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Excerpted from the India Career Guide

Daily Life

India, known as Bharat to Indians themselves, is the world's largest democracy and second most populous country.There is a great amount of diversity in India, with languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food, geography and customs differing from place to place throughout the country.

In the past, India’s caste system assigned people to different levels of society. The trend now is to give more emphasis to skill, merit, and performance. The government is playing a major role in eliminating caste discrimination.

Communication Style

Shaking hands is a universal practice in India. The lead can be taken by either host or guest. Normally, men shake hands with other men, and women may shake hands with other women. Seldom would a woman shake hands with a man, so it is best to allow a woman to initiate the handshake with a man. Physical contact is restricted to handshakes, and in some cases, women prefer to keep it to a simple greeting such as namaste. Any other demonstration of public affection usually is frowned upon.

How to Act Like a Local...

  • Indians generally travel by public transport, like trains and buses. It is good to know where to board and also to know a landmark associated with the destination.
  • Public transportation vehicles have seats marked as reserved for women. Men should avoid occupying those seats.
  • Indians generally give directions in terms of ‘left’ and ‘right,’ rather than ‘east’ or ‘west
  • Use of the left hand is considered impolite; always use the right hand to give out business cards, eat food or pick up something.
  • When visiting a private home, remove your shoes or slippers upon entering the house.

Office Protocol

In addition to seven Union Territories administered by the Central Government, India is made up of 29 states. Each of these states is demarcated on a linguistic basis. Given the country’s size, diversity and variety, it should come as no surprise that business protocol varies from region to region and organization to organization. For this reason, it is difficult to make generalizations about such things as proper business protocol and management styles.

Management Styles

In the Indian workplace, senior colleagues, and especially elders, are treated with respect. Discussions are most often led by the most senior person, and final decisions rest with the highest-ranking business executives. Supervisors are expected to monitor an individual's work and shoulder the responsibility of meeting deadlines. It is therefore important for supervisors to double-check work and keep track of time. Educated Indians have learned to adapt to the Western methods of monitoring one’s own work and completing it on schedule.

Corporate Hierarchy / Boss and Subordinate Relations

Hierarchy matters across India, although its importance varies from region to region and sector to sector. The trend is toward a greater level of participation, with all levels encouraged to share views and suggestions.

Women in the Workplace

Women are prevalent and receive equal treatment in the workplace and, in general, are treated with respect and courtesy. In a number of companies, women occupy positions in senior management. Visiting businesswomen can expect to be treated well.

This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete India Guide.

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