It’s always a good idea to arrive to an appointment on time—but be prepared for the other party to be late. If you happen to be dealing with a government official, be prepared for endless delays, canceled or postponed appointments, and hours-long waits for a meeting that may last only a few minutes.
India is of course, stiflingly hot year-round, but formal attire is required. Both men and women should keep arms and legs completely covered (no short-sleeve shirts), and men should wear a coat and tie. Women should wear conservative pant suits or long skirts. You may also see some Indians (especially outside of the office) wearing traditional casual clothing, including the kurta for men, or the salwar for women.
Hierarchy counts for a lot in India, and it is necessary to meet with the highest-ranking authority first when making a deal. If you have come to India as a representative of an existing company, your own status will play an important role in your success. Indians are very open to negotiation. If you’re dealing with a government agency, be prepared for confusion and delays—and it may be best to have a local advisor who can help you navigate your way through the red tape. Expect to have to pay bribes to government officials.
And although an Indian businessperson may offer a handshake to a Western counterpart, that is not the standard greeting, and it is important to understand the custom. The standard Indian greeting involves folding both hands in a prayer-like gesture, and raising them to your chest and bowing your head slightly. Conversations tend to be filled with subtleties, and Indians prefer not to say “no” to anything. Look for subtle clues or hesitation to determine their true feelings. Also, don’t get confused if an Indian shakes his head from side to side—that doesn’t mean “no” as it does in the West. It is simply a gesture made to indicate that someone is listening to you.
You will find that Indians are very tolerable and courteous to foreigners. Their religious and traditional customs and practices will carry forward into the workplace however, so try to be respectful of them and learn a little bit about the culture before your appointment.
I hope you have found this article interesting and, of course, useful. Good luck!