Travelling to different places is not just about seeing the tourist spots or clicking away for great pictures. You also have to follow certain customs and practices so you will not offend the locals and of course, so you will enjoy your holiday.
In the streets of India, you will be often be greeted with smiles and laughter. The locals do not intend to offend you but this is their means of forgiving you for some social rules that you might have broken. We list down some basic rules so you will not be lost in the very different culture of India.
8 Simple Rules while you are on the streets of India
The streets of India mirror the diverse culture of the country. Anyone will enjoy the very busy streets filled with bazaars where you can get items to bring home or to add to your collections. Here’s how you can make most of the experience:
- Dress appropriately – Women should wear clothes which will cover their shoulders at all times. Skirts should always be below the knees. You can be exempted from this practice in case you are going to a bar or if you will take a car while going around the town.
- Take the snacks they offer – When you enter a shop in India, most of the time they will be offering you some biscuits and tea. It is good practice to accept the offer, but in case you are not so sure of the water, just act as if you are sipping from the cup.
- Enjoy the street food – Do not be scared of the street foods anyway what will a trip be like without the tasty street food. Make sure that the food though are still fresh but somehow the big crowd can assure you that there is a fast turnover of goods.
- Say hello and smile – Some tourists will often have a guarded expression while exploring the streets but instead try to greet the locals and be friendly. Keep your calm and try to enjoy where your feet will bring you.
- Haggle – Bargaining with reason is expected in the markets. You can start by asking for half the price but of course you’ll get the feel of it as you negotiate for an item. Walking away is also a good tactic.
- Send a text message first – A lot of small businesses can discuss business over a phone call. It will be safer though to text the other party first before calling.
- Say “Namaste” to the elders – One way to show respect to the elders in India is by clasping your hands as if you were praying and taking a bow while saying “Namaste”.
- Sandals – Instead of shoes which mark you as a tourist, wear sandals. This will also be very convenient since you need to take your footwear off when entering a home or a place of worship.
Dining in the North
There are different sets of rules when dining in India. This will depend if you are up north or down south. It is common practice though to wash the hands before eating, and you will observe this practice even when you are eating on street stalls.
Your left hand should be used when you have to pass some food or when you take a drink. Your right hand should be used when eating rice but you can also use spoon and fork if you are really having a difficult time. You can also follow the English way of using fork and knife. Remember that you should not mash the rice with the sauce using your whole right hand.
Known locally as Maacher Jhol, you need to take the rice and fish alternately using your right hand. Remember to get rid of the bones first but in case you missed some, it is advisable to remove several fish bones from the mouth at one time instead of getting them one by one.
You can only use your right hand for the chapatti. Your last three fingers should be used for holding down the bigger portion of the chapatti while use your index and thumb to tear a piece.
You can use your hands to tear off some pieces of the Rogan Josh but remember to use, if possible, the last digits of your hand. Then get a piece of chapati where you’ll place the meat to make a small sandwich.
With the traditional feel, water will most likely be the only beverage that will be served. There is no problem though if you want to bring some whiskey or beer if you know the family hosting the feast also loves those drinks.
Dining in the South
When you are invited to have a traditional meal in the south of India, food will be on the floor while you will be seated on a low stool. It will require you to bend really deeply to get to the food. You will also notice that sweet dishes will be served first, followed by some rice, and the last few courses will be the savory meals. In the south, there will be homes which do not eat meat since around a third of the population are vegetarians.
Also, do not ask for beef or pork wherever you are in India. Hindus do not eat beef while the Muslims are not allowed to eat pork.
Ghee and Rice
The first portion of the meal will include the lighter food. You might be served some rice which you need to mix with purified butter and clump it with some dal or vegetables.
Dal is served in a banana leaf or in little cups. You will need to mix the rice with your fingers so you will have a clay sticky consistency. Then you have to form a ball using your fingers. In case it is a bit soupy, use your hand as a scoop and push the dal into your mouth using your thumb.
Pickles, Fried foods, Dhosa, and Chutneys
You need to use your right hand for these while having a portion of chapatti to get the pickles and chutney.
You will be taking this last. Crush the pappadam and sprinkle it over your rice and curry mixture.
When you are finish with your meal you can fold the banana leaf towards you to signify that you are satisfied. Doing it towards the opposite direction means you are not satisfied with the food. When you are full, you can say “bas” or cover your plate so everyone will know that you don’t want more food.
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