Which is considered rude in Indian society

Tips for negotiating in India

India is an extremely diverse country. Not only in terms of language, but also with regard to religion, customs, behavior and mentality, there are a few things that business travelers need to consider. Germany is particularly popular with traditional Indian family businesses.

The family is very important in India. Business travelers can easily communicate in English in both business and private environments.

India is often referred to as a subcontinent because of its geographic extent and cultural diversity. Not without reason, because if you compare the borders of the seventh largest country in the world with those of Europe, India stretches from Norway to Sicily and from Spain to Russia.

In addition to the official languages ​​Hindi and English, another 22 regional languages ​​are recognized as national languages ​​by the Indian constitution. But not only in terms of language, but also in terms of religion, customs, behavior and mentality, India is an extremely multifaceted country.

And yet: Despite all the regional and cultural differences, the vast majority of the 1.2 billion people - not without pride - see themselves primarily as Indian and only then as Maharati, Bengali or one of the other ethnic groups.

This national self-image has certainly contributed to the fact that India has remained a relatively stable and predominantly peaceful country across all linguistic, cultural and social borders.

The borders on the subcontinent are not just regional, linguistic and cultural. For the business traveler, the differences between economic metropolises such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai and the less developed cities and regions as well as between the young, often foreign-trained managers and the traditional corporate patriarchs of the "old school" are important. When entering the Indian market, foreign business people will always have to move in many different worlds.

Employees often belong to the "extended family circle" in companies

As in all Asian countries, the family has a very high priority within the social structure in India. Important decisions are usually made by the whole family, whereby the seniority principle applies here.

For example, it is still the rule that young Indians - even if they have lived abroad for a long time - leave the pre-selection of their partner to their parents. Family members also have a say in the choice of study and job.

In traditional medium-sized companies in particular, employees are often part of the "extended family circle". The company patriarch sees himself as responsible - not only for the employees, but also for their families - in return, however, also expects a high degree of loyalty and loyalty.

Indian companies are usually more hierarchically organized than companies in the western industrialized countries. The employees are usually very careful not to exceed the competencies defined above and rarely develop initiative in the process.

In India too - as in most Asian countries - you rarely get a clear "no" answer. In return, a "yes" is not always the same as an unequivocal agreement. But here, too, one has to make a strong distinction between traditional and modern India. Young Indian managers in particular who have worked for a long time in western countries are very familiar with international business practices and act accordingly professionally.

Statements from potential business partners should not be accepted in every case - no matter how convincingly they are presented - without examination. Instead, it is advisable to let the other person outline exactly how he or she would like to solve a particular problem. Usually you can then quickly see whether the previously advertised expertise is actually available.

The expectations of western business travelers and those of their Indian counterparts also often diverge widely when it comes to appointments and times. Indians are well aware of this and therefore like to speak of IST - the "Indian Stretchable Time".

Time specifications are therefore flexible, and it is not uncommon for western managers to find that the person they are talking to is not in the office when they arrive on time. You should therefore plan a sufficient buffer between the individual appointments, also to be able to cope with your own delays due to the often chaotic traffic situation.

Dos and Don'ts

For many travelers to Asia, India is at first glance more accessible than, for example, the People's Republic of China or Japan. The fact that you can communicate easily in English, especially in business, but also in private, makes it easier to get started. In addition, Indian society is less formal - at least for outsiders - and there are not faux pas lurking around every corner. And even if one should unconsciously violate one of the "rules", the Indian side usually treats this with forbearance.

The interaction between Indians is far more complicated and often difficult for the foreign guest to understand. Society is organized in a strictly hierarchical manner in many areas and, above all, the behavior of an Indian towards a lower-ranking person - an employee in a shop or the waitress in a restaurant - is felt by many visitors to India to be very rude. "At eye level", that is, between business partners, the interaction is usually friendly and, after a long relationship, cordial.

In the business world and in private, men are usually greeted with a handshake. In the case of women, you should wait and see whether they also shake hands in greeting. The traditional greeting - a slight nod of the head with hands clasped at chest level - is rarely encountered, but out of politeness, it should be returned with the same gesture. In general, Indian body language has more signatures and is more expressive than German and sometimes difficult to interpret for outsiders.

Note: This article has been severely shortened. Further information, including on the cultural background, the dos and don'ts, dealing with business partners and tips on how to deal with private matters can be found in the full version of the publication "Compact negotiation practice - India". You can access this free of charge as a PDF after a short, free registration on the GTAI (Germany Trade and Invest) website.