India

Welcome to the Indian culture page!

This page, like all of our cultural guide pages, will forever be a work in progress. Please check back at a future date for additional information. If you have cultural or culinary expertise when it comes to India, please share! Email us at with your thoughts.

The Republic of India is a highly diverse and vast country. There is an eclectic melange of ethnic groups, geography, language, religion and culture. From traditional farming communities to modern industrial cities, India has it all. With over 1.2 billion people, it is the second most populous country and boast the largest democracy in the world . There are over one million millionaires in India but the country also has the largest concentration of people living below the World Bank’s international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.

Language

There are over 4oo living languages in India but Hindi and English are the two official languages. It is most likely that your student will speak English, if not perfect English, but here are a few Hindi greetings to help you on your way:

Most everyone is familiar with Hollywood, but what about Bollywood? Did you know that India has the worlds largest film industry and produces the most films per year out of any other country. Bollywood films, previously referred to as Hindi films, make up only a small part of Indias film industry but have become a global sensation. If you havent already, please take the time and watch an Indian film of your choice. You can access these films by visiting your local library or by looking online for a large collection of Indian cinema to watch. This will help familiarize you with Indias culture and may be a good activity for you and your student to enjoy together.

Food

Cooking and eating are a huge part of Indian culture and tradition. There are so many styles of cooking that all depend on the region. Many Indians are vegetarian but some you will find eat meat, but not beef. Did you know that it is a federal law to kill a cow for food consumption? There are many western style restaurants in India ie. McDonalds but you wont be able to find a hamburger there, as chicken is the preferred meat of choice. Also, be aware that a lot of food is eaten with your fingers and if utensils are used, its usually a spoon and/or fork. Please go out and eat at your local Indian restaurant or try cooking Indian style. Familiarize yourself with dishes such as chana masala, tandoori and samosa just to name a few. There are as many dishes as there are spices but be sure to try as many as you can. Cooking with your student(s) lends itself as a great way to get to know one another as well as each others cultural cuisines.

Hierarchy

All relationships in India are hierarchical which is defined by the traditional caste system. It may be difficult to understand this system as a foreigner, but it is a norm in India and to express criticism about it is considered disrespectful. Your student will probably be more than willing to explain the caste system but you may want to do a bit of research on the topic for your own understanding. When India gained its independence from British rule in 1947, the caste system was officially abolished but the ideals and perception are alive and well to this day.

Its okay to say no

You may find that your student will reply 'yes’ to most everything. This is because Indians tend to dislike expressing no and like to give affirmative answers. Getting around this may be somewhat difficult as it is cultural and your student is not being dishonest, they just dont want to disappoint you. One way to remedy this situation is giving your student options as well as letting them know that it is fine to decline an invitation if they have no interest or have already committed to something else.

These few facts give you somewhat of a perspective on how diverse India actually is and this also applies to how diverse each and every Indian student will be. Please take into account that the information is a very basic introduction and by no means stereotyping all Indian students you may meet!

Namaste!