Social Behavior

In India, people use their right hand to eat, as well as to offer and take things from people. The left hand is considered unclean, as that hand is used for the toilet. It is considered impolite to give or accept something from someone with your left hand. It is considered dirty to serve food with the left hand or to put your left hand in your mouth. Women do not generally shake hands with men. Men and women should not touch each other in public, especially in holy places and temples. In temples and often in people's homes, men and women sit separately. To greet someone, it is good manners to put your palms together and say "Namaste" or "Hare Krishna." You can also shake hands, but this is not usually done in India, unless you are doing a business deal or someone wants something from you. Orthodox Hindus consider themselves polluted if they touch a person from a lesser caste, which Westerners are considered. Usually the more enthusiastically someone greets you, the more likely they are to rip you off. When you enter someone's home you should take off your shoes. It is all right to wear shoes inside a house as long as they are never taken outside the house. Most Indians take a bath and brush their teeth every day, if not several times a day. It is a religious duty to take a daily bath. Serving spoons should never touch the plate of the person being served. After someone has begun eating, they should wash their hands before serving themselves or others' food. If someone drinks from a bottle, they should not touch the mouth of the bottle and give it to someone else. This is considered unclean and unhealthy. Also, you do not take a bite out of something and then hand it to someone else to eat, or eat off the same plate as someone. After eating, Indians always wash their hands and mouth.


Indian Toilets

You may be bewildered when you first go into an Indian toilet, because there may not be any toilet paper or a seat to sit on. Indians usually clean themselves with water instead of using toilet paper. They usually then take a full bath with soap and water. It is actually a much more healthy and effective system. Only the left hand is used for the toilet.



There are beggars, and then there are sadhus or saintly persons who accept donations. I do not think it is a good idea to give anything to the average beggar, unless you give them food. Giving to a saintly person is actually to the benefit of the giver. The difficulty with giving to a saintly person is to know who is actually saintly. One problem about giving to beggars by temples or holy places, especially if they are children, is that if you give to one, you may have a hundred persons surround you and ask you for money. Also, it is a bad policy to give any money to small children, because they usually give all the money to their parents or some other adult. In this way the parents do not have to work, nor is it profitable for the parents to give their children an education.