insult.
- Avoid negative comments or criticisms about a person’s ability, appearance or attributes. Such comments are often taken to heart and will give your Indian counterpart the impression that you are insensitive.
- Do not assume that the work ethic of Indians is more laid-back than that of Australians. On the contrary, many Indians are very hard-working and a significant portion of the country is highly educated.
- Do not directly ask someone what caste they belong to. It is more appropriate to ask about their occupation. For more information, see ‘Social Structure and Stratification’ in Core Concepts.
- Do not criticise or patronise someone for their profession or vocation. Someone’s occupation is usually an important part of one’s personal identity.
- Try not to be intimidated by the process of haggling (persistent bargaining over the cost of something). For many people in India, haggling is part of daily life and often an enjoyable process.
- Avoid making judgements in absolute terms of right or wrong until you have a clear understanding of the circumstance. For many Indians, the context and situation are important in understanding whether something is moral and just.
- Drawing parallels between India and other countries on the Indian subcontinent such as Pakistan or Bangladesh may offend your Indian counterpart.
- Avoiding discussing tensions between Pakistan and India. This is a sensitive or heated topic for some Indians and can evoke a strong emotional response.
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