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Insight to India: A Cultural Communication Guide

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This is the first blog post in our new intercultural communication series. The posts in this series will provide a “crash course” into communicating with nationals from other countries. Best practices, cultural differences, and interesting facts will be provided.


  1. India is a relationship based society which means that strong personal bonds are required to work together and trust one another. Before beginning business, exchange pleasantries, ask about your coworker’s family, or discuss topics of common interest to get to know them better.
  2. Remain formal when addressing friends and coworkers. Address everyone by Mr., Mrs., or Ms. until you are invited to do otherwise.
  3. Set clear expectations from the onset as to professional services that will be provided, team availability, scope of the project, budgets, and so on.
  4. Punctuality is not common in India. As a polychronic culture, there are two times: morning and evening, and that leave a lot of room for schedule changes.Image of woman smiling.jpeg
  5. India is a country where rules are seen as suggestions. This may not be the case in your country. You may be asked to bend the rules or make an exception if you are building a particularly close relationship. Keep this in mind to better frame your actions as a compromise or benefit.
  6. Bargaining is common, so be prepared to go back and forth a few times when shopping or negotiating.
  7. Saying no is perceived as unwilling to help. Find a way to say no without saying no explicitly. On the other hand, this may mean a vague response of “yes” will not be acted upon. Observe context clues such as body language, tone, and social status to determine the true meaning.
  8. Indians depend on “their network” when in need of help. Guidance to get the task completed is expected. Be as available and helpful as possible when asked for assistance.
  9. When corresponding via email use titles and family names, when known. First names are written in upper case, and honorifics plus a title are as common as an honorific plus a last name.
  10. Giving a gift after a successful negotiation or after being invited to a coworker’s house is always acceptable and appreciated. Gifts don’t have to be expensive, but should reflect the receiver’s interests.

Whether you are living in India, traveling, or working in a cross-national team, remembering these few tips will help you avoid any major missteps.

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For additional cultural information check out www.culturecloud.com or take our quiz to find out if cultural training is right for you!


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