• Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

    Japan
    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

    Bahrain
    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

  • Laos!

    Laos: Karst peak. Go Now!

    Laos
    The simplicity and natural beauty of the countryside make Laos a hidden gem in Southeast Asia overlooked by most travelers. Begin Your Journey!

Social Life in India

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in India, please read this travel warning before going!

Behavior

Indian Culture - Herder in Kashmir
Herder in Kashmir

The Indians are conservative in most aspects of their lives and this is best seen in their behaviors, dress, and dining etiquette. They tend to dress and act conservatively, much of which is based on their deeply rooted Hindu and Islamic faiths.

In addition to the below mentioned dress requirements, most behavioral requirements comes in the form of dining. Islamic law forbids pork products and alcohol, while Hindus forbid the consumption of beef, making the meat options in India limited. Chicken is popular, as is seafood on the coasts; however a large percentage of the population is vegetarian. Fortunately, breaking any dietary rule is difficult since beef and pork are almost impossible to find anywhere in the country. Alcohol is not commonly consumed among any religious or ethnic group, but is easily accessible and is generally well accepted outside predominantly Muslim areas. For more information on dining, visit our India Food & Drinks Page.

Also try to avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, religion, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, showing off wealth, or getting noticeably drunk in public.

Dress

Indian Culture - Floating Market
Floating Market

The dress in India today is a combination of western-styled and traditional clothing and after a few days in the country the mix may become second nature. Among the traditional clothing items for women are the sari, ghagra choli, salwar kameez, and others, many of which resemble western-styled clothing more than they do the sari. The sari is a long piece of cloth that is elegantly wrapped to cover one's self entirely, although sometimes a shoulder is seen. The ghagra choli appears to be a combination of a sari with a western-styled dress, and the salwar kameez refers to a shalwar, or loose-fitting pants and a kameez, which is a long shirt or tunic. For men the traditional wardrobe consists of a dhoti, lungi (or sarong), and others. The dhoti a long piece of cloth wrapped around the waist to act as pants, while the lungi is a sarong, which is always white.

Although the above mentioned pieces of clothing are perhaps the most common in India, the country and people are incredibly diverse and their dress is as well. Many Muslims wear more traditional Islamic dress that is similar to that found elsewhere in the Islamic world, while women tend to cover their hair. The Sikhs don't cut their hair so wrap their hair in a turban called a dastar and often wear a metal bracelet, as indicated by their religion. There are literally hundreds of traditional outfits in India, most of which are based on religion and ethnicity, but which also vary based on geography.

Despite all the differences, modern western-styled clothing is becoming more and more popular in India today, especially in the cities. Although this style is western, the clothes is still very conservative as few people will show much skin; most clothing completely covers the arms and legs, although some outfits do show shoulder or the lower arms or legs on women. For men it is rare to see someone wearing anything that doesn't completely reach to their ankles and wrists (other than along some beaches, like Goa). As a visitor to India try to dress in like fashion, with arms and legs covered at all times, especially if traveling to heavily Islamic parts of the country. If in doubt, dress on the more conservative and formal side when in India and always cover up.

This page was last updated: November, 2013